Brace Yourself: A Guide to Wearing Suspenders

How To Wear Suspenders - He Spoke Style

How To Wear Suspenders - He Spoke Style

How To Wear Suspenders - He Spoke Style

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

How To Wear Suspenders - He Spoke Style

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.

How To Wear Suspenders - He Spoke Style

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

How To Wear Suspenders - He Spoke Style

| WEARING | Knot Standard suit, Suitsupply shirt, Brooks Brothers suspenders, Drake’s tie | PHOTOGRAPHY | by Rob McIver Photo

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).

7. Formalwear

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.

Stylishly Yours,

Brian Sacawa
He Spoke Style

Chime In

  • George W

    Back when I was in a business formal workplace, I wore suspenders almost daily. They do add class. I had a co-worker who did but wore a belt with them. I got compliments while he got stares. I love them…if only I could be back in a business formal office!

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Thanks for the comment, George. What led you out of the business formal office?

      • George W

        Change in industries. Had spent considerable time in financial services, and now working in consulting. It’s a much more casual atmosphere. I used to wear bow ties, suspenders, waistcoats, you name it. These days, a french cuff dress shirts get me comments of ‘why so dressed up…have a job interview?’

        • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

          You could be the consultant who wears suspenders and bow ties though!

        • beardedman

          George W — I’m an IT guy and I wear a variety of suits from three-piece blue stripe to glen plaid to summer seersucker, with tie and with braces. A fedora too when it’s cold. I definitely used to get the “job interview” question at first but after a fairly short time I started getting compliments and doors held open for me. Believe it or not, I also started getting better reviews from my boss. It’s a t-shirt and jeans with sneakers industry but I stand out in a positive way. Of course, it has to be done right and not look like you are trying too hard, but you sound like a veteran who would definitely know how to do it. I challenge you to take it up a notch or two, politely answer the questions with, “I’m more comfortable dressed this way” and before long the questions will stop and approving nods will come your way.

          • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

            Thanks for the astute and insightful comment. As always.

  • Adam

    Okay, I’ll ask the dumb question. Do I need to have buttons sewn in my pants if I want to wear suspenders of the non-clip variety? None of my current suit pants have anywhere to attach the suspenders.

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Yes. You’ll need six buttons. Each set of button in a set of two should be spaced 2.5″ apart. The back pair should straddle the center seam. The front two pairs should start 3″ away from the zipper (which would make the second button 5.5″ away from the zipper). Hope that helps, Adam!

      • Adam

        Very helpul, thanks!

        • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

          No problem. Cheers!

  • https://www.FrankWilder.com Frank Wilder

    To be grateful, is nothing more than to be full of what is great. What are you full of – Frank Wilder

  • beardedman

    I wish I could go with side tabs as you do Brian, but I’m just too “portly”. I am so OK with belt loops AND buttons for braces. I have a collection of Savile Row-level bespoke suits; more $ than I care to think about. My tailor is one of the best and when he makes my pants, he puts both loops and buttons on without debate. When you’re spending upwards of $1k on the trousers you definitely want options. Obviously if you are skinnier, the side tabs serve the same function and you are very lucky they work for you!

    BTW: I want to mention that your blue stripe suit in these photos looks fantastic on you. Matched with the dot tie and pale pink shirt, you look totally kick-ass.

    • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

      Appreciate the comment and the compliment, beardedman. I don’t think that side adjusters are necessarily an option for skinnier guys. If anything, I think they’d be a great option for more heavier set men who like to wear suspenders as you can truly float the waist. To me, a belt seems like it would get uncomfortable?

      • beardedman

        Well, I asked my tailor to make me one pair with side tabs. The tabs could not be cinched up tight enough to hold the trousers in place without something ripping when I bent or sat. Thankfully it was simple to have the tabs removed and loops+buttons added. Experimentation is good. Being able to back out gracefully when the experiment fails: Priceless!

        • http://hespokestyle.com/ Brian Sacawa

          Well, at least you gave it a shot and you know that it’s not for you. Much more dignified than the gentleman who might patently write it off without even trying. Cheers.

  • AM

    Is there a rule as where the size adjusting hardware on the front should be? Using James Bond as reference i see the hardware fits approximately on the first or second rib, from bottom to top.

    On your pictures the hardware is sitting on your pecs.

    I prefer it low as it is more discreet. But i haven’t found or read any specific rule about this.