feature image best leather belt key qualities

Best Leather Belt: 4 Key Qualities You Should Look For

If you were to ask me what my favorite men’s accessory is, the answer would be a fine black leather belt (well, besides a minimalistic bi-fold wallet).

A leather belt is the Cadillac of belts, for sure. It’s extremely durable, goes well with just about anything, and ages like fine wine, developing a rich patina over time.

But not all leather belts are worth your purchase. Some are made with faux leather, which peels over after a while. Others are too thick or too thin, reducing their practicality, and others have excessively large buckles that make them not-so-attractive.

So, if you’re in the market for the best leather belt, look for the following key features outlined in this article.

And remember to keep these unspoken belt rules in mind if you want to get the most out of it:

  • The larger the belt buckle size, the more casual it is. Stay away from belts with big buckles if you’re wearing a suit. 
  • Your belt’s finish should match that of your shoes. If your shoes have a natural leather finish, pair them with a belt of the same look. 
  • Every gentleman needs at least 2 leather belts: a black one for formal wear and cool tones, and a brown belt that pairs well with every color palette.
  • Ensure that your belt matches the rest of your accessories. If you wear a black leather belt, pair it with a black watch band

Learn More: How To Pick The Best Leather Belt For Every Occasion

belts made from full-grain leather are extremely durable

1 - Made With The Highest Quality Leather

One of the toughest parts of an animal’s hide is just below the hair. This area has a tight grain pattern, and the leather derived from here is known as full-grain leather.

Full-grain leather is the best quality leather available. It’s not altered in any way, except for the hair that’s removed. Insect bites, stretch marks, scars, and other natural markings are still visible even after the leather has been dyed, making it unique and desirable.

Belts made from full-grain leather are extremely durable because the fibers of the hide’s outermost parts are super dense and thick.

Minimal processing also preserves the hide’s tension, allowing the leather to retain its moisture-resistant barrier. This keeps your belt free from mold and mildew.

man wearing a full-grain leather belt
Man wearing a full-grain leather belt​​

If a manufacturer wants to slightly sand or buff the top layer of leather to remove imperfections on the hide, it’s no longer full-grain leather; it’s now corrected or enhanced leather.

Since corrected grain is still part of top-grain leather, belts made from this leather are still durable but slightly differ from full-grain leather belts.

  • Corrected grain’s pores are sealed during the corrective process, making it easier to clean than full-grain leather as it won’t absorb as many oils and dirt.
  • However, its patina will take a longer time to develop.
  • It’s also less breathable because of the sealed pores.

As a rule of thumb, the further you move from the hide’s top part, the less durable the leather becomes. This is because the fibers become less compact, resulting in a less durable fiber structure.

The diagram below shows the different leather layers derived from a cow’s hide.

cross-section of a cowhide
C​​ross-section of a cowhide

It’s common to see quality and durability issues with split-grain leather. Belts made from cheap, lower leather grades lack any natural markings and won’t stand the test of time.

More often, these belts are coated with synthetic leather to make them look like natural leather, and then labeled as “genuine leather” to lure you into thinking that it's good quality.

True genuine leather is normally multiple layers of strip leather bonded together with a synthetic vinyl layer to make it more uniform and strong.

Belts made from such leather have a plastic feel, fake leather scent, are the least breathable, and will never develop a patina.

Learn More: The Ultimate Guide to Leather Grades

I, however, am fully committed to making the highest quality leather products to last you a lifetime. 

That’s why I use full-grain leather in my belts. It adds more character, flexibility, and durability to my comfortable, buttery-smooth leather belts.

"Bought for my husband and he is thrilled. Outstanding quality, great looking, and a perfect fit. Highly recommend."

Susan Moxey, Verified Buyer

Popov Leather

2 - Color Blends With Most Outfits

Versatility is key when choosing the best leather belt.

As a durable and quality piece, your belt should complement most of your outfits, both formal and casual.

The most common colors for leather belts are black and brown. A black leather belt is ideal for everyday wear with lighter or monochrome shades. Its simple, classy look works well with formal wear.

The brown leather belt, on the other hand, is the most versatile belt option. It matches with every outfit color, and almost every shoe except tan and black, making it a must-have belt for every gentleman.

Popov Leather’s belts come in 4 classic colors to suit every style. Whether you want a solid belt to match all your outfits or one for special occasions, there’s an option for you.

"I’ve purchased two of the same belt, same color, why? Because they are the best belts I have found..."

Verified Buyer, Black Leather Belt

Check out the different color variations in the table below. They’re subtle enough to not stand out, but also elegant enough to tie down your entire outfit.

English Tan Leather Belt Natural Leather Belt Black Leather Belt Heritage Brown Leather Belt
Leather Belt - English Tan
  • Blends well with earthy tones
  • Pairs well with tan shoes

Leather Belt - Natural

  • Most versatile belt color
  • Doesn’t go with black

Leather Belt - Black

  • Works well for formal wear
  • Doesn’t go with light colors or warm brown tones

Leather Belt - Heritage Brown

  • Goes with any pair of jeans
  • Doesn’t match with black
Learn More Learn More Learn More Learn More

Did you know?

The Renaissance period saw men and women using their belts for additional purposes. Sheaths and sacks, used to carry weapons, were added to the belts. Soldiers benefited most from them, as they could easily pull out weapons on the battlefield. Women used them to carry their every-day items, such as mirrors, purses, and cosmetics.

3 - Solid Hardware

Your leather belt’s strap will last you a lifetime, especially if it’s made with full-grain leather and cleaned using the best leather cleanser and conditioner on the market.

But what often wears out fast is the belt’s hardware: its buckle.

While it can be made from just about any material, the strongest buckle is made using metal.

Buckles come in different shapes, styles, and materials, but the best ones for your quality leather belts will have the following features:

  • Thick and sturdy enough to withstand daily wear without damaging the belt’s strap
  • A neutral color finish that complements every outfit
  • Made with great quality materials like brass and stainless steel

The table below shows the most common belt buckle materials to help you see the difference.

Buckle Material Features
  • Versatile metal
  • Extremely durable
  • Can be stamped, molded, or hand-detailed with complex designs
  • Gains a rich patina with time
  • Most common
  • Corrosion-resistant
  • Can be polished or brushed with different finishes
Stainless Steel (Alloy of molybdenum, chromium, and nickel)
  • Corrosion-resistant
  • Tarnish-free
  • Can be brushed or polished for a contemporary look
  • Scratch-resistant
Pewter (Alloy of tin and copper or antimony)
  • Durable
  • Malleable, hence can be curved into 3D designs

Every Popov Leather belt has a solid brass buckle that’s sturdy enough to keep your belt in place, but also comfortable enough to wear for longer periods—not too heavy nor too thick.

The buckle’s simple design and neutral color subtly complement the leather strap, giving your belt an elegant, timeless look.

Popov Leather belt’s solid brass buckle
Popov Leather belt’s solid brass buckle

4 - Has Moderate Width

Your belt’s width is as crucial as its length. A thin leather belt looks awkward when paired with a wider belt loop, while one that’s too thick won’t properly fit into the loops. 

The best leather belt has a medium width, between 1 and 1.5 inches. Anything wider is bulky and pairs well with only casual outfits and statement buckles. Anything slimmer makes your outfit unbalanced. 

The 1.5-inch-wide leather belt is the most versatile, sought-after option because it: 

  • Fits most belt loops 
  • Is the perfect width for both casual and formal wear 
  • Provides excellent trouser support without feeling too heavy or thick
man holding the medium-sized Popov Leather belt
M​​an holding the medium-sized Popov Leather belt

All Popov Leather belt straps are 1.5 inches wide, allowing them to fit easily through the standard belt loops on any pair of jeans. This makes them a perfect choice for all your jean outfits.

Only Invest in the Highest Quality Leather Belts

"...ANYTIME Popov drops a belt, I will order it just because I’m obsessed with the quality!!!"

Mel Hamilton, Verified Buyer

A leather belt that goes well with most outfits, has solid hardware and a moderate width, and is made with full-grain leather is a worthwhile investment that will last you for years on end.

Popov Leather’s belts fulfill all these requirements and then some. 

My leather belts are built to last with full-grain Horween leather and hand-sewn with durable tiger thread.

With time, they get more supple, but stronger and develop a rich patina that makes the belt uniquely yours.

Browse my entire collection of quality leather belts to order your favorite piece, whether it’s the classic black or the versatile brown leather belt.

Written by Ryan Popoff

Ryan Popoff is the creative mind behind Popov Leather wallets, iPhone cases, belts, watch bands and journals since 2013. With a Bachelor Degree in Fine Arts, my leatherworking journey began at home. I wanted to create a simple leather wallet that could fit into my front pocket and — to my delight — it was a hit with family and friends. Hopefully you love our honest, quality leather goods too! Reach out with questions.

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