When it comes to adding color to your summer wardrobe, men are little more limited than women. Sure, you want to punch things up a bit, it is summer after all, but at the same time you don’t want to look like a clown.
The summer belt is a great way to bring some style and color to an outfit without being overwhelmed. Generally speaking, summer belts are designed to be less formal and more playful, perfect for khakis and shorts. They are often less constructed than dress belts, use lighter materials, and are softer in appearance. Summer belts can have traditional brass belt buckles or less formal D-rings.
A classic example is the leather tabbed belt with a canvas body, called a surcingle belt. Summer versions often have repeating patterns like whales, fish or signal flags – and are extremely preppy. These are the most formal of the summer belts, but that’s general statement for something that may be covered with little martini glasses. Still, they are quite appropriate with dressy pants and a sport coat.
Tie belts are a particular favorite of mine (I’m wearing one even as I write) because they got their start in the 1920s, the golden age of men’s fashion. As sports like tennis and golf became more popular, resort wear changed to incorporate these more active pastimes. Perhaps to make their white tennis or croquet outfits more casual, people started wearing their colorful silk repp or crested ties in place of leather belts. Literally, you would pass the thin end of your tie through the pants’ belt loops, tie the ends together and you had a belt. It looked clever and gave a shot of color to the outfit.
It also was subversive a jab at the formal conventions of Victorian dress, then on the way out. Wearing your tie as a belt showed that you were young and sporty, not stuffy and formal. These silk “tie” belts were eventually given rings through which to pass one end and, voila, the summer belt was born!
The ribbon belt, also called a grosgrain belt, is classic summer wear too. Traditionally striped or solid, companies like Vineyard Vines now cover them with everything from lobsters to anchors. Descendants of the tie belt they were first made from grosgrain, the same materials as hatbands, but are now often constructed from nylon. Ribbon belts are more durable than silk “tie” belts and though they can easily be dressed up or down, are still considered informal.
Though both tie and ribbon belts have been preppy wardrobe staples for generations, they have become popular again in recent years. A beefier version of ribbon belts have the addition of a canvas backing and can last forever. Though these can be a bit stiff at first, as with anything truly preppy, the more beat-up and broken in it gets the better it looks and fits.
Other summer belts include braided jute and cotton belts and the occasional wacky novelty belt. Here are some great resources for summer belts:
– Vineyard Vines
– Brooks Brothers
– Ralph Lauren
– J. Press
– Bugface Belts
One last thought; really want to max out that New Englandy summer look? Get a couple grosgrain watch bands. They work best with simple round or square face watches.