After scouring the market, we bought 14 of today's best belts for side-by-side, hands-on testing. While many models look similar at first glance, materials and construction quality can greatly differ. It can be challenging to guess which products will truly stand the test of time and which ones will likely peel, crack, or fade with everyday use. We've done our research; we stretched, rubbed, and even smelled these belts to determine which ones are made with the highest quality materials. We wore them in our daily lives to answer questions related to style, versatility, and ease of use. Our comprehensive review will help you find the best belt for your style and budget.
Don't let the name of the Levi's Reversible Casual Jeans Belt throw you off — this is a really nice belt. Unlike 100% leather, which tends to acquire a patina after moderate wear and tear, this model's leather and polyurethane blend is designed to withstand the test of time to maintain its snazzy look. The Levi's Reversible Casual feels and looks more solid than most and has a charcoal-colored, full-steel buckle. When you choose to reverse it, the process is extremely simple. Pulling the buckle away compresses a spring and releases a pair of tabs from their notches; then, you simply twist them 180 degrees, and it automatically locks back into place.
Folks who are in the market for a belt to be used for mountaineering, climbing, snowboarding, or other action sports might find this model too burly for those types of activities. There are malleable nylon and elastic options available that are geared toward these applications and are much more comfortable while moving around. Perhaps the biggest downside we've found with the Levi's Reversible Casual Jeans Belt is its price. The extra stitching and a solid buckle add to its cost, but we think it's well worth it for the style points.
The Mountain Khakis Webbing Belt 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 straightforward buckle design and a low overall weight. Ideal for both casual use or active use in the outdoors, this is a simple yet effective belt, and one of the strongest nylon models that we tested. As a quirky bonus, the buckle doubles as a bottle opener for those impromptu beverage sessions.
The design of the Mountain Khakis Webbing Belt 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 this belt's quality and simplicity, and we found ourselves choosing it 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 for dressier occasions.
Although we really liked wearing the Lavemi Ratchet Dress Belt, there were a couple of notable downsides. For starters, the solid rectangular buckle is bulky and heavy, which can sometimes feel awkward. It should also be noted that this buckle relies on a spring mechanism, and moving parts are susceptible to breaking, which could threaten this product's 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 at how much we liked this model during testing, especially considering its low price tag.
The Steve Madden Men's Dress Belt is very affordable. To add value to its already low price, it's also reversible, giving you two belts for the price of one. With a hole punched every inch for seven inches, it is one of the most adjustable options of this type that we've tested. This model is surprisingly versatile, considering its style and cost. With one black side and one brown side, this could be used for anything from a wedding to a casual social event. A lot of attire designed for action sports — namely skiing and skateboarding — require you to wear a belt. The Steve Madden is thin enough to comfortably bend at the waist, twist, and contort without the belt digging into any awkward places.
The Steve Madden Men's Dress Belt is well made, but it's not quite as durable as some of the top-tier models. It only uses single stitching, and the buckle pin is permanently loose, which can get annoying. Our biggest gripe with this model is that it takes a bit more elbow grease than others we tested when it's time to reverse it. You have to pull on the buckle relatively hard to compress the spring and release it from its position. Complaints aside, this model is the way to go if you're shopping for a reversible belt on a tight budget.
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, which 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 Arcade Ranger is one of the only models we've seen without a metal buckle, which raises some concerns 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 includes 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.
Why You Should Trust Us
We purchased some of the best-selling belts on the market to compare 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 construction 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 — from running daily errands, to construction projects, to taking meetings at the office. These belts undergo 70 individual tests to help you identify the best option for your needs.
We break down the overall score into five key metrics:
Material and Construction Quality (25% of overall score weighting)
Buckle Hardware and Quality (20% weighting)
Ease of Use (20% weighting)
Style and Versatility (20% weighting)
Adjustability (15% weighting)
This review is brought to you by Nick Bruckbauer and Ross Patton. 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. With a Bachelor of Environmental Science, Ross is no stranger to the process of methodically analyzing the world around him, and has been reviewing products for GearLab for five years. For the ten years prior to his joining our team, he spent his winters as the technical representative for a world-class snowboard apparel brand where he specialized in R&D for men's products.
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, style, and versatility. We think 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.
Belts have a fairly wide price range, due to a difference in materials, design quality, or special features. Sometimes, certain models only cost more because of their brand name. The one you choose should depend on your style and needs, but it will also depend on your budget. The Lavemi Leather Ratchet Dress Belt is affordable, looks great, and is adjustable down to the ¼ inch. If you want a reversible model and don't want to pay for a top-quality model, the Steve Madden Men's Dress Belt is a steal. The Mountain Khakis Webbing Belt is a high-quality nylon-webbed option with a buckle that is able to open a bottle — an awesome bonus feature. For folks in the market for a stretchy belt that's ideal for travel and action sports, the Arcade Ranger is worth every penny. The Levi's Reversible Casual Jeans Belt is a bit more expensive than most, but considering its rugged durability, stylish look, and the fact that it's reversible, it's a solid investment.
Material and Construction Quality
Sometimes it's hard to parse out the difference between products, as many belts can look alike at first glance with similar colors, styles, and general material types. 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 up front 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.
One of the most impressive models we tested is the Main Street Forge Bootlegger. It is made from a single piece of full-grain buffalo leather that is nearly a quarter-inch thick and is noticeably burlier than most other leather models in our lineup. The thick leather is fairly rigid at first, but becomes softer and more supple over time and with use. It also sports a weathered, rustic finish that's perfectly at home in rugged outdoor settings. The beauty of this belt is in its simplicity — a simple build with high-quality materials means that the Bootlegger should last many years of daily use.
Know Your Leather
All leather is not the same. In general, full-grain leather is the thickest and most durable variety and has not been sanded or altered from the original hide. Top-grain leather is similar to full-grain leather, except the top layer has been sanded or polished to remove any imperfections or unevenness. Genuine leather typically consists of the middle layer of a hide after the outer layers have been removed and often has an artificial texture added to it. Bonded leather is like particle board, whereby tiny scrap pieces of hide are bonded together with chemical agents.
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.
The Levi's Reversible Casual Jeans Belt, Columbia Men's Leather Belt, and the Steve Madden Men's Dress Belt are all constructed of a mix of leather and polyurethane. With leather on each side and a polyurethane core, these models offer the durability of leather blended with the flexibility of rubber.
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 Armour Webbing 2.0, Arc'teryx Conveyor, and Grip6 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. But 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 buckles on the Levi's Reversible and Steve Madden Men's Dress Belt are both full stainless steel — a material that is proven to last. 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. But this is still the easiest style to use, and it is found on several leather models and leather blend models in our lineup, including the Main Street Forge Bootlegger, Marino Leather, Levi's Reversible, Timberland Classic, Steve Madden Men's Dress Belt, Columbia Men's Leather Belt, and Dickies Men's Leather Double Prong.
The Arc'teryx Conveyer Belt 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 Armour Webbing 2.0 had the most reliable connection that didn't allow the webbing material to slip.
Keep It Simple
In this product category, simpler is often better. Designs with fewer seams, connections, or moving parts are usually easier to use and will typically last longer.
Style and Versatility
Although style is undeniably subjective, certain styles tend to be more versatile and can be worn for a variety of occasions. Traditional leather models are typically very versatile and look at home during formal and casual occasions alike. 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 for a business meeting. Simple designs with classic colors and materials can usually be worn for a variety of situations.
One of our favorite versatile styles is the Arcade Ranger. It is available in dozens of 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. Also, it's a plus that you can machine wash and dry this belt without ever removing it from your pants.
For formal occasions, it's hard to beat the look of the Levi's Reversible Casual Jeans Belt and the Steve Madden Men's Dress Belt. Both of these models have nice-looking buckles that are stylish enough for special occasions like weddings, business meetings, or job interviews. The real benefit of these models is that they're reversible. It's hard to find a suit that doesn't look good with either tan or black leather. And with these models, you can wear the same belt to two events in a row, and nobody will know the difference.
Another go-to for formal occasions when you're striving for style is the Lavemi Ratchet. It has a sleek rectangular buckle, soft leather construction, and is offered in a wide variety of leathers and buckle styles to match your wardrobe. Our overall favorite leather belt, Main Street Forge's The Bootlegger, might not quite pass for formal wear but offers a nice combination of fashion and function. For more casual scenarios or days spent on the trail, the Mountain Khakis Webbing is a versatile option that is lightweight and comfortable under a backpack but stylish enough to wear to your post-hike happy hour. If you're looking for a traditional, run-of-the-mill look, the Columbia Men's Leather Belt and Timberland Classic Jean Belt are two options that are about as basic as it gets.
Traditional prong designs 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 Armour 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 sizes in our adult lifetime, having a wider range of adjustability is a nice feature.
A Note on Sizing
Sizing can sometimes be confusing. Most manufacturers of traditional prong styles recommend ordering one or two sizes up from your pant size. For example, if your pant size is 34, then you should look for a size 36 or 38 for your belt. Ideally, when there is a series of five to seven-prong holes, you will use one of the center holes rather than an end hole.
The classic-style models with a prong and a handful of holes generally offer the least amount of adjustability, with the exception of the Dickies Men's Leather Double Prong, which has a set of holes every inch for the entire length of the belt.
Our testers closely examined a diverse lineup of products to offer you our expert recommendations for the best belts on the market. While there are some intriguing designs out there, we found that simple is often better — the simplest designs made with the highest quality materials are the most likely to last the longest. Spending a little more on a high-quality belt could mean many more years of wear. Whatever your style or budget, we hope that this guide helps you find the right product for your needs.
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GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.