I’ve always assumed that a black or brown belt can be worn with any pair of shoes. After all, to my way of thinking at least, those two colors are basically cousins on the color wheel.
But I would be wrong.
Or better put, I’m half wrong. According to literally every person I reached out to for this story, the color of your belt doesn’t matter if you’re wearing tennis shoes. Converse, Nikes, Vans, even fancy leather sneakers — it makes no difference. The color of your belt could be red, yellow or purple. In fact, per the denizens of r/MaleFashionAdvice, matching the color of your belt to the color of your sneakers is a consideration that need not ever really enter your mind.
The equation starts to change (or arises), however, when you move into the realm of business casual and you’re wearing a pair of leather shoes or boots. In that case, one particular MFA subscriber in the know says that you should at least try to match the color of your belt to the color of your leather shoes. Things, though, are still mostly pretty chill — i.e., a brown belt of any shade should suffice for any ilk of brown boots or leather shoes.
Not surprisingly, it’s in the land of formalwear where the rules intensify. Along those lines, for the besuited, a belt and shoes ought to be as identical as possible in color. “So that both colors pop and compliment each other,” a different MFA subscriber tells me.
That said, make sure that the right tail (your shoes) is wagging the right dog (your belt). “I wouldn’t buy a pair of shoes just to go with a belt,” says one MFA subscriber. “Belts are relatively cheap accessories, whereas shoes are expensive essentials.”
In other words, buy your shoes and then go searching for your matching belt, not vice versa.
Don’t try to split the difference either by purchasing a reversible belt. Because a “bonded leather belt or anything where it doesn’t appear to be all one solid strip of leather” won’t last, another helpful MFA devotee tells me. “Look for a branding of ‘genuine leather’ on the back,” he continues. “A belt made of solid leather will last you the rest of your life; other ones will fall apart in two to five years as the glue wears out. I know from experience.”
All of which is to say, I might have been (half) wrong, but we’re also not talking about a matter of sartorial life and death. Or as one MFA subscriber put it matter-of-factly: “Brown is brown, generally. A close match is ideal, but don’t sweat a slight-to-moderate difference.”