Whether you use the British 'braces' or the North American 'suspender' we're discussing the same thing - that most distinguished piece of the man's sartorial wardrobe that emboldens and elevates the wearer with a simple strap of coloured fabric. Enduring the onslaught of the more practical belt, the elite and superior note that braces / suspenders lend the wearer has ensured that these trouser suspenders have survived the test of time and continue to inject power into a man's ensemble even in the current casual world.
Gary Cooper in buttoned braces 1930's
For some, braces are preferable to their nemesis, the belt, because rather than tightening the trouser fabric around the waist, the line of the trousers are left to hang, meaning any pleats and creases can fall naturally and the trouser line appears more defined and gives the wearer an elongated appearance.
Braces are not as straightforward as belts, they require 6 buttons, an adjustment clasp on each side and a bit of fiddling to get just right. But braces flatter the line of trousers and therefore, in the sartorial world, the braces are seen as superior to belts. Braces work the best when the trousers are slightly larger than your normal waist size so that they hang naturally from the waistline. However, a big no-no is the wearing of braces and a belt at the same time.
As Henry Fonda once said
“How can you trust a man that wears both a belt and suspenders? The man can’t even trust his own pants.”
Alan Flusser in "Dressing the Man" goes further and suggests that a pair of trousers shouldn't have both belt loops and brace buttons. This ideal, although not convenient today, does ring true. Belt loops can look weirdly redundant when trousers are worn with braces, so its preferable to have a trouser waistband that has adjustable side tabs. The side tabs mean that the trousers can be worn with or without braces ( just loosen the waistband to wear with braces or suspenders).
The adjustable clasp on the braces should come below the the upper half of the chest. If placed too high the braces and clasp can cause bulk to appear under the suit jacket and the metal clasps can also look distracting to the wearer when so close to the face.
For buttoned braces ( as opposed to clip-on ) there should be 2 buttons at the rear of the trouser waistband, equidistant from the trouser centre seam - usually between 2 to 3 inches apart. There are 4 buttons to position at the front - 2 are lined up with the centre crease of the trousers, this is important as this is what gives the trousers their natural fall from the waist. The second button on each side is positioned closer to the side seam.
Inside or out?
That's really a personal preference - Braces (suspenders) were originally utilitarian, sturdy and coarse. They eventually became accepted in high society menswear but were still regarded as underwear, not to be seen. Like a woman's corset, braces intended to give the illusion of perfectly draped attire without giving away how this was done. This illusion was easier to achieve when waistcoats were a part of a man's everyday wardrobe but as relaxed suiting became popular in the early 1930's waistcoats became less worn, so brace buttons moved from outside to inside the waistband. Around this time, and accelerated through the advent of war, belts became the overwhelming preference. However these days braces can be a cool, even hipster addition to a man's ensemble - so wearing them buttoned on the outside can highlight them, ensuring the straps and the colourful leather loops are shown off. Another point to consider is buttons on the outside of the waistband are more comfortable than on the inside. Trousers that have brace buttons on the inside become uncomfortable as they can dig into the pelvic bone which illustrates the need for the trousers themselves to fit more loosely around the waist than you'd normally wear. However wearing your brace buttons on the inside does produce a slicker more streamlined look.
Brace Width and Material
Braces can be made of woven silk, printed silk twill, elastic, boxcloth, rayon, even shirting and tweeds. They range in width from 18mm up to the heafty 40mm (1.5 inch). The much narrower version of braces / suspenders tend to be the more hipster type that are worn in a casual manner. The wider, button hole Y-shaped braces give a more traditional and bolder appearance often worn with a full suit or tuxedo.
Albert Thurston - the Rolls-Royce of Trousers Suspension
Albert Thurston began making braces in Haymarket, London in 1820 and celebrated their 200th anniversary year in 2020. These esteemed makers are credited with inventing the modern form of braces. Albert Thurston produce their suspender / braces by hand using the finest leather and fabrics. During Victoria's reign, at the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, Albert Thurston received an honourable mention for the excellent standard of their products. Right up until the modern day Albert Thurston braces have been worn by Kings, princess and presidents as well has playing a very dapper supporting role in some blockbuster movies.
Several of the world's favourite icons have worn Albert Thurston including Daniel Craig in Casino Royale, Skyfall, and No Time to Die, Ralph Fiennes in Skyfall, Leonardo DiCaprio in The Grea