HOW TO WEAR BRACES

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

coordinating-braces-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.

coordinating-suspenders-with-tie

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

Dotted Suspenders With Striped Tie

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

how-to-wear-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:

braces with a belt

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?

trouser waistbands for suspenders

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:

braces with belt loops

 

Side adjuster tabs are still perfectly acceptable, however, and can be seen in action below:

white braces with blue trousers

6. Trouser Rise Should Be High

trouser-rise for suspenders

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.

8. Formalwear

Black-Tie-Accessories

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

correct suspenders 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

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

suspenders with necktie and bow tie

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!

Parting Thoughts

Man In Blue Suspenders

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.

THE BOW TIE

The bow tie is a tour de force in its own right. More of a style icon than accent, it has graced the likes of everyone from Winston Churchill to James Bond. It is a statement that shows you’re debonair, self-aware and not too timid to shy away from the crowd of Four-in-Hands and Half-Windsor tie knots. (Not that there’s anything wrong with them.)

However, as they say with great sartorial power comes great responsibility, and correctly tying and wearing a bow tie is no exception. A pre-tied or clip-on option is out of the question, and a loosely tied, too large or haphazardly askew look will destroy the whole effect.

Which is why learning how to properly tie a bow tie is not only an important life skill, but a rite of passage.

HOW TO TIE A BOW TIE

STEP 1
Step 1

Hang the bow tie flat around your neck, pulling side A longer than side B by approximately 1.5 inches.


STEP 2
Step 2

Bring A across B close to your neck to prevent the tie from becoming too loose.


STEP 3

Step 3

Continue to bring A up behind B, forming a simple and loose knot.


STEP 4

Step 4

Fold B to make a bow tie shape by pulling it to the left and then folding it back over itself to the right. The fold should be directly between the collar points.


STEP 5

Step 5

Drape A over the front of B.


STEP 6
Step 6

Fold A and pass it through the loop behind B.


STEP 7
Step 7

Continue pulling A through the loop, without pulling it completely through. This will form the back half of the bow.


STEP 8
Step 8

Tighten the knot and adjust until even by pulling on opposite sides simultaneously. Pull the front left and back right section to tighten, and the front right and back left end apart to loosen.

WAISTCOATS

Tailoring though has never really gone away. Sure, it’s had its lulls in popularity, but if you want to look properly turned out there’s only one way to go – suited.

And the most suited of them all is the three piece. This of course means wearing a waistcoat, perhaps the sharpest way to instantly take your suit from prom relic to boardroom ready.

Waistcoats have been around since the birth of modern menswear, and today are about as classic as it gets. Wearing one is far from a walk in the park though, and there are plenty of pitfalls when it comes to fit, style and what to wear them with.

So, whether you want to impress at your next job interview or fancy adding this overlooked piece of tailoring as part of your permanent line-up, we’ve rounded up the best waistcoat brands and will explain just what it takes to pull off this divisive garment.

How To Wear A Waistcoat

Despite being a timeless piece of menswear, the waistcoat comes fraught with dangers. Take the last decade as a cautionary tale: every manufactured boyband worth their salt was sporting some kind of waistcoat, accompanied by a ludicrously low-cut T-shirt and ill-advised beads in most cases.

Style crimes aren’t all you need to look out for though, technicality is important here too. Find a design too tight and you’ll look like an overstuffed sausage, go too loose and you’re the barely visible page boy buried in panic-bought polyester.

Your waistcoat’s fit should enable you to put a hand snugly beneath the closure without any strain on the buttons. Oh, and speaking of buttons, always leave your bottom button undone, those are just the rules.

The smartest way to wear a waistcoat is as nature intended – wear as part of a three piece suit. For a formal look the waistcoat should appear as an extension of your suit, so a design in the exact same colour and fabric as your blazer and trousers is preferable. That’s not to say that you can’t add a lone waistcoat to your existing tailoring line-up however.

It can work if you opt for one that’s an almost identical colour and texture to an existing suit, which’ll keep things feeling harmonious.

A navy, pale grey or charcoal suit worn with a corresponding colour waistcoat, white shirt, tonal tie and black dress shoes may not be groundbreaking, but it’s foolproof.

Taking the waistcoat off piste and informal is a little trickier, but it can be done. Wearing it with a T-shirt is a seriously bad idea; try instead opting for a shirt worn without a tie. In the spirit of David Gandy, a grey or camel herringbone design will make a handsome companion for a blue chambray shirt worn unbuttoned at the collar. Stick on some black slim jeans and some black penny loafers and you’ve just done what the haters said wasn’t possible: successfully worn the waistcoat without a suit.

How To Wear A Waistcoat

Where To Buy A Waistcoat

Marks & Spencer

Like Southgate himself, Marks & Spencer is humble, unshowy and doesn’t do too much fanfare. As such, we’d forgive you if you missed that fact that this stalwart of the British high street has upped its tailoring game considerably in recent years.

Here you’ll find reasonably priced waistcoats in practically every shade of navy and grey you could think of, which is the ideal if you’re looking to colour match to a suit already hanging in your wardrobe.

BUY NOW: £19.50

M&S COLLECTION Regular Fit Waistcoat

Topman

Those hoping to rock a waistcoat without looking like an extra from Peaky Blinders could do worse than head to Topman which goes modern on fit, fabric and design.

With most examples on offer sitting comfortably under £50 and with a few style curveballs (horseshoe and shawl collars) thrown in for good measure, there’s plenty to love about Topman’s take on this icon of tailoring.

BUY NOW: £20.18

Blue Tonal Check Suit Waistcoat

John Lewis

Thanks to an unwavering commitment to quality at a fair price, John Lewis has become one of Britain’s best-loved brands.

But, if you thought that this mid-market heavy hitter was average on the menswear front, then take a look at its waistcoat offering which is chock full of Italian fabrics and attractive designs. It’s fine tailoring, but it’s extremely democratic.

BUY NOW: £59.00

John Lewis Henry Linen Cotton Waistcoat, Sand

Charles Tyrwhitt

It’s near impossible to both remember the correct pronunciation of Charles Tyrwhitt and to not think of the brand on mention of the word ‘waistcoat’. With just a fleeting glance at its comprehensive range you’ll see why it’s synonymous with the latter.

While every waistcoat may be woven from wool, there are lots of design variation to get stuck into with enough different linings, finishes, colours and collar styles to ensure you’re spoilt for choice.

BUY NOW: £70.00

Charcoal adjustable fit birdseye travel suit waistcoat

Reiss

Tailoring at high-end high street retailer Reiss bridges the gap between shiny flammable polyester horrors and bank account battering Savile Row numbers – its waistcoats unsurprisingly follow suit. In a largely conservative colour palette, to the untrained eye the brand’s offering of waistcoats may look reasonably straightforward, but slim-fits, double jetted welt pockets and interesting weaves bring the old classic bang up to date.

BUY NOW: £115.00

BELIEF W MODERN FIT TRAVEL SUIT WAISTCOAT NAVY

Hawes & Curtis

Hawes & Curtis is a big name in men’s formal tailoring, and if the sheer volume of waistcoat design options from the brand is anything to go by, it’s a reputation that’s very much deserved. Styles here come patterned, plain, in a healthy range of colours and for the maximalist, there’s a smattering of designs which feature a contrast colours to the reverse. If you can’t find a waistcoat to suit your needs at Hawes & Curtis, you’re frankly being way too picky.

BUY NOW: £40.00

Men's Navy Prince of Wales Check Slim Fit Waistcoat

TM Lewin

Since its foundation over 100 years ago, TM Lewin has grown to become a familiar fixture on high streets and at train stations, which means that levelling up your waistcoat game could scarcely be easier.

Expect to find designs crafted from pure Italian wool, a variety of button designs and options and styles of fit designed to suit every man’s taste.

BUY NOW: £70.00

Clapton Skinny Fit Textured Navy Waistcoat

Suit Supply

Launched in the year 2000, Suit Supply may be much younger than its storied competitors in men’s tailoring, but the Dutch brand got up to speed with the competition impressively quickly.

Alongside cotton and wool designs, the label is particularly skilled at producing linen waistcoats, which are just the thing for staying sharp and sweat-free if you’re at a summer wedding.

BUY NOW: £89.00

GREY WAISTCOAT

Gieves & Hawkes

With its flagship location sitting pretty at number 1 Savile Row, it’s no big shocker that British institution Gieves & Hawkes has got its finger on the pulse of the world of tailoring. The brand’s waistcoats distil all of that tailoring knowledge into designs which err on the traditional side, prizing quality fabric, exacting craftsmanship and timeless style above all else.

If you’re in the market for a luxury investment piece but don’t want to make your bank manager weep, make Gieves & Hawkes your final destination.

BUY NOW: £205.00

GIEVES & HAWKES Single-breasted wool waistcoat

Chester Barrie

Regularly worn by one of Britain’s best suit wearers (Mr Gandy, FYI), Chester Barrie is a tailoring brand which goes a long way to dispel the myth that Savile Row is for wadded geriatrics only: at any given London movie premiere, a piece of the brand’s tailoring is near guaranteed to be pacing the red carpet.

Waistcoats from this purveyor of fine tailoring do that rare thing of fusing timeless style, obvious quality and a surprisingly reasonable price tag: consider us card carrying members of club Chester.