Though they’re simple, everyday items, thousands of men Google “how do belt sizes work?” every month.
Once you know your belt size you can confidently buy belts without having to worry about whether or not if it fits correctly.
However, people often make the mistake of buying a belt based on their pant waist size which is actually different than belt size.
To that end, we’ve created a quick guide to belt sizing below to help you determine your belt size.
Note: For other resources on belts visit our guide to men’s belts where we cover everything you’ve ever wanted to know about belts and how to wear one with style.
How Do Belt Sizes Work?
A quick hit list of the main points is as follows:
- Your belt size is two inches larger than your pant waist size. If you wear a 34″ trouser, buy a 36″ belt
- If your waist size is an odd number, buy a belt three inches larger instead of two
- Most belts have five holes. The prong should go in the middle one (the third one)
- The belt should finish between the first and second belt loop of your trousers
Common Belt Sizes For Men
As you can see from the chart above, men’s belts are available in inches in even-numbered sizes. This is great from a retailer’s perspective, as it allows them to buy minimal product and sell it to the maximum number of customers.
From the customer’s perspective, though, it can be limiting. Men with small waists (under 30″) will have difficulty finding belts in most stores, as will larger men whose waist size is larger than a 46. Men on either end of this spectrum will have to order online (where brands tend to stock more sizes), get a custom-made belt, or simply forgo a belt and wear braces.
Can I Just Measure My Waist Size?
You can certainly measure it, but it won’t yield an accurate size as it relates to off-the-rack pants and belts.
Men’s pants and belts are generally sold in inches, which would lead you to believe that the measurements are exact. They are not. Vanity sizing exists for men too, and most of us learn this lesson the hard way the first time we’re measured for a made-to-measure or custom suit.
Generally, your off-the-rack waist size is two full inches smaller than your actual waist size. This means that if you’re currently wearing dress trousers that are a 32″ waist, your true waist size is likely closer to 34″.
Therefore, if you were to measure your own waist and then go buy a belt using that measurement as a baseline, you will end up with a belt much longer than you need. Save yourself the hassle and just look at the size tag on your best fitting pair of pants and just go from there.
An important thing to remember is that while a belt helps to hold up your pants, your trousers need to fit properly in the waist to begin with. If your belt is acting more like a rope and your trouser waist is cinched around you, you don’t need a belt. You need a tailor.
A belt is a finishing touch more than anything else.
Belts Vs Suspenders
The common sartorial rule dictates that trousers made for belts (that is, ones with belt loops) should not be worn with braces, even if those trousers also have proper brace buttons inside the waistband.
While we agree with this rule to a limited extent from an aesthetic perspective, it makes plenty of sense functionally. As it relates to your trouser waist and proper sizing, there is indeed a difference between how belt trousers should fit versus suspender trousers.
Trousers made for braces are generally made a bit bigger in the waist. This is to allow the trousers to “float” around your waist while being suspended by the braces. We speak from personal experience when we say that this is incredibly comfortable and allows for great freedom of movement.
Pants made for belts, on the other hand, hug the waist more snugly than those that take suspenders. This allows you to put on a belt and still have your pant waistband lay flat and smooth against your body.
Again, you should not look like a sack of potatoes in your trousers. To wear a properly sized belt, your trousers must fit like they were made for a belt.
Getting the proper belt size is really as easy as trying one on in a store. Alternatively, you can always order a few different sizes online and return whatever doesn’t work out.
For more information on belts, take a look at our belts home page.