Of all the items populating the gentleman’s accessories drawer, the belt and the braces (suspenders) are two of the most overlooked in terms of importance both aesthetically and in terms of quality. Of course, there are those chaps, anxious to impersonate a billboard, who select their belts very carefully and order them by size: size of designer logo. And naturally, due to their appearance on the slick runways of Paris on the malnourished figures of Dior Homme models, there are the fashionistas who have, temporarily of course, taken braces quite seriously. However, the man of style needs to consider such items as seriously as his walnut-toned Oxfords or his herringbone blazer, for you understand, nothing is amusing or frivolous when it comes to style. No indeed, for even though Fashion dances through materials and design wantonly and quite irresponsibly, laughing hysterically, Style stands quite still, like a sentry on duty; with silence and old-world permissiveness, Style allows Fashion to create a drunken mess and then, dutifully, cleans up after it.
Braces to the Brits, suspenders to the Americans, the practice of securing the trousers to the shoulders has faded with time. It is considered that braces are now unnecessary and outdated; clothes have come a long way and hoisting trousers with elastic now belongs, largely, to circus characters.
It’s such a pity as although they were introduced, quite humbly, to be merely functional and concealed, they became eye-catching and rather charming. They were the acceptable image of the jacket and waistcoat-less man; the exhausted yet svelte investment banker, the powerful and shrewd lawyer: braces may be associated with clowns, but they were never seen on fools.
Bright red on mid-blue shirts, gold on white, bright blue on pink; braces shout loudly, they do not whisper timidly. Noted wearers of braces include chat show impresario Larry King (pictured), who boasts a fine collection in many colours. Patterns are wisely avoided, and illustrated braces (Donald Duck figures and the like), are the very end. Keep them simple, grosgrain but colour is up to you: the more daring the better. For evening wear, try something like white moiré silk as seen on Daniel Craig in Casino Royale. The silk is an upgrade from the normal material and the moiré effect, necessary for tone on tone, is appealing.
It is unlikely that any of the valued readership is inexperienced in the cause and purpose of the belt. Belts are ubiquitous and, like braces, they are often worn for ornamentation rather than practicality. I use them superficially, but I often wear them simply to keep my bally trousers from falling to my ankles. Not that I wear excessively baggy clothing, far from it. It’s basically because I have a tiny waist that no high street store ever had in their imagination when creating their ‘smaller’ sizes. It’s not tiny per se, only very small for a 24 year old man, and though it’s useful when it comes to the discount sales, it’s frightfully frustrating most of the time.
I have belts of different uses and types, and generally separate them into ‘soft’ and ‘formal’ categories. The ‘soft’ belts are, unsurprisingly, of a softer construction. They are sportier, more colourful belts more likely to be worn in the spring and summer months, with more casual outfits. ‘Formal’ belts are leather and darker in colours like brown, black, and the odd patent white; they’re for wearing with smarter outfits all year round. It’s useful to obtain a decent mix of belts as complementing belts are ever so recherché; stand out with stripes in summer, and keep different widths and types of belt for different uses. Wider belts look better with less ceremonial clothing; boots, jeans and casual items. Thinner belts are more subtle and should be worn, discreetly, with smarter outfits. Also, to smarten up a favourite pair of denim jeans, there’s nothing quite like a great belt and a decent pair of shoes in a complementary tone.