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should belt size match pant size

Wearing a belt is another of those plus-sized struggles that doesn’t get talked about nearly enough. Even when a belt fits properly, it can slide awkwardly or dig into your skin. Turns out, this comes down to things like your body shape, where you position your belt, and it’s size.

So, should belt size match pants size?

No, your belt size should not match the size of your pants. Generally, your belt will need to be at least 2-inches longer than the waist of your pants. Men can simply add 2″ to the size of their pants, while women will need to add two to the waist measurement for their pants. 

Even then, I find that I prefer to have an extra 3-4″ when I’m belt shopping. Below, we’ll take a  closer look at why belt size shouldn’t match pants size and how to choose the right size belt.

Should Belt Size Match Pants Size?

No, the size of your belt should not match the size of your pants. When it comes to sizing your belt, you always want it to be a little bigger. This could also change depending on how you are wearing your belt.

If you look at a belt that you have lying around, you’ll notice that the holes where you line up the belt buckle usually stop a couple of inches before the end of the belt. This gives you a little bit of overhang that makes it easier to loosen and tighten your belt.

Additionally, belt sizes often are not sold using the same sizing system or numerical value that you’re likely to find on pants. When you pair this with the inconsistencies in sizing that exists across different clothing brands (especially for women), it’s best to know the measurement of your waist and go from there.

Is Your Belt Size the Same as Your Jean Size for Men?

For men, the size of your belt is going to be at least 2″ larger than your pants size. Even then, belts are more likely sold in numerical values like XXL or 2X, while jeans are usually sold in numbers that reflect the number of inches around your waist, like 38 or 42.

Here’s a sample men’s belt size chart from Kohl’s that shows the difference between pant sizes and belt sizes.

Men’s Pants Size (in inches) Men’s Belt Size
26-28 XS
30-32 S
34-36 M
38-40 L
42-44 XL
46-48 XXL
50-52 XXL

Is Your Belt Size the Same as Your Jean Size for Women?

Women are also likely to find that their belt size does not match their jean size. Women’s jeans are typically sold in numerical values like 16 or 22, though they have nothing to do with the actual size of your waist.

Belts are more likely to be labeled with sizes like XL or 2X. Here’s a sample women’s size chart from Kohl’s that shows the differences in women’s belts.

Women’s Belt Length Women’s Belt Size
32 S
34 M
36 L
38 XL
40.5 1X
44.5 2X


How to Measure a Belt

Something that not everyone knows is you don’t actually measure a belt from end to end. Instead, you need to measure the length of the belt starting at the first hole that’s closest to the end of the belt without the buckle.

Then, you measure from this point to the center of the buckle, or wherever the leather (or other material) of the belt ends.

How you wear your belt is also a big factor in the size that you need, especially if you’re plus size. Heavier men should choose a belt size that fits over the hip bones, while women should choose belts that sit around the waist or hips.

Positioning your belt here helps keep your pants up without sliding. However, it also won’t dig in too much as long as you have the right size belt.

Going along with that, I actually prefer to have around 3-4 inches of extra length at the end of my belt. This gives me more wiggle room and I don’t have to worry about over-tightening it if I gain a few pounds over the holiday season.

Alternatively, you can get your belt size by measuring an existing belt that you have, as long as it fits well. Measure from the end of the belt with the buckle to the current hole that you use on your belt.

Do You Order Belts in Bigger Sizes?

Yes, your belt will need to be a bigger size than your pants. As a general rule, you should add at least 2″ to the size of the waist of your pants and use that to determine belt size. This means for a man who wears size 40 pants around the waist, you’ll want a belt that is at least 42″ long from buckle to the farthest notch in the belt. For bigger guys, this can be tricky but there are plenty of belts that go well into the 50’s.

Women have a slightly harder time measuring belt size since their pants don’t usually have consistent sizing. For example, jeans from Torrid have a roomier fit than jeans from American Eagle– even in the same size.

Even with this difference, you’ll just need to have your own waist measurement and compare it to the size of the belt you want to buy. Try belts on if you’re shopping in-store or buy from a company that offers size charts for their belts online.

Something else to keep in mind is that if you conceal carry, especially inside the waistband, you’ll need more room with your belt. People who use gun belts may need a slightly larger size, too.

What About Waist Belts?

Women’s waist belts are usually smaller because they go around the waist, which is usually the narrowest part of their tummy area. Therefore, you’re likely to find that unless you wear super high-waisted pants, then waist belts are going to be smaller than the belts that you’d put on your pants.

Even if you tend to shy away from belts because of past experiences unless they are absolutely necessary, I highly recommend having a few waist belts in your wardrobe.

Waist belts are really perfect for tunics and dresses, especially ones that are a little baggy and don’t have a lot of shape. From my experience, a lot of cute dresses don’t necessarily have the right shape for bigger bodies because a lot of manufacturers don’t tailor them right.

Instead, they just blow up the same pattern used in their smaller clothing lines. This is one of the reasons that plus-size clothing can be ugly.

How to Choose the Right Size Belt

As a general rule, you want a belt that is at least 2-inches longer than you need. For the guys, this is pretty easy since their waist size is generally the same number that’s printed on their pants. Keep in mind that once you know the measurement in inches that you need, you’ll be able to find a corresponding belt.

For the ladies, you’ll want to measure the area where you like your pants. Some curvy girls prefer pants that rise to the waist, while others find they prefer wearing jeans and dress pants around their hips. It really depends on your body shape and personal preference.

Take some measuring tape and position it so it wraps around where you’d normally wear your belt to get your measurements. If you have a pair of pants that fits well, you could also measure these when they’re off your body instead. Once you have your measurements, you’ll want to add at least 2-inches.

Remember that the measurement on the belt is actually from the belt buckle to the first hole. While you can go just 2″ bigger than you need, sometimes I like to go as long as 4-inches. Belts are one of those accessories that lasts a really long time, so this gives me a little extra room without being so long that the end of the belt looks excessive.

Final Word

Should belt size match pants size? No, your belt should be slightly bigger than your pants by at least 2-4″ so it fits comfortably and doesn’t squeeze your belly.

Even though wearing the wrong belt can be ineffective and cause more problems than it’s worth, wearing the right size belt will go a long way in helping you keep your pants where you want them.

Hopefully, this article has been helpful in helping you learn how to measure your belt and find which belt size you need, so belts become an accessory that works for you, too.


Camila R.

Camila is a body positive blogger and fat activist that's focused on helping people of all sizes live life big! That means accepting yourself at any size and just enjoying life! She lives in New Mexico with her husband and two chihauhuas.

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