So it is with humble but infinitely elegant male suspenders. Also known as braces, suspenders have been in and out of the male fashion limelight since the 18th century but now, in the age of accessory awareness, they’re red hot (and not just with bartenders), offering a subtle strip of colour to your ensemble, and a touch of vintage flare to your wardrobe. Sure, they’re not for everyone; some guys can pull off the American Psycho banker look without the aid of suspenders. But let’s remember that they’re not only aesthetic: they keep your pants up.
When you’re looking for a set of suspenders, it’s best to go with dark, solid colours – too much in the colour department and your braces can go from Don Draper dapper to Steve Urkel ugly. A black set is a nice touch to a tux, while dark blue matches any dark coloured suit to a tee. You might even want to add a touch of bohemian – especially if you don’t plan to wear a jacket over the top – with touches of leather (we know you like it!). Suspenders are not brash accessories – whatever you do, please don’t walk about with your thumbs hooked in like you’re part of a German oompah troop – they’re made to be glanced at and spied when the wind catches your jacket. Think of it as another opportunity for you to forge your own subtle he-style.
Now to their practicality – they keep your pants from falling down, which is always useful. If you’re not as trim as a supermodel, they are the perfect alternative to a belt as they don’t slip down the natural taper of the stomach. Instead they preserve a flat and presentable waist line unencumbered with sagging leather and glossy buckle. Choose a strap width that complements your body shape, with thinner braces for slimmer guys and slightly wider straps for broad-chested gents. With your jacket off, suspenders accentuate the pecs and the curvature of the back – which drives the ladies wild – and with your jacket on, they help maintain all that expensive tailoring. Oh, did we mention they also instill a sense of both old worldliness and power?
But there are also no-nos too. While clip on suspenders still do the job, they look more obvious than a clip on tie, and thus can look juvenile – the opposite of what we’re after here. Get your tailor to include trouser button holes (or add them to your existing suits) to get an authentic braces look and ensure that the suspenders do their job, no matter what position you find yourself in. It’s also good to ensure the button loops aren’t too long as they can create the optical illusion of a near-fatal crotch wedgie; and if possible, wear them with tailored trousers sans belt loops (this isn’t such an issue with casual pants and jeans). If you’re going with leather, try to match them with your shoes.
When it comes to styles, the Y-back, where the shoulder braces taper to a single root strap that descends to the lower back and the waist, has surged to the forefront of male fashion, leaving the uncomfortable X-back and your grandfather’s H-backs in the dust. Button the backs on first, before putting your trousers on and obviously, don’t wear a belt and suspenders at the same time, Herman.