If you’ve made the decision to wear braces (suspenders) in lieu of a belt, you should be commended. You’ve made a decision to take the sartorial road less traveled, and in so doing, opened yourself up to a world of style previously unavailable to you.
Every garment we wear has “rules” associated with it, and suspenders are no exception. How do manage to wear suspenders in an aesthetically pleasing way?
Read on for our top tricks for how to wear suspenders.
Top Nine Tips & Tricks For Wearing Braces
1. Coordinate With Shoes
The button holders should coordinate with the color of your shoes. This is a good rule of thumb except in the case of white braces that are worn with a tuxedo, in which case you’ll obviously be wearing black shoes.
Additionally, if you’re a bit more advanced in terms of your color matching prowess, you can break this rule within reason. For example, Bespoke Unit Founder Paul Anthony often wears exotic leathers in non-traditional colors that don’t always match when wearing braces. We’ll go more in depth in terms of “uncoordinated coordination” in step three below, but know that once you’ve demonstrated mastery of the rules, you have some license to bend them.
Such is the way with clothing and in life, we suppose.
2. Coordinate With Your Outfit…
Logic and a decent sartorial sense dictate the guidelines for wearing suspenders well. Braces live on the torso, which means they share the same visual plane as the tie. Therefore, your tie and braces are the first things that you should coordinate.
The standard pattern and color mixing concepts apply for which are some basic, quick tips:
- Solid suspenders are your best starting point due to their versatility. Most men tend to wear patterned ties, and coordinating these with solid braces will make your life easier because your only mixing criteria will be color.
- Patterned braces such as stripes, plaids, dots, etc. will work best with solid or discreetly patterned ties. They are less versatile than solids, of course, but the payoff for a good combination is quite high.
If coordinating with your tie is something you can’t or don’t feel like doing, the next garments to consider are the dress shirt and trouser. Again, the same pattern and color mixing guidelines apply. Note above how there’s blue in the tie, shirt, and suspenders, while the yellow in the tie also hearkens back to the shirt.
Finally, suspenders are similar to socks in that they spend most of their time covered up by another garment (trousers in the case of socks, waistcoats and / or jackets in the case of braces). With that in mind, you have some license in terms of what you coordinate your suspenders with. It really just depends on your skill, comfort level, and audience.
Let’s assume you’re going to a wedding and you want to wear braces with your suit. Sure, you can wear blue suspenders to coordinate with your purple-and-blue striped tie. But if your socks are, say, blue with green polka dots, who’s to say you can’t wear some green braces to call out those dots? We wouldn’t recommend this for a board meeting, but it’s a great move on a more festive occasion.
3. …Or Don’t Coordinate At All
Braces live underneath a jacket or vest, as such you have a lot of leeway in terms of color and pattern. You can theoretically let your suspenders do their own things and be just fine.
4. Don’t Wear Clips & Never Wear A Belt With Braces
No clip-on suspenders please, and NEVER a belt. Combining the two gives off an air of extreme pessimism, to paraphrase Glenn O’Brien:
Clip-ons are decidedly bush league, corny, and whatever other synonyms you can think of for those words, and wearing a belt with suspenders indicates a man who’s far too concerned with keeping his pants up.
5. Belt Loops?
Ideally, trousers worn with suspenders will not have belt loops, which look conspicuously empty when worn without a belt. Still, if everything else in the outfit is pulled off well, you can get away with it:
Side adjuster tabs are still perfectly acceptable, however, and can be seen in action below:
6. Trouser Rise Should Be High
Low-rise pants simply don’t look right with suspenders. Opt for trousers that sit at your natural waist, not your hips. This is a physical comfort issue as well.
7. (Somewhat) Looser Trouser Waistband
Braces are known to allow your pants to “float” around your waist, which is part of their value. To achieve this, they must be a bit looser than your snug trousers.
Braces are de rigeur with formalwear. Formal trousers take either side tabs and / or braces, and traditionally the braces are white. Under no circumstances should you wear a belt.
9. Adjuster / Buckle Placement
All braces, even custom ones, have buckles so that length can be adjusted. It used to be that braces were sold in set sizes like belts were (32, 34, 36, etc.), which was very helpful in terms of keeping the buckles where they should rest, which is pretty much right in the center of the torso.
Nowadays, braces are all sold in one set size, which is quite long so as to accommodate tall men. With that said, men under 5’10” or so can run into issues of having buckles up around their collarbones.
Do You Know How To Put On Suspenders?
Knowing how to wear suspenders with style is definitely important knowledge for any man. However, it won’t matter if you don’t know how to put them on!
We have created a very detailed step-by-step guide on how to put on suspenders in case you need help. Have a look!
Classic Suspender Pairings For Men
Suspenders With Jeans
Full disclosure: we do not care for the braces-and-denim look. Knowing that, if you choose to wear this combination, you might as well do it correctly.
The most important thing to do is retrofit your jeans with brace buttons. Clip-on suspenders, as mentioned above, are bush league no matter how you slice it. In other words, they come across as half-hearted and considerably less than authentic.
Furthermore, clip-on suspenders will be ineffective when undertaking manual work. Therefore, if you’re pairing them with jeans and undertaking some heavy-lifting, they may well come undone when you least expect it.
Having addressed the need to wear proper, to-button suspenders with denim, the next thing to talk about is material. Most suspenders nowadays are made from rayon, while others are made from necktie silk (the latter is particularly true in the world of custom clothing).
While silk suspenders have a nice feel to them, they tend to not be as durable as rayon ones. When we talk about the rougher aesthetic aspects of denim, it stands to reason that silk suspenders are just too delicate a look to pull off. Stick with rayon, whose rougher texture will sync more harmoniously with the more casual vibe of jeans.
Finally, the question of width comes into play. Any suspenders worth wearing are either 1.25″ or 1.5″ wide. Similar to belt width, any narrower or wider and they will start looking costume-y and silly.
Just as you typically wear wider belts with jeans, so should you wear wider suspenders with denim. Again, this goes back to the concept of sartorial harmony; generally speaking, “bigger” is synonymous with “more casual,” and your jeans-with braces outfit will look better when you keep this in mind.
Wearing A Bow Tie & Suspenders
Wearing suspenders and a bow tie is a classic combination that makes for a natty presentation if you do it right. If you do it wrong, you end up looking like a hipster who goes nuts for Disney theme parks’ Dapper Day, which is anything but dapper.
What’s the difference between right and wrong here? Adherence to or disregard of the no clip-on rule.
For the third time, clip-on suspenders are simply a non-starter. Clip-on bow ties are similarly a non-starter as they look too perfect and lack the style necessary to be truly pulled off. If one or both of these elements is clipped on, your look is doomed.
On the other hand, if you tie your own tie and button your braces to your trousers, the chances of you looking actually dapper go through the roof.
Braces With A Tuxedo
Wearing braces with a tuxedo is a wonderful idea, though it’s not necessary if your trousers stay up on their own (tuxedo trousers often have side adjusters). Just make sure they’re white, and know that they can be paired with either a cummerbund or a vest.
Suspenders With A Vest Or Waistcoat
You can certainly wear suspenders with a vest. In fact, a hundred years or so ago when braces were considered underwear, a waistcoat was meant to cover them up, in addition to the brace buttons which lived on the outside of the waistband.
A word to the wise: give yourself a few extra moments when using the bathroom while wearing braces with a waistcoat. What was once a one-minute time investment becomes a multi-step process when you have to remove a vest before relieving yourself!
Suspenders have the potential to add a lot of style to your presentation. This is not just because they look good on their own as a standalone item, but also because the increased comfort and mobility will allow you to carry yourself in a more comfortable way physically. Feeling comfortable in what you wear is perhaps the most underlooked aspect of style.