Suspenders are braces but they're not in style

Posted: November 5, 2017 at 1:29 a.m.

Q. I have two pairs of suspenders and, since not many men wear them, they are something I am proud of. My problem is that the clips dig into my pants where I attach them and they tend to rip the linings of my sport coats. Is it acceptable to move the positioning around? It seems like they should be exactly where the belt loops are, but perhaps that can vary. Or do you think I could put a piece of fabric to prevent the tearing? What do others do?

A. Since you obviously like them, here are some helpful guidelines for how to wear braces (suspenders).

My primary piece of advice is NEVER wear clip-on suspenders. Not only do clips damage fabric, but all of the sophistication of the style is lost if you wear those metal clips -- the kind created to attach children's mittens to their snowsuits and to hold up a farmer's denim overalls. This need not worry you if you wear only the button-on style.

Incidentally, the reason I say "braces" is that magazines and higher-priced stores often use the term "braces" for suspenders and think of suspenders as the straps (garters) that used to hold up socks long ago. These stores do not carry any braces with clips. Theirs are all button-on styles. Fine braces have six buttonholes as part of the device (four to button inside the front of the trousers and two in back); they fasten onto six buttons correctly positioned inside the trouser waistband. So, any pair of trousers that you plan to wear with braces must have those six buttons sewn on by the tailor. Stores that sell braces usually also have the buttons.

I should warn you that even though men's clothes are far less subject to fashion trends than women's, they do still change somewhat with the times. Stores are selling fewer braces these days than they used to. Certainly, some fine men's shops, such as those bastions of traditional dressing like Paul Stuart, always have a supply of handsome braces for the man who finds them essential. But average guys -- and especially younger ones -- are not currently wearing them. On the other hand, now that most men have purged their wardrobes of pleated trousers, some designers are beginning to sneak pleats into their upcoming season's collections. Perhaps things will change. Since braces go so well with pleated pants and are also a natural pairing with today's popular bow ties, it may well follow that men will once again be choosing braces to hold up their trousers.

The style has always had several appealing sartorial advantages:

• Comfort -- trousers worn with braces are looser in the waist than those worn with a belt;

Trousers hang better when suspended from braces than when cinched with a belt;

Vertical lines of braces help create a taller/slimmer optical illusion;

• Profile -- braces minimize any unattractive beer belly overhang above a belt.

It should go without saying, but I will say it anyway: Don't wear a belt and braces. One or the other, not both.

When shopping for braces, think of when you intend to wear them. Traditional braces worn with black tie are made of black or white silk. But for daytime wear, almost any variations, from bright red cotton or Ivy League stripes to whimsical polka dots and colorful designs, are acceptable. The older the wearer, the quieter and more conservative the designs. I checked with a few stores about their stock of braces. Some of the most conservative ones are made by Trafalgar and sell for $88. Paul Stuart's wide range of interesting designs sell for $169 to $197. Zegna is introducing a few at $255, timed for the holidays, as part of their new evening wear collection. Based on the prices, I would say that if the style interests you, it might be wise to check out the back of your Dad's closet or a few of the local thrift shops to see what you can find.

To make a bit of a fashion statement, the color and pattern of your braces should coordinate with (but not exactly match) something else you are wearing, such as your suit, your shirt, and/or your tie. Coordinating these items handsomely can become a smart dresser's trademark or fashion signature -- and a nice way to stand out from the crowd.

Send men's fashion queries to Male Call:

lois.fenton@prodigy.net

High Profile on 11/05/2017