Braces (or suspenders) are great. The tension in hanging from the shoulders maintains a smooth, elegant front to trousers. The high-waisted style gives a man longer legs and stops any shirt puffing out between trouser top and the jacket’s waist button.

They are also more comfortable around the waist, as they can be looser – not relying on tension in the waistband to keep them up. And, as a result, they are more forgiving of fluctuations in weight.

But I don’t wear them.

I recognise, and respect, all these advantages to braces. Some of them – like the equal height of waistband and waist button – are part of the foundations of tailoring theory. They can look great, particularly on slimmer guys and those with a more outgoing style.

But I don’t wear them. I’ve had four pairs of braced trousers made at different points over the past 10 years and each time I’ve just been reminded of the same thing – they are not for me.

Pirozzi bespoke trousers

Let’s start with the simplest but also most debatable reason: I find them uncomfortable.

Despite those different tailors, different cuts, and different styles of braces, I find having fabric wrapped around my shoulders considerably less comfortable than a simple strap-and-buckle.

I rarely wear belts either, finding them rather restricting and uncomfortable after the freedom of nothing at the waist. When I do wear a belt, it is because I want to add a little more texture or variation to an outfit – often when tieless.

Doubtless I could get used to braces if I wore them long enough. (Though I have given them a good go several times.) But then there are the other reasons.

The second reason is also simple and also debatable: they are a pain. If you wear knitwear or a waistcoat, you have to take them off to sit down on the toilet (or unbutton the braces).

bespoke cape horn trousers

Third reason, which is now a bit more fundamental: I think really high-waisted trousers (sitting on your natural waist, above the hips) look great with a jacket on, but not as good with them off. And I do occasionally take my jacket off.

Some guys look great in that look. Michael Browne of Chittleborough & Morgan is one of them. But then frankly, he looks good in anything.

Personally I think most men don’t suit high-waisted, braced trousers without a jacket. The proportion of torso to leg is exaggerated, and it is particularly bad on larger men – who are the very ones most suited to braces in other respects.

I do like slightly higher waisted trousers. My favourites, for example from Camps de Luca, still sit on my hips (the in-dipping middle of the hip bone) but are an inch higher than most modern trousers by virtue of the strap-and-buckle being on the seam, not the band. (As shown below.) A wider waistband achieves a similar effect.

This is flattering, and lengthens the leg just enough. But higher than that – for me – usually isn’t.

This point is also a little subjective and personal. So on to number four.

bespoke cotton trousers Calvo

Reason four, which is probably the most important and least subjective: braces are showy. They’re unusual; they stand out; they suggest the dandy.

My personal style is always to aim for a subtle, understated elegance.

As with the power of a bespoke fit in tailoring, I want someone to merely think I look well-dressed, without knowing why. It’s perhaps only on closer inspection, or thought, that they note the harmony of colours, the patina of quality product, or that absolute key – fit.

I don’t work in a menswear shop. I work in a business and I have to appear professional. My clothes should not be a talking point.

And more importantly, I don’t want to be known as that guy that wears the bow ties, or braces, or a bowler hat. I just want to be the guy that dresses well (and I think a lot of others want to, too).

Perhaps, if this is the aim, one has a certain bandwidth of unusual clothing available. Braces take up all of it; a tie clip takes up half of it. More fun, I’d suggest, to be able to experiment with several things, including slightly unusual cloths, colour combinations or accessories.

Braces have good and bad points, but on balance I’ll stay away. And just put up with more wrinkled fronts on my flannels.

P.S. I do make one exception with braces, and that is where the trousers will always be worn with a waistcoat (eg my Richard Anderson tux, or Chittleborough & Morgan suit). The braces are still a pain, and they are still uncomfortable. But they make the waistcoat look so much better.

Images: Green trouser, Luke Carby; all others, Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man

Credit: Permanent Style

54 Comments

  1. Anthony Smith

    Surely the second point is more ‘fundamental’ than the third one? With apologies.

  2. Simon Crompton

    My thinking was that, given you are wearing them for style reasons, if they aren’t stylish then there’s no point. So more fundamental to style, if not to personal comfort

  3. Milsom Porter

    I think that’s a pun on “fundament”. Chapeau to Mr Smith.

  4. Really interesting, Simon. I can easily relate to some of your points (sitting down in privacy being the obvious one). Just as interesting to see how individual taste differs: for me a tie clip would use up two full days of accessories bandwidth, while I’d view braces in non-flashy colours as relatively more subtle.
    On the comfort side, I think as long as you don’t have easy access to tailors for getting exactly your perfect waistband height and fit nailed, braces can still be a good workaround.

  5. Simon Crompton

    Yes, good point on the fit if not tailored

  6. Nick Inkster

    Fully agree with your observations Simon, but one plea would be that, if braces are to be worn, they are proper boxcloth with buttons, and not the nasty clip on ones………..

  7. Simon Crompton

    With you on the buttons, though when I do wear them I prefer silk to boxcloth. I find boxcloth sticks to the shirt material rather

  8. Boxcloth can be rather warm in summer.Look for a lighter weight material that requires bottoms.

  9. Agreed here. Boxcloth is too warm and bulky for summer. Simple barathea is my preferred summer choice. Linen offers a nice, seasonal change of pace as well.

  10. I agree with your comment on Michael. seeing him wearing them prompted me to try and pull the look of, and it just didn’t work. as you say to dandyish.
    I think though when I get a dinner suit made the trousers will be bracer ones, paired with white silk bracers.

  11. I like the concept of the “bandwidth of unusual clothing”. Much of that of course is to do with perception and routine; if someone wears braces every day then that’s just what they do, and after a period of other people getting used to it he will have his bandwidth of unusual clothing restored to its full extent. Perhaps items of clothing can be arranged on a scale of acceptable day-to-day variability . Wearing belts vs. braces is one of those normally deeply entrenched personal habits where a day-to-day change can only raise eyebrows, whereas, of course, changing shirts merely reflects the need for laundering and adapting to the current weather.

  12. Simon Crompton

    Good points Richard. I would only say on the acceptability of braces, that colleagues might certainly accept it over time, but if you meet clients, go to events etc, then you have the issue afresh

  13. Why would you be taking your jacket off to meet a client? They wouldnt know.

  14. Simon Crompton

    Good point actually, no you wouldn’t

  15. I agree Simon that braces are not for everybody, particularly if you work in an office and habitually remove your jacket.An obvious compromise is to have your tailor add brace buttons and straps to the trousers and therefore you have a daily choice of how your trousers should hang .I find that as long as the trousers have little or no break over the shoe, side adjusters will be fine.There will be very little unsightly pooling of the trouser bottoms that one sees with many guys over the course of the day.
    Good point also about wearing waistcoats…always wear braces with them.

  16. Agreed on all points – I have one pair and wear them with one suit, particularly high waisted, that I only ever wear with a waistcoat. They serve a purpose there. I wish more RTW trousers came with side adjusters, they really are the best solution, save the belts for jeans.

  17. Some good points here. Personally I find the pros outweigh the cons. My strategy is generally to have my warm weather suit trousers cut with side straps (to be worn without braces) and my cold weather suits made as 3 piece with fishtail trousers (to be worn with braces). I take my jacket off in the office but keep the waistcoat on. That just leaves the ‘sitting down in private’ point which I can live with.
    I have had a few casual winter trousers cut for braces and I tend to wear those with a thin sleeveless jumper so that the braces can’t be seen in public.
    The main advantage for me is ensuring that the trousers hang properly. I basically don’t have a waist and so trousers always slip down over the course of the day if held up only by belt or side straps.

  18. Agreed Winot. I also lack proper hips I guess. No matter how they are cut, nor what the rise of my pants, without braces, they slip down and I have to adjust all day long and constantly re-tuck my shirt. With braces, I never seem to have a problem. To each there own though ????

  19. I have a pair of trousers with side adjusters, I have to lift up my trousers all the time. The waist fits, but I noticed you need a very tight waistband in order to make the side adjusters work.

  20. Nice article, Simon! I am personally a fan of high rise trousers and braces, but nevertheless your article is well written and your arguments make sense.
    Unfortunately stupid comments in Instagram and here regarding the clip ons. If somebody does not like clip on suspenders/braces, than nobody forces anybody to wear them. Sometimes some people are really acting like a fashion police.
    In my experience tailors do use clip on suspenders for fittings when the buttons are still not installed. This photo might be from a fitting. And some people like clip on suspenders. If somebody wants to follow some “rules” like no green and blue, no brown in town, and no clip on suspenders, this does not mean that they need to fill to comments sections with rage.

  21. Simon Crompton

    Agree, though the comments were hardly filled with rage. Cutting off this topic here!

  22. I think Nick makes the most logical choice in that if you are to wear braces make sure they are buttoned ones. Can’t quite wrap my head around the number of well dressed men (with the exception of their clip on braces : ) that I see?!?

  23. Michael Smith

    Braces have suffered ever since Wall Street (or the Fry and Laurie send up), but an image to resurrect their use must be the Antonio Panico DB jacket at your Florence event posted on 19th June 2015.

  24. Personally I love wearing braces and have slowly been transitioning all my trousers over the years. I even go so far as to wear them under a backpack with hiking as they are more comfortable than having a belt under a thick backpack belt. My only exception is rock climbing trousers that are best kept up with a simple drawstring – too much movement to be comfortable when reaching for a hold.
    As mentioned earlier the pros outweigh the cons for myself, but this is very much a personal style preference so I completely understand your points and conclusion, Simon. I like the point about having a bandwidth of unusual clothing, like a gauge of how much of a dandy each man is willing to express.
    This article reminds me of one Will Boehlke wrote years ago in A Suitable Wardrobe where he explained the typical transition for a man interested in tailoring to gradually leave belts for braces … and how it all starts with formal-wear.
    Surely you wear braces with a dinner suit, no?

  25. Simon Crompton

    Yes – as mentioned at the end I wear them with my tux

  26. Hi Simon,
    Eventually, you have decided to devote a post on this surprising popular item in today’s menswear. It was high time! Personally, I do not wear braces. They are still strongly associated to my childwood.
    John

  27. The fourth point is the only reason needed actually for not wearing braces . Anything that suggests, even slightly, the dandy is to be absolutely avoided.

  28. Why do you say that wiastcoat looks better when worn with braces? If you have side adjusters on pants and wiastcoat covers the shirt what do braces add to the style?

  29. Simon Crompton

    It’s that a waistcoat usually looks better with high-waisted trousers, that sit on the natural waist. And those are much easier to wear with braces

  30. Simon,
    The green moleskin (?) trousers in the last picture are splendid.
    Can you please share the fabric choice?
    Regards
    Rob

  31. Simon Crompton

    Yep, it’s all in this post, which the image is taken from:https://www.permanentstyle.com/2015/02/green-cotton-trousers.html

  32. There is one area where I think braces should be worn; that of traditional formal dress. A visist to Ascot showed that morning suites are best worn with braces. The look of slightly loose (after a days wear) trousers with belt hanging below a smart waistcoat and morning coat looks ill fitting and wrong. Those with braces held a better line through the three garments. There is an aspect of comfort, that of the weight of trousers (and pocket contents) being suspended from the shoulders rather than waist. Your point about practicality, however, trumps it; using the lavatory, undressing at the gym etc. become harder through, what is, essentially, an outmoded design for dressing.

  33. My reason for always wearing braces with a suit is simple. My pants slip down if I don’t.

  34. I couldn’t agree more, Simon… ‘My clothes should not be a talking point.’ Hasn’t that been the essence of men’s’ style since the Beau?
    I’ve been at the same workplace for the last 5 years, and recently someone said, referring to yours truly, ‘Ask ***, he’s always nicely dressed’. It’s pretty much the only time anyone’s ever commented on what I wear (to my face). So much more gratifying than any number of comments along the lines of ‘Love your red shoes!’, ‘That’s an interesting tie’ or ‘Love your braces!’.

  35. Bernard Weiss

    I have never, ever, read a set of such concisely written and well reasoned arguments against braces. For that alone I applaud you, Sir. Although I completely disagree with you, and am a fervent lover of braces, I have never had a debate with someone about braces who could argue convincingly the reason for their lack of enthousiasm for the things. Until now.
    Sir: you are absolutely right. But I still love them. Probably for all the wrong reasons.

  36. 1. Braces are great if one has lost a little weight and has not yet made it to their tailor with a trunk full of clothing.
    2. As a lad, I was taught that braces were considered underpinnings and that one would not be seen in them unless they were in the company of their closest friends or family. They should always be covered by a jumper, waistcoat or jacket. This works in autumn and winter but when it gets warm, and the layers are abandoned, braces must be put away.

  37. I disagree with the suggestion that braces are the hallmark of a dandy. To my mind, tarring an item of clothing with the dandy brush means that one is implying that it is of no practical value and is being worn purely for show.
    There are arguably a number of very common items of menswear which fall into this category, most notably pocket squares, but not braces. Braces are almost entirely practical, in the sense that they stop one’s trousers from falling down around one’s ankles and thus minimise the risk of arrest on the grounds of indecent exposure.
    Even a Drakes pocket hank can’t do that!

  38. Braces and Bow Ties are two items that when they work, it just seems right. If it ‘works” one is never consciously thinking you are looking at a person wearing something only say 5% of individuals have in their catalog of looks.
    When they don’t “work”, they appear highly affected.
    It all seems to come down to the individual.
    One thing though, I find that if they “work” for an individual they migrate to become the everyday default look almost by necessity, otherwise, they then become something one notices again.
    Sort of like getting stuck with the same haircut, facial hair etc., one developed right after university….

  39. Not convinced ???? – well, really this is about conviction, not convincing, of course. Belts do not fulfill their upholding function on me due to slender hips and a modest belly, and braces were a godsend. Even my best fitted trousers with side adjusters don’t hold up by themselves through a day of piggly-wiggling. I don’t notice the braces on my shoulders anymore than I notice my glasses, and, as with ties, I take pleasure in pretty designs, such as the lovely silk Trafalgars woven on vintage looms. With images of Pitti in mind I really can’t find anything extravagantly flashy about them at all (they’re certainly no stranger in quotidian life than Fedoras or superwide-lapelled double breasted suits) and, besides, the really shouldn’t generally be seen, as the jacket stays on except in the privacy of the office or under climatic duress (and then I’ll go with Bermudas and a polo rightout, having no busioness dress obligations). Lastly, we live in an age of fashion when superlow waists have made a regular waist loook radical and a high one almost outré (but wait five more years) – it’s all cultural and once you’ve immersed yourself in Hollywood stills of the high waisted superstars who defined 20th century sarotrial finesse it all becomes quite relative.

  40. JoeFromTexas

    As a bigger guy, I love braces and higher waisted pants. The braces are more comfortable and functional and the higher waist of the trousers removes some the “weight” from the top half. To reduce the excessive “dandyism”, I try to choose simple, solid braces that are similar in color to the shirt I am wearing, though it’s not always possible.

  41. What an interesting article and discussion.
    I’ve often considered braces but have ultimately refrained because my wife doesn’t like them.
    That said, I don’t necessarily think that they evoke the dandy more than a pocket square. An accessory that, with the exception of with an evening suit, I studiously avoid.
    What it comes down to is some guys look like they’ve been born in braces and with some it looks like an affectation.
    If you are in the former group good luck to you. Personally I’m sure I’d fall into the latter so it’s side fasteners for me.

  42. Simon, interesting viewpoints from you and others. My suit trousers are all made with a high fishtail back for wearing with braces. I find braces more comfortable (compared to having to tighten the waist with adjusters or a belt – I am fortunate in being slim and not having lots around the waist…) and the trousers hang better. I accept that they can “make a statement” but I invariably go for braces in more subdued colours (not Wall Street-style red!) and people who see me regularly just accept it as part of the usually well-dressed me! I do agree with you that silk braces are preferable to boxcloth.

  43. Fraser Robison

    Hi Simon
    Like John I don’t wear braces because of childhood memories. Goes back to my grandfather who always wore his even after he had taken his shirt off! Memories of him sitting by the fire in his vest trousers and slippers but still with his braces on!!!
    It got fixed in my mind then that braces were for old men and I can’t shift it.
    I’m now 67 and still feel I’m too young to wear braces.

  44. The problem is not with the braces.
    It is your mind. And your body.
    Here, simply, you are wrong. I am not saying you are stupid (tet), but definitely mistsken.
    Persist if you wish. Risk the value of your other views, if you dare.
    But here, you are entirely wrong. Everybody worthwhile in tjd business will agree.

  45. Dandy? I am afraid all readers of this blog are dandies. Whether its our shoes, ties, shirts, suits or braces, we all have our need to be noticed by our own signature items, What attracts us to our desired bespoke apparel? Our individual style. Whether it’s green shoes, pink paisley jacket linings, or naked lady braces, it is our tastes and experiences in our lifetimes that create a style that only we can call our own.

  46. I have quiet sloped shoulder and I found braces a bit uncomfortable / annoying when the length is not right

  47. I believe that broad, T-shaped shoulders and a toned body are a requirement to achieve a smooth and preppy look. Anything else will increase the visual size of your belly and hips. ( a Swinging car spare tire)
    Sadly, lots of men fail to achieve the correct look anyway.( think Wall Street)

  48. Rob Fletcher

    I agree with previous comments re boxcloth & buttons or not at all, certainly for me, and with your general sentiment that braces aren’t for everybody. The dandy point is the interesting one for me. When I wear my braces, that is exactly the reaction I get. Surely though, that’s because they have fallen out of favour. If they were still worn by many, such a reaction wouldn’t occur. Same is true of hats I’m sure. Once they were ubiquitous and no man would be dressed without one. Now, they are viewed with some suspicion, and are perhaps the mark of the eccentric. Not that good old fashioned English eccentricity isn’t a good thing. As a follower of the truism that form follows function, my vote goes for braces. Still the best way to keep your trousers up. Quite right about doing a number two though. Real pain.

  49. Simon Crompton

    Yes, Dandyism is unfortunately a matter of context. As is a lot of style in fact, much as we hate to admit it.
    Hats are almost as unusual, but benefit from the very obvious practicality of them. The benefits of braces are not that obvious to most. Generally, people also think that hats are stylish, but they can’t wear them.
    (Which is of course also wrong)

  50. I had to go through security at Stansted Airport in braces – horrible experience – never again!

  51. Cannot see why. I have done so several times at several airports.
    By the way, it’s not the Thurston braces that cause a beeper alarm, since they are nickel plated brass.

  52. One more thing.I don’t mean to be rude but one wearing clip on braces should not opine on the wearing of same.

  53. Michaelis Maus

    I was under the impression it was a faux pas to allow your suspenders to be seen, and so the etiquette of wearing then would typically preclude being “showy…”

  54. Simon Crompton

    Like many rules, it contains wisdom (braces and indeed shirts are underwear) but shouldn’t be rigidly followed

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