It’s kind of hard to fathom, but believe it or not, the belt is a relatively recent invention. Prior to World War I, the favored method of keeping one’s trousers up was with a pair of suspenders.
Nowadays, suspenders (or braces, as they’re known by the British) are often viewed as a relic from another era and/or emblematic of certain kinds of people or professions – they’re worn by dandies, bankers or iconically by waify punk rockers and hipsters.
However, as we’ve started to shift as a menswear culture towards an appreciation of quality and well-appointed details, suspenders can now be considered just another element in the well-dressed modern gentleman’s sartorial playbook.
Here are some guidelines on how to wear suspenders.
How To Wear Suspenders
1. Buttons or Clips?
This is a real “line in the sand” issue for me. Suspenders should be fastened with buttons. Period. End of discussion.
2. Don’t Wear Suspenders with a Belt
Suspenders are a method for keeping your pants up. A belt is another method for keeping your pants up. Don’t ever wear suspenders with a belt (or a belt with suspenders?). It’s the same as wearing a tie bar with a waistcoat. Choose one method or the other. Don’t cross the streams.
3. Are Belt Loops Okay?
Here’s a topic that could incite a lively debate: wearing suspenders (even fastened with buttons) on pants that also have belt loops.
Hardliners will tell you that if you’re wearing suspenders on a pair of pants with belt loops that you’re not all-in. I can respect that.
However, it’s nice to have options. Especially if you’re going to be spending some hard-earned dollars on a Made to Measure suit. Maybe you’d like to style the suit with a belt sometimes, but also reserve the right to wear suspenders when the mood strikes.
My opinion is this: there’s nothing wrong with wearing suspenders on pants with belt loops.
Having said that, it does look cleaner, more sophisticated and more committed if you forego the belt loops for side tabs. I get all my pants now sans-belt loops. Side tabs only.
4. Proper Adjustment
Suspenders used to come in different sizes/lengths. Now they have adjusters. When dialing in the right length, there’s a balance point between being too loose and too tight – the latter can lead to an uncomfortable tightening of the pants between the buttocks. Ahem.
My advice here is to go by feel. You’ll know when you’ve got them set up properly. Trust me.
5. Mind the Waist Size
Suspenders are best on pants that have a little room in the waist. If your pants are tight – or perfectly fitted to your waist – you don’t need suspenders. Unless, of course, you’re looking to add an unnecessary fashion accessory to your look.
6. A Subtle Accessory
A pair of suspenders is not an accessory that’s meant to be flaunted. Back in the olden days, they were considered a form of underwear – a not-quite unmentionable that wasn’t particularly meant to be seen.
Fans of rubber chicken cuff links may disagree with me here, but when you’re talking about classic elegance, subtlety rules the day (or night).
Bookending this post with another “line in the sand” item. When it comes to formalwear, suspenders are de rigueur. A belt with formal attire is a non-starter.
Thanks for reading.
He Spoke Style