Belts can make a baggy dress look chic and sharpen a business casual outfit into a snappier work outfit in just seconds. A good belt will hold up slightly too-large pants and draw attention to a narrow waistline. But to find a belt that fits you, you need to learn how to measure belt size.
The size of a belt equals its length from the point where the buckle attaches to the belt to the middle hole at the opposite end of the belt. In the US, belt sizes use measurements in inches to describe this length. A common way to find a belt size for men and women is to add two inches to the waist measurement.
In this article, you will learn how belt sizes work. You will discover four different ways to measure your belt size. Finally, you will find tips on how to lengthen or shorten a belt to fit you.
How Do Belt Sizes Work?
A belt size describes its length in inches, measuring from the middle hole at one end of the belt to the point where the belt meets the buckle at the other end of the belt. Belt sizes always use even numbers, such as size 32, 34, or size 36 belt.
Belt length does not mean the entire length of the garment from the prong to the triangular point! This common error often causes people to misjudge their size.
Another common misconception about belt size is that it is the same as your waist measurement or your waist size. This is also not true–your belt should always have a slightly greater length than your waist size.
Belts have a pretty simple structure that makes understanding their sizing much easier than understanding the size of a dress or a suit jacket.
The basic parts of a belt include:
- The strap, which forms the main body of the belt, This part circles around your torso. Common strap materials include leather, heavy fabric, vinyl, or plastic.
- The buckle is secured to one end of the strap. You can find buckles made of many different types of metal or plastic. You can also find lots of different styles of buckles, such as a frame, box frame, or plate buckle.
- Inside the buckle, the pointy bit on a hinge is called the prong. This will slot into the holes in the strap to close the belt.
- You will also note a line of metal or plastic in the middle of the buckle called the bar. The strap weaves over and under this bar when you buckle the belt.
- Most belts have a loop of the strap fabric right in front of the buckle. You can slide the point of the belt into this loop after buckling it to keep the tongue from flopping around.
- You call the opposite end of the belt from the buckle the tongue, This end of the strap usually has a triangular point, sometimes protected with an end tip sheath of metal or plastic.
When you look at a belt to determine its size, start at the point where the strap attaches to the buckle. Then measure all the way down to the middle hole near the tongue, and you will know the size in inches.
How to Measure Belt Size
Once you know the basic parts of a belt, measuring belt size is quite easy, Check out some tips for how to measure yourself for a belt here!
1. For Men
Men traditionally wear a belt near the natural waistline, which makes selecting the right size a piece of cake.
- Start by measuring your natural waist. To do this, find the most narrow part of your torso, or start at a point an inch below your navel.
- Wrap a flexible tape measure around your torso at this point. Use a mirror to help you make sure you keep the tape level. If it sags or gets stuck on your clothing, you will get an inaccurate measurement.
- Write down your waist measurement. For extra accuracy, double-check if this is the same measurement you use for your jeans and trouser size.
- Add two inches to your waist size in most cases.
- As an exception to this rule, if you have an odd-numbered waist measurement, like a 33” waist, add three inches instead.
- Use this equation of waist size + 2 inches to determine your belt size.
A belt in the right size for you should fit snugly but not feel tight or pinched with the prong lodged in the middle hole. If the belt has three holes, the prong should go into the second hole. If it has five holes, the prong should go into the third hole, and so on.
2. For Women
The tricky part of finding the right belt size for women is that you may wear a belt at different parts of your torso for different outfits. For example, wearing a belt with a flowy dress will likely place it at your natural waist to highlight your hourglass shape. But if you wear a belt with trendy low-rise dress pants, it will need to reach around the curve of your hip, which has a much larger circumference than your waist!
To solve this problem, follow this easy method to determine the best belt size for you:
- Try on the outfit you want to wear with your belt.
- Stand in front of a mirror to determine where you will place the belt while wearing this outfit.
- Wrap a flexible tape measure around your torso at this point.
- Alternatively, many dress pants, jeans, and even some dresses feature belt loops. If you have these loops anywhere on your outfit, slot the tape measure through the loops instead.
- Write down the measurement in inches, rounding up to the nearest even number.
- Use that measurement plus two inches as the belt size for the belt to wear with that outfit.
3. With Belt
Another great way to find your belt size is to measure a belt that fits you well. This method may offer you the easiest solution!
- Smooth out the belt flat on a hard surface, like a table. If the belt keeps rolling up, you may want to use paperweights to hold it in place.
- Find the place where the strap connects to the buckle. Usually, the strap wraps around the end of the buckle and secures the belt to the buckle with one or more rivets.
- Use one hand to hold the short end of a flexible tape measure at this point.
- With your other hand, run the tape down the length of the strap. Stop when you reach the holes near the tongue at the other end of the strap.
- Count the holes to find the middle hole.
- Stop the tape measure at the middle hole, and write down this measurement.
- This is the official length, or belt size in inches, of the belt!
4. In Centimeters
European belt sizes use centimeters instead of inches to describe belt length because Europe uses measurements based on the metric system. You can use most of the same basic methods to find your size in cm instead of in inches, though!
- When measuring belt size in centimeters, one easy tip is that the middle hole that marks the end of the belt length usually lies 15 CM from the tip of the tongue.
- Instead of adding two inches to your waist size, add five centimeters.
- You can also find charts like the one later in this article that provides handy conversion from inches to cm for belt sizes if you find that easier.
What Size Belt Do I Need?
Now that you know how to measure a belt properly, you may have a few common questions about belt sizes.
For a 30 Waist
If your natural waist has a 30-inch measurement, you will usually find that a size 32 belt fits you well. Keep in mind that you may want to measure different portions of your torso if you want to wear your belt in a high-rise or low-rise position.
For a 32-inch waist, you will want a size 34 belt. This does not mean that the belt measures 34 inches from end to end; it means that the official belt length, from one end of the strap to the middle hole close to the other end, measures 34 inches.
34 Inch Waist
If you have a 34-inch waist or wear size 34 pants (for men), you will probably want a size 36 belt. For women, if you have a 34-inch waist and typically wear medium-sized pants, you will also fit a size 36 belt.
What is a Size 34 Belt Medium?
A size 34 belt medium just means a belt that measures 34 inches from one end of the strap to the middle hole in the strap. Medium belt lengths can span from about a size 32 to a size 42, depending on the brand.
What Size is a 38 Inch Belt?
A 38-inch belt usually means a size 38 belt, but this depends on how you measure the length of the belt. The size of a belt equals its official length, meaning just the portion of the belt between the buckle end of the strap to the middle hole at the other end of the strap. The belt’s entire length would include the buckle’s length and the 15 cm between the middle hole and the tip of the strap.
What Size Belt is 42 Waist?
Generally speaking, a size 44 belt will fit you well if you have a 42-inch waist. But you will want to consider where you plan to wear the belt before making that call. For instance, if you want to wear high-rise jeans, you may need a smaller size. For low-rise jeans, you may need to go up a size or two.
Belt Size Chart Men
The best way to buy a belt that fits you perfectly is to take your measurements as described earlier in this article and then compare that number to a sizing chart offered by the brand you like. This way, you can avoid the fatal “one size fits all” belt that seems to fit no one!
You should also know that different brands and companies may use slightly different measurements to determine sizes. This is another reason you should always check the sizing chart and not just assume that a particular size will fit you because you have previously worn a belt in that size.
This chart will give you a general idea of the most common measurements used for men’s belt sizes in both inches and cm.
|Belt Size S, M, L
|Belt Size Inches
|Belt Size CM
|34” to 36”
|38” to 40”
|42” to 44”
Belt Size Chart Women
Many clothing brands that sell belts provide a sizing chart to help you match your measurement to the perfect belt for you.
This is super helpful because if a brand lists its belts as small, medium, or large, you have no way of knowing what measurement the belt has unless you look at a size chart.
|Belt Size S, M, L
|Belt Size Inches
|Belt Size CM
|30” to 32”
|34” to 38”
How Long Should a Belt Be
A belt should measure at least two inches longer than your waist circumference and comfortably buckle closed without pinching you in or sagging out from your pants.
These tips will help you determine if your belt has the correct length for you:
- The tongue of the strap (the pointy end) should reach midway between the first and second belt loops on your pants when the belt is buckled shut, especially if you wear your pants at your natural waist.
- If you buckle the belt to the smallest hole, but the buckle still sags away from your torso, the belt is too long for you. You can shorten it using the tips later in this article or find one in a better size for your body.
- As a pro tip, you may feel that your belt is too long and sagging if you try a belt in the wrong width. Ideally, your belt should fit snuggly into the loops on your pants–a too-narrow width can make the belt seem too long even if the tongue does reach past the first belt loop.
- In some special cases, such as when you need to wear a holster on your belt, experts recommend getting a belt three to six inches longer than your waist size to provide extra support. In this case, the tongue of the belt will reach farther around and go through more belt loops.
Belt Size vs Pants Size
In theory, you can add two inches to your pants size to find your belt size. But in practice, this does not always work out. This is because clothing manufacturers do not use accurate waist measurements in inches for most pants these days. You will get a more accurate belt size based on your actual waist measurement.
Suppose you wear Size 34 jeans. You may have a 35 or 36-inch waist, but jeans manufacturers like to use vanity sizing to make customers feel better, so they play around with the actual measurements used in the garment. This means that adding two inches to your jeans size will probably give you a too-small belt!
Indeed, you should always wear a belt that measures a little longer than the circumference of your waistband, though. This is because you want to allow space for the tongue to overlap the buckle end of the belt when you buckle the belt shut around you.
How to Lengthen or Shorten Belt
Sometimes you need to wear a belt that is not the perfect size for you, but you can often make this situation work if you know how to lengthen or shorten a belt.
To lengthen a belt:
- For a fabric belt, you can slice through the back of the belt and sew in a piece of fabric to make the belt longer.
- You can also take out the old buckle and add a new, larger one to add some length to the belt.
- You can also slightly stretch out certain styles that have straps made out of leather or flexible material. Just work slowly and don’t rip the strap!
To shorten a belt:
- Add additional holes in the tongue so you can buckle the strap more snuggly around yourself. The easiest way to do this is to use an awl or a power drill. If it does not mess up the style of the belt, you can also use a sharp knife to slice off the extra length on the end of the tongue.
- Knot the extra tongue around the strap to make it look stylish instead of too big. To do this, buckle the belt cinched snuggly around you and then loop the tip of the tongue down between the strap and your body. Bring it up to pass it through the loop you made, and pull the knot tight!
- Wear the too-large belt outside of a coat to sharpen your silhouette. The extra puffiness of the coat will make the too-big strap fit you.
- You can also embrace the trend for the over-long belt and allow the tongue to drape down the front of your dress or down the leg of your pants if you want a street-style look.
What is the Average Belt Size?
The average belt size sold in the US is any belt in the medium size range, running from a size 32 to a size 42, depending on the brand. But there is not a “normal” belt size, as selecting the right size for your waist measurement is key to a good fit.
Belt sizes often classified as small can include sizes 26 to 30. Medium belts can include sizes ranging from 32 to 42. And large belts can mean any belt size from 46 to 50.
The easiest way to estimate your belt size is to measure your waist and add two inches or five centimeters to that measurement. Belt sizes in the US use inches to describe the official length of the belt. The length of a belt measures the distance between the point where the strap meets the buckle to the middle hole on the tongue end of the strap.
If you plan to wear a belt higher or lower on your waist, measure yourself at that point to determine your belt size instead of at your natural waistline. One easy way to do this is to try on pants with a high or low waist that you want to wear with the belt and run a tape measure through the belt loops on the pants.