Last month I posted a side-by-side of a before-and-after of a client. On weekends, he was all about that plaid lumberjack look look, and I wanted to show how we didn’t change his look and who he is, but simply made it better with updated fit and style. This was that before and after:

His style transformation wasn’t whatt got the most attention, though. It was the lack of belting in the second look. Comment after comment of “Why no belt?” It’s so ingrained in menswear thinking that all pants must be belted at all times. Even my husband belts no matter what.

I knew this would make a fun post. So, here we go…is it a fashion faux pas not to belt?

Yes and no.

First, for dressy looks — a suit or blazer and dress trousers —  I stick to classic rules. You should always belt and your shoes should match the belt.  Some fashion-forward style-setters would say forget the belt even with a suit. I could not send one of my clients into a board meeting in a suit with no belt. Opt for a medium width belt instead of a wider one for a more streamlined look.

What about more casual looks? Is there wiggle room for no belt for guys? I say yes. First of all, going belt-free is a great test of whether you have on a pair of pants that are ill-fitting. You shouldn’t have to tug up your pants with no belt. Functionality and fit aside, I say if you want to go belt-less for your casual look, go for it. Frankly, belts often add unnecessary bulk and do no favors for lengthening the body line. Note the before/after shots above. He looks taller and leaner in the picture on the right. Granted, his clothing has a slimmer fit, but he also does not have a wide, dark belt cutting him off.

Here are my guidelines for belting or not belting when it comes to casual pants like denim or chinos:

1.) If you are wearing a t-shirt with your denim or chinos and your look make sense with a pair of kicks or casual loafers, you can opt for no belt.

2.) If your buttondown has a starched, dressy feel, belt your jeans or khakis. If your buttondown is relaxed, you can forgo the belt. I prefer matching the tone of your belt to your pants for a longer leg line.