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When it comes to a formal belt, the “usual" fashion commandments say it should be brown, black or any other dark colour, 2.5-3.5 cm in width, made of fine leather, and sans a chunky, look-at-me buckle. In other words, a belt should be a silent style partner, and should never, ever steal the thunder from your entire look.

We asked a few experts if they agree with these “classic belt rules": The list included London-based Alan Cook, head of design for menswear at clothing and accessories brand Marks & Spencer; New Delhi-based Sahil Malik, managing director, Da Milano, a high-end leather accessories brand; Pune-based Amrita Batra, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of online leather store; Bengaluru-based David von Platen, creative director of formal menswear brand Blackberrys; and New Delhi-based Brijesh Dahiya, co-founder of fashion company Gulabo Chhap Design Works. Here’s the sum total of what they said:

Which belts work for formal wear for men?

Belts without large and loud buckles, small and sleek clasps, and square brass buckles are usually considered formal enough for workwear. The buckles can have tonal lacquer details as an accent. Simple silver or gold square buckle or belts with metallic prints like fine lines or handwoven details and laser-cut textures make the cut too. Leather is usually the preferred choice; it keeps things sleek and refined, particularly for formal occasions.

What should be kept in mind while choosing the belt type, texture and colour?

When choosing a belt, keep in mind the suit you will be wearing it with. A smaller belt (or a belt with a plaque buckle) will work well with a slim-fit suit. If you want to make a statement, try a tan or navy belt or a black belt with a gold buckle. To add subtle interest, choose a belt with stitched edges or a belt with texture—grain-effect leather or print with an understated geometric pattern. For a trendy business look, try a classic, subtle leather belt with an auto-lock or box-frame buckle.

Keep in mind that a formal belt should not be wider than the size of your thumb.

Also, formal belts should have a few inches of leather to the left of the buckle once it is fastened. It should be long enough to tuck under the first belt loop of your trousers or the loop on the belt, if it has one.

Remember the good old saying, “Match your belt with your shoes." It is the most foolproof approach when pairing formal accessories, shoes and belts. But you can break the mould—do dark accents and combos like charcoal with black or navy with grey.

Any other “set of laws" (related to pant styles, loops) that should be kept in mind?

To smarten your look, your belt should fit perfectly into the loops of your trousers. If the belt is too large, it will pull on the loops and make them look untidy. Most formal belts (buckles) have a gold or silver finish. Glossy belts should be paired with highly polished shoes, whereas matte belts go with matte shoes.

Men should choose the belt size according to their waist size. The belt should be 5-7 inches longer than the waist size. Usually, most belts have five holes, but for an ideal fit, the third (or middle) hole should be used.

Avoid wearing a belt with a tuxedo. Suit pants should sit on your waist without the help of a belt. A belt should never be a band-aid for baggy or ill-fitting pants. Always shorten longer belts.

The loop style should always be traditional. No skipping a loop or trying fancy loop-in-loop-out stunts. It will look clumsy.

Are there any belt rules that can be broken without compromising on a formal/office look?

Why not try matching your belt to your suit colour for a tonal look? For example, wear a navy belt with a navy suit. You can go for toned braided belts, woven fabrics and more flamboyant, patterned leathers like crocodile or ostrich prints.

Now that every other CEO plays golf and cracks more deals over wine soirées than in board meetings, the belt should have some fun too! For example, if you wear two-tone brown brogues, where the toe is a shade darker than the rest of the shoe, the belt goes with the toe.

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