Overview & History:
For trousers, not for teeth. For Americans, braces are more commonly known as suspenders; and like so many fashion accessories, they come in a variety of forms. For a true gentleman, however, there are a couple of rules to consider.
Throughout the last few years, suspenders have lived through somewhat of a revival, pioneered by hipsters all over the planet. In almost every city in Western Europe and the US, the bearded, skinny jeans wearing communities of the “rugged” have rediscovered the comfort and ease suspenders offer over belts. Unfortunately, the trend has been matched by a gradual decline of braces in the business world. This is highly regrettable. How iconic was Michael Douglas in the 1987 classic “Wall Street”, lecturing movie-goers across continents about the insurmountable benefits of greed? And how puny was Michael Douglas in the 2010 sequel of said movie? The Gentleman’s Digest strongly believes that this decline is highly correlated with the painful absence of suspenders in the second movie… And the worst: it could have been prevented.
Also, we are not discussing the scrappy, clip-on braces that usually accompany the skinny tie sans jacket. Real braces have leather loops for real buttons inside of real trousers. Trousers that go together with a real jacket. By real men.
Braces are not only an alternative to belts, but in many ways superior to the leather straps people tie around their waists. Especially in professions that involve a lot of sitting, braces do not cut into the lower belly like belts do. And they do not painfully demonstrate what those last five donuts have done to your waistline. Unfortunately, most mainstream labels do not offer pants with the inseam buttons needed instead of belt loops. Most gentlemanly clothiers, however, will offer to sew the buttons on the inseam for a minor fee. The removal of the belt loops, on the other hand, is another story: very few stores offer this alteration within their standard services and the determined gentleman will have to find someone to take off the loops. Some stores, afraid to lose business, will tell you that it is ok to wear suspenders with belt loops. Unfortunately for them, they are wrong.
In the UK, bespoke suits normally come without belt loops in the first place. It is frowned upon to ask for them because they are a sign for off-the-rack purchases. Bespoke suits, on the other hand, are worn without a belt. For fit, the gentleman can instead adjust the width of his waistband using tiny buttons on his sides. Braces will then superbly complement the attire, perfectly hold the trousers in position, and add a touch of color to the outfit without the constraining nature of a belt.
Today, most vendors offer suspenders in a one-size-fits-all length with adjustable straps. Additionally, the lower back strap, below the usual furcation, is made out of stretchable materials that take off pressure for the more portly contemporaries among us. Traditionally, braces come in either a Y or sometimes also in a X-shape; within the business community, however, Y-shape is certainly more common. This becomes important when the gentleman requires his suit maker of choice to put in the buttons. Two buttons, roughly two to three inches apart in the middle of the back seam and two pairs on both front sides, roughly on the 10:30 and 1:30 position will do the job just fine.
Then, all you will have to do is find braces that fit the purpose and of course, your taste. Enjoy your new found freedom!