How to (Accurately) Measure Belt Sizes for Men

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Knowing how to properly measure your belt size is one of those skills most guys would never think to develop—until the moment they realize they need it.

Whether you’re buying a belt in a bricks and mortar store or online, knowing how to correctly measure your belt length will help you find the perfect fit.

Which is great, because a tight belt will make you look like a sausage squeezed into its casing, while a belt that’s too loose will make you look less like a grown-a$$ man and more like a kid who broke into his dad’s closet.

In this post I’ll break down the simplest ways to measure your belt size and get an accurate measurement, so you don’t (corny pun alert!) waste money around your waist (you were warned).

The Ultimate Belt Size Guide

Breaking Down the Best Way to Measure Belt Size

Measuring Belt Size with an Existing Belt

Measuring belt size with a measuring tape
Remember: do NOT include the length of the buckle itself in your measurement

One easy way to know which belt size you should buy is to use an existing belt you already own to determine your proper size.

There are two different options when it comes to belts – those with removable buckles, and those where the buckle stays on.

Let’s take a look at how to measure both.

How to Measure Belts with Detachable Buckles

  1. Put the belt on and make note of which hole you use.
  2. Remove the belt and take the buckle off, then lie the belt flat on a table, floor or any flat surface.
  3. You should now see a center hole where the buckle goes. Get a tape measure and measure the distance between that middle hole and the one you used.

How to Measure Belt Length With the Buckle On

  1. Put the belt on and make note of which hole you use.
  2. Lay the belt flat on a table (be careful not to scratch the surface with the belt buckle).
  3. With your tape measure, measure from the flat leather end where the buckle attaches to the hole you noted in step 1.
    1. Note that your measurement should not include the buckle length.

In both cases, the key to remember is that you’re not measuring the belt from tip to tip, you’re only going as far as the hole you intend to use.

If the measurement you get from the buckle end to your preferred belt hole is 36 inches, then a size 36 belt will be the best fit, even though the actual length of the belt will be a few inches longer. 

Keep in mind…

One important thing to remember is that standard belt strap sizes only come in even numbers (32, 34, 36, etc.), much to the chagrin of those of us who wear odd size pants (I’m a size 33, unfortunately).

So if you get an odd number while using any of the measuring methods above or below, round up to the nearest inch that’s an even number.

How to Measure Belt Size Without a Belt

Here’s a method you can use if you don’t have a belt handy, or if you’re (understandably) skeptical of measuring a current belt – which presumably doesn’t fit properly – to buy a new one in the accurate size.

To get the correct measurement, the easiest way is to use a soft measuring tape (i.e. the kind used by tailors, not the kind used by construction workers) and follow these instructions:

  1. Grab a pair of pants and string the measuring tape through your first belt loop – just as you would a belt – and then through each successive loop.
  2. Hold the end of the tape in the middle of your pants button. This is your starting point.
  3. Take a deep breath, then exhale. The best way to get a properly fitting belt is to measure when your belly is fully expanded, so that your belt doesn’t impede your breath.
  4. Note which number on the measuring tape touches the start of the tape when you exhale. That’s the right size belt for you.

Belt Size vs Waist Size

One common mistake a lot of guys make is assuming that belt sizes work the same as pants sizes, and that their belt size is the same as their waist size.

But that’s not actually the case.

Remember, your belt goes on the outside of your pants, which contain not just your underwear, but also the shirt you’ve got tucked into your pants (you do tuck in your shirt, right?) and potentially your shirt garters, if you choose to wear to them.

To accommodate all that extra clothing, you want your belt size to follow a simple formula:

Your belt should be one-to-two inches larger than your waist size.

Belt Size vs Pant Size

Belt size vs pant size
The perfect belt size is a few inches bigger than your pants size

Unlike your belt, your pants hue quite closely to your natural waistline, so your pants size and your waist size are usually about the same.

That means that your belt size has the same relationship to your trouser size as it does to your waist size:

The correct size belt should be about an inch or two larger than your pant size.

So if you wear a size 34 pant, you should buy a size 36 belt.

But if you have a size 36 waist then your correct belt size is a 38, and so on.

As mentioned, belts almost always come in even numbers, but pant waist size can be measured in odd numbers.

In cases where you have to choose between a new belt that’s one inch larger than your waist size or three inches, the general rule is to opt for the larger size.

But with that said, it depends on the style of belt you’re buying.

With my size 33 waist measurement, I prefer to have a 34 belt size for dress belts and formal occasions because I don’t want a lot of excess leather tucked into my belt loops.

But with a wider belt – like most casual belts – I usually go for a 36.

In my opinion a little extra leather looks a little extra rugged, which is never a bad thing for a casual look.

Belt Size Chart

Here’s a handy belt size conversion chart you can use for measurement purposes, which outlines the best belt size for every pant size:

Pants SizingBelt Sizing

How long should your belt be?

While the right belt size will vary according to the size of the individual (obviously), standard belts follow the same sizing convention regardless of a the exact length or size of the belt.

The last hole on a leather belt (i.e. the one furthest from the buckle) is usually the widest hole. On a standard five-hole belt, this hole should be about four inches from the end of the belt.

Some leather belts are only made with three holes, in which case the last hole should be about four inches from the belt’s end.

More Resources ↓
More Advice on Men’s Accessories from Irreverent Gent:

About Dave Bowden

Dave Bowden

Founder, Irreverent Gent
Author, Man in Command and Stop Doubting, Start Dating
Writer, Really Wordy Author Bios

Dave Bowden is a style blogger, menswear expert and best-selling author (in Canada—but still!) whose advice on how to look good and live well has been featured in New York Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Men's Health and more.

When not obsessing over style and self-improvement, he can usually be found spending time with his wonderful wife and two amazing sons, indulging in a hoppy craft beer, or sobbing over the woeful state of Toronto's sports teams.

Check out Dave's Style Story to find out how a chance encounter with his friend's step-dad taught him the value of looking good and living well (don't worry—it's less creepy than it sounds!), or email him at [email protected] if you want to get in touch.

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