Best Belts for Men of 2021
The Main Street Forge Bootlegger is a handsome full-grain leather model with impressive construction quality, style, and durability. The luxurious material has a rich leather smell and a naturally rustic appearance. It is thicker and more durable than most other models we tested and is also plenty soft and pliable. After several weeks of use, the leather became even softer and more supple. The Bootlegger has seven holes for adjustability, and the basic metal buckle held in place by a doubled-back leather loop with removable screws. Don't let words like "basic" turn you off to this model. In this case, "basic" means simple, robust, and effective.
Perhaps the only notable downsides to the Main Street Forge Bootlegger are the typical tradeoffs that you might expect with high-quality natural materials. The rustic full-grain leather can show scuffs and scratches pretty easily, and it's also bulkier than other materials like nylon, canvas, or lower-grade leathers. While the Bootlegger's natural material may pick up character marks through normal use, it will also mold to your body as you wear it and likely last much longer than its synthetic competition. It also offers a rich leather smell instead of the chemical odors found on other artificial materials with cheap, plastic finishes. Whether you're working in the office or out in the yard, you won't be disappointed with the quality and style of the Bootlegger.
The Mountain Khakis Nylon Webbing model is a basic 1.5-inch webbing design with a simple slide-through metal buckle. It does a good job balancing heavy-duty nylon construction with a simple buckle design and a low overall weight. Ideal for active use in the outdoors or casual use, this model is simple yet effective, and one of the strongest nylon models that we tested. As a bonus, the buckle doubles as a bottle opener for those impromptu beverage sessions.
The Mountain Khakis design has a few minor downsides. First, the nylon material is a bit stiff initially and can feel bulky and protruding where it passes through the buckle. While this is partially due to the buckle design and how many times the webbing must pass through, it should improve with use as the material naturally softens and becomes more pliable. Second, this product comes in one 50-inch length and is meant to be cut to size and heat-sealed to prevent fraying. We were able to cut it to our size and seal the trimmed edge without too much effort, but this is an extra step that some consumers may not be experienced with. Overall, we're pleased with the quality and simplicity of this model, and we found ourselves choosing this model more often than the others for informal affairs.
One of the most unique and innovative models we tested is the Lavemi Leather Ratchet Dress Belt. Available in a variety of leathers and a huge assortment of buckle colors and styles, the Lavemi has a sleek and modern style with a slightly thinner width and a square buckle. The pass-through buckle has a spring-loaded clip that engages with a strip of small teeth embedded into the end of the leather to create a ratcheting closure system. The system makes it very easy to dial in a snug fit across a wide size range and is easy to engage and remove. This is one of our favorite buckle designs that we appreciated for dressier occasions.
Although we really enjoyed using the Lavemi, we identified two notable downsides. The square buckle is a bit bulky and heavy, which can sometimes feel awkward, and due to its reliance on a spring mechanism, we worry that its use of moving parts could threaten the long-term durability. Also, this model comes in a wide size range and is meant to be trimmed to fit. After trimming to the correct size, the leather reconnects to the buckle by a lever that sinks a small row of metal teeth into the material. We were able to get a snug connection on our first try, but there is a slight movement of the teeth in the leather, and we fear that this could become a weak point with extended use. We recommend leaving a little extra length when you trim to your size, so there is some extra slack to re-trim in case the connection weakens later on. Overall, we were surprised how much we liked this model during testing, especially considering its low price tag.
With a very lightweight design, soft and stretchy material, and a convenient plastic buckle that is airport friendly, the Arcade Ranger is our favorite pick for comfortable travel. It's also available in a wide range of fun and stylish colors and prints. The Ranger is made from stretchy nylon that is some of the softest and most comfortable material that we tested, and it sits very flat against your body to maintain comfort while sitting or lying down. With no metal parts, this model is travel-friendly, and the plastic quick-release buckle is easy to use. You can even leave the whole thing on your pants through the washer and dryer for easy cleaning on the go.
We appreciate the convenience of the plastic quick-release buckle, but the Ranger is one of the only models we've seen without a metal buckle, which raises some concern about long-term durability. While we didn't have any problems during our testing, the plastic is thin and light and could potentially be broken if accidentally mishandled or torqued. Also, the webbing is comfortably stretchy, but adjusting the overall fit by threading the webbing through the plastic buckle is very challenging. The buckle's tiny pass-through opening and the thick, stretchy material are a difficult combination. Overall, once you dial in your correct size, no further adjustment is needed, and the quick-release buckle makes this a comfortable and convenient option.
The Fairwin Tactical Rigger is a heavy-duty, military-style model made from durable nylon webbing and one of the strongest rated buckles in our lineup. Made for military or tactical situations, the Fairwin's buckle has a high strength rating and can be released in less than one second via its quick-release buttons. The heavy-duty nylon webbing is ideal for attaching tools or equipment for easy access while on the move.
This product is designed with a specific use in mind, but its versatility is limited because of its distinct tactical styling. Most people probably wouldn't wear this model every day or during casual or more dressy occasions unless the style speaks to them. Although the buckle is marketed with a strength rating, we did not do any force tests and cannot speak to the accuracy of the ratings. We recommend proper safety training and equipment for any tactical situations.
For those familiar with Arc'teryx, the combination of luxury styling and materials with durable and pragmatic design found in its Conveyor Belt should come as no surprise. For the uninitiated, such an elegant-looking belt may seem out of place coming from an "outdoor" company, but be assured that this model holds its own on the links as easily as it does in the mountains. It is constructed from thick, corded nylon with a solid anodized aluminum buckle. Our favorite unique feature from this model is the plastic end sheath on the end of the belt that makes threading pant loops an easy, one-handed operation. The sheath also prevents fraying, a wear and tear issue common to nylon models.
Our only complaint with the Conveyor is that the buckle is somewhat difficult to cinch down tight compared to other nylon-style models. In our testing, it never slipped once in place, but getting the last few centimeters through the buckle for a snug fit proved difficult. Style is subjective, and some testers considered the look of this model a bit distracting with the little Arc'teryx logo (a dinosaur skeleton) front and center on the buckle, while other brand enthusiasts considered it cool. Either way, should you choose this model, you'll have a slick looking, durable option that indeed holds your pants up.
The Under Armor Webbing 2.0 is a basic reversible nylon design available in a few classic color schemes. The nylon webbing passes through a simple square buckle that is easy to close for a snug and secure fit. The webbing is attached to the buckle with a spring mechanism that is easy to use and provides a more reliable fit than most other adjustable models. The classic lightweight design is part of Under Armor's golf equipment but would be equally useful for hiking, general outdoor use, or everyday casual wear.
This Under Armor model doesn't have any major flaws, but it doesn't stand out in any particular metric, either. The most notable downside is that it comes in one size and then must be trimmed to fit. Fortunately, the nylon webbing is thinner than most other trim-to-fit materials, which makes it easier to cut and effectively heat seal. The spring connection mechanism that connects the webbing to the buckle is also one of the most effective designs we've seen in an adjustable or trim-to-fit model. Overall, this is a simple and classy design.
The Grip6 Casual Web is a simple yet strong canvas model with a unique slide-through buckle system. The material is strong and lightweight, and the overall product has a very clean and sleek aesthetic. The unique pass-through buckle design is a simple single piece of metal with a slot on each side. One end of the webbing stays stationary against the buckle, while the loose end of the webbing passes through behind the buckle for a very clean finished look. The buckle system works differently than most other products and takes some getting used to, but it's pretty simple to use once you get the hang of it.
This simple and sleek model doesn't have any major flaws once you get used to the unique buckle design. Because the loose end of the webbing connects by passing behind the buckle, it can be a little more challenging to achieve a snug fit. Also, the interface between the webbing and the buckle can feel a little awkward or bulky at first, but we expect this to lessen as the material softens and becomes more supple over time. Overall, this is a very light, simple, and sleek design that would be suitable for both casual wear and active use.
The Marino Genuine Leather Dress Belt is a classic leather model with a slightly thinner width that gives it a sleeker look for dressier occasions. With its thin profile, soft and flexible material, and sleek and stylish metal buckle, the Marino looks the part and is ready to complete your stylish outfit. The classic design is lightweight, comfortable, and unobtrusive.
This Marino model doesn't have any major downsides, but it's simply made from a lower-grade material than some of the highest-rated products that we tested. While others are made from thicker full-grain leather, the Marino is made from genuine leather, which includes only a smaller portion of the leather hide. The material looks nice initially and will hold up against general wear and tear, but you shouldn't expect the durability or longevity of higher-grade leather materials.
Why You Should Trust Us
This review is brought to you by Nick Bruckbauer. With over a decade of experience as a professional engineer, Nick brings an analytical and scientific approach to his reviews and is an expert across a wide variety of consumer and outdoor products. His close attention to detail helps him evaluate and explain small nuances that may have a great impact on the comfort or performance of a product, and he takes pride in helping readers determine the performance features that are most relevant to their needs. Nick wears a belt daily, from more formal attire at his office job to lightweight models for weekend backcountry excursions.
In this review, we bought some of the highest-rated and best-selling option available to compare them side-by-side. With each model in hand, we paid close attention to the thickness, rigidity, texture, and feel of the materials, along with the weight and density of each buckle. We put each model on and took it off several times, weaving it through our pant loops, buckling and unbuckling it, and practicing finer tightening and loosening. We cut the trim-to-fit models to our preferred size and wore each model with a variety of outfits on various occasions. Finally, we rated each product across five different performance metrics to help you identify the best option for your needs.
Analysis and Test Results
We put our lineup to the test and rated each model to determine the best materials and construction, buckle hardware quality, ease of use, adjustability, and style and versatility. We think that these performance metrics are the most important qualities to look for when searching for a new belt, and we will try to point out the most suitable options for your needs and priorities.
Material and Construction Quality
Many options look the same at first glance with similar colors, styles, and general types of materials. For a simple product meant to help hold up your pants, quality might not seem like a high priority, but we've found that better quality materials and construction techniques can be the difference between a product that loses its luster after a few months and one that lasts several years, or even decades. By spending a little more upfront for higher quality materials, you get to enjoy a well-built product that won't crack, peel, warp, sag, or fade as you wear it through the years.
The most impressive option that we tested is the Main Street Forge Bootlegger, which is made from a single piece of full-grain buffalo leather that is nearly a quarter-inch thick and noticeably burlier than most other leather models. The thick leather is fairly rigid to hold its shape well and becomes softer and more supple over time with use. It also sports a weathered and rustic finish that's perfectly at home in rugged outdoor settings. The beauty of this product is in the simplicity. Constructed with high-quality materials, we would expect the Bootlegger to last multiple years of use.
Full-grain leather models have materials and construction and could make a great choice that should last a very long time. We expect the models we tested with inferior leather materials to wear out quicker in the punch holes, making the fit less precise over time.
Several of the nylon options in our lineup are well-made with high-quality materials and simple and strong construction. The Fairwin Tactical Rigger has a high strength quick-release buckle and is ideal for military or tactical use, while the Mountain Khakis Webbing, Under Armor Webbing 2.0, Arc'teryx Conveyor, and Grip6 Casual Web are a little bit lighter and would be ideal for active outdoor use or casual wear.
Buckle Hardware Quality
Today's marketplace includes some intriguing buckle designs in addition to the classic prong style. Our lineup also includes models with plastic and metal quick-release clips, metal slide-through buckles, clamp style buckles, and a pass-through ratcheting design. We evaluated which styles were the easiest to use, the most reliable, and the least intrusive. The Fairwin Tactical Rigger has one of the most impressive buckles, with a metal quick-release design and a very high strength rating designed for military or tactical scenarios. Its design is certainly impressive but note that we didn't perform any force tests to confirm the Fairwin's strength ratings and recommend having proper training and protective equipment for any tactical scenarios.
The full-grain leather option that we tested also has a high-quality buckle connection. The Main Street Forge Bootlegger buckle is attached with a double-backed leather loop and removable screws. This construction method seems very durable and versatile and allows you to remove and replace the buckle, those you'll need to take care not to damage the finish on the rivets when unscrewing them.
One of the unique buckle designs is the ratcheting style on the Lavemi model. This buckle has a spring-loaded bar that connects to a row of teeth embedded within the end of the leather. As the tail passes through the buckle, the bar engages the teeth and grabs the leather for a snug and secure fit. This design is also easily adjustable and can be tightened by pushing more of the tail through the buckle or loosened with a simple flick of the spring-loaded lever. The buckle itself is a dense metal with a good heft to it. However, the reliance on a spring mechanism makes us hesitant to call it a favorite for the long haul.
The Arcade Ranger features a unique plastic quick-release buckle that is meant to be airport-friendly and washer and dryer safe. While we appreciate these benefits, the plastic is noticeably more fragile than the other metal buckles, and we are a little concerned about accidental breakage. Anecdotally, one of our testers has worn this product for two winters of skiing and snowboarding with no buckle problems.
Nylon options like the Mountain Khakis Webbing model and the Arc'teryx Conveyor have a simple double pass buckle, and the Arc'teryx option features a rigid plastic sheath on the running end to make threading through pant loops easier. Both have buckles that can be used as a bottle opener in a pinch.
Ease of Use
None of these products are necessarily difficult to use, but a high-quality belt should be easy to thread through your pant loops, simple to buckle and unbuckle, and convenient to adjust on the go. Simple designs are usually better, and special features like reversible designs, trim-to-fit sizing, or tails that pass underneath the buckle seem to add to the difficulty. The simplest design seems to be the traditional prong design, where the tail of the belt threads through the pant loops, slides through the buckle, and the prong latches through one of the holes. The downside to this design is that the spacing or number of holes limits the adjustability. We still found this to be the easiest style to use, and it is found on the classic leather models in our lineup, including the Main Street Forge Bootlegger and Marino Leather.
The Arc'teryx model is also easy to use with a corded nylon webbing material and a double pass-through metal buckle. This design is easy to adjust and tighten, and the plastic end piece makes threading your belt loops with one hand a cinch. The Lavemi Ratchet model has an intuitive ratcheting design that provides simple adjustability through a wide range of sizes. It is easy to tighten, loosen, or make minor adjustments on the go.
A few of the models in our lineup have trim-to-fit sizing, where the product comes in one standard size, and the belt can be detached from the buckle, cut to size, and reattached to the buckle. A potential problem with reversible styles or trim-to-fit sizing is that the connection to the buckle can be a weak point that might fail as the material undergoes wear and tear. Of the models in our lineup with detachable buckles, the Under Armor Webbing 2.0 had the most reliable connection that didn't allow the webbing material to slip.
Traditional prong belts typically have a series of five to seven holes for sizing adjustments, but often a wearer can fall between sizes if there is a large enough gap between holes. Other models with slide-through buckles offer unlimited adjustments within their overall size range. The Mountain Khakis Webbing is one of the easiest models to adjust to a precise circumference with its double slide-through buckle. It's simple to tighten and loosen and make micro-adjustments while on the go. Similarly, the Under Armor Webbing 2.0 has a slide-through clamp style buckle, where any specific sizing can be achieved, and adjustments are likewise simple. The Grip6 sports a unique slide-through buckle where the tail-end of the webbing passes behind the buckle.
The Lavemi Ratchet model is easy to adjust with its intuitive ratcheting buckle system. Simply push the tail through the buckle, and the ratchet automatically catches and maintains a snug fit. To release, move the spring-loaded lever, and the ratchet unlocks, loosening any tension. Micro-adjustments are achieved by gently pushing on or releasing the ratchet.
It's pretty easy to adjust most of the traditional leather models that we tested, but with a standard prong buckle, you run the risk of being stuck between sizes. While most of us hope to only jump between a couple of different belt sizes in our adult lifetime, having a wider range of adjustability is a nice feature.
Style and Versatility
Although style is undeniably subjective, certain styles tend to be more versatile and can be worn on a wider variety of occasions. Traditional leather models are typically very versatile and can be worn for both formal or casual occasions, during travel, or for general daily use. Nylon models tend to be less formal and are usually lighter and softer, making them more comfortable and best suited for active use. However, they might not be as appropriate in the office or on for a business meeting. Simple designs with classic colors and materials can usually be worn in a variety of situations. One of our favorite versatile styles is the Arcade Ranger. It is available in 30 different colors and prints, allowing you to pick the right color scheme for the right situation. It also has some of the softest and stretchiest material out of any model we tested, which makes it ideal for long travel days. The ability to be machine washed and dried without removing it from your pants is another plus.
For more formal occasions when you're striving for a stylish look, the Lavemi Ratchet is our go-to pick with its sleek rectangular buckle and soft leather construction. It's also available in a wide variety of leathers and buckle styles to match your outfit just right. During more casual scenarios or days spent on the trail, the Mountain Khakis Webbing is our pick for a versatile option that is light enough to wear under a backpack but stylish enough to wear to your post-hike happy hour. Overall, our favorite leather option, the Main Street Forge model, offers a great combination of classy and hip styling, though it may not pass as formal wear.
Our testers closely examined a diverse lineup of belts and are happy to bring you our expert recommendations. While we tested some very intriguing and useful designs, we found that simple is often better, and the simplest designs with the highest quality materials seem to be the easiest to use and the most likely to last the longest. In this category, spending a little extra money upfront could mean years more lifespan. Whatever your style or budget, we hope that this guide helps you find the right product for your needs.
— Nick Bruckbauer