Sartorial Love/Hate: Braces

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An elderly acquaintance of mine once commented on my use of a belt with my suit trousers. “Do you need that thing there or is it for show?” I gave him a rather awkward, sideways look; “No” I said “I need it. It’s not just for show.” He leaned over, smiled insidiously, opened his jacket and fingered a pair of natty braces; “You need to get yourself a pair of these, young man.”

That was many moons ago, when I was still attempting to attract young women with my clothing; braces didn’t fit into that formula. It was one thing to be smart, another thing to be a square. Braces seemed defunct and old fashioned. I had long hair, headphones and a fake ID. They were simply not for me.

My conviction on this however lasted less than a year. Before my next formal function, I had drifted into a small, rather dusty men’s retailer in search of a pair of Albert Thurston braces. To my disappointment, they did not stock Mr Thurston’s products but they did produce a satisfactory pair by Hunt & Holditch.

Many pairs of braces are sold with detachable ‘clips’ as well as the leather loops; the former grip the top of the trousers, the latter secure themselves to buttons attached on the inside of the trouser waist. I quickly learned of the ‘bespokist’ snobbery about the clips – the point is that if you used clips, your trousers were not made for braces. Therefore, your trousers are evidently ‘cheap’ and ‘off-the-rack.’ This attitude never made much sense to me as it seemed the simplest thing in the world to attach some buttons to one’s trousers to avoid the sniggering disapproval of elitist onlookers.

As I grow older, and into my suits, elegance is by far the most important consideration; whether a passing female likes what I wear is of little consequence. I still wear belts with suits but I am growing more and more fond of braces. Firstly, they hold the trousers in the correct position without pinching or scrunching the trousers to do so. Secondly, while I can see the benefit in ‘dividing’ certain ensembles, as a belt surely does, some suits require continuity which braces provide.

One of the most often quoted inspiration points for braces is Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, who wandered around his vast carpeted office, shouting expletives in rolled-up sleeves and a pair of Thurston’s finest; ironic, considering that braces are meant to be concealed beneath a waistcoat or jacket. Because of this connotation, many people still consider them to be an accessory of the now reviled banking classes, despite an attempted hijacking by the transiently trendy Shoreditch skinny-jean mafia.

Fuddy duddy or fabulous? Trendy or trashy? The point is, braces have as many detractors as supporters; another case of sartorial love/hate.


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Winston Chesterfield is an amateur composer, fashion blogger, trained lawyer and style aficionado. He lives in Westminster, London and blogs at www.levraiwinston.com.

Comments

  1. Eric Bennett says:

    A coworker of mine always wears braces with his suits, but not having any myself I never paid much attention to how he wore his. When I observed earlier today that his were clipped on, I inquired as to whether or not he had ever considered tailoring his trousers with the added buttons on the inside. He told me that long ago he had done just that, but as he grew older a few things changed: mainly his waist size.

    I understand now that when you possess a sizable midsection the braces that loop over hidden buttons cause the top of the trousers to fold over, resulting in an undesirable look. He informed me that the clips, since they fasten to the top of trousers, prevents this from occurring.

    He does not wear a belt, stating that braces are much more comfortable, and he long ago had the belt loops removed from his trousers, so at least he has kept up with the fashion. Since I am not of the slimmest build myself I think I shall avoid the risk of similar happenings and continue using a nice leather belt instead.

  2. Harry says:

    Braces are almost inevitably provide an old-fashioned dimension in an outfit, esp. when buttoned to leather loops. In my view, it makes sense to wear them for the most formal (=old-fashioned) occasions, so I have black braces for black tie, white ones for white tie and some more colourful braces for my morning attire (weddings, Ascot). They are fun, quirky, and suggest you dress with care. If you mix that with some obviously contemporary accessories (slim ties when with a suit) then you can look quite “with it” too.

  3. Sean says:

    I am 18 years old, and started wearing braces almost 1 year ago. It was a great decision–my pants fit well, I never have the problem of readjusting my pants throughout the day. I would point that when attached correctly, especially close to the top of the waistband, with the tip of the button visibly, the issue of looping trousers is solved. Further, I believe that the clips actually harm the trouser waistband. While they are not “with-it” but considering what is now considered “with-it,” that can hardly be considered a bad thing

  4. BRACES MESA says:

    Hi there,

    Hey good blog post, I am loving the style of yours

    Thanks,
    Jenelia

  5. Justin says:

    Love wearing braces for comfort and efficiency – hate to be caught with them showing. I am 20, and maybe I will get over this when I am older.

  6. Jay says:

    As a hard-up student, I wear clip-on type braces because they not only keep my jeans up, but also my underpants when the waistband goes slack.

  7. Les says:

    Justin,
    Why would you be embarrassed by showing your braces? They come in a multitude of colours and patterns for a reason – you cannot keep them hidden for ever!

  8. Zac says:

    I tried braces for the first time earlier this year on a rented wedding suit because the trousers were too loose, and did not have belt loops. Confess I have never felt more comfortable (or smart) at a formal event. Suspect more youngsters would wear them if they would get over the “old-fashioned” stigma and give them a go.

  9. Nicky says:

    I turned up at my bf’s house unexpectedly, and caught him gardening in T shirt, jeans and BRACES, which I could tell embarrassed him greatly. Cannot think why, he looked real hunky!!

  10. John says:

    My Grandad always wears braces
    My Dad often wears braces
    I rarely wear braces
    My son (aged 4) always wears braces

    It’s a generation/age thing!

  11. Luke says:

    Confess that I love my braces, but would never be seen dead showing them in public! I do agree with John that it is an age thing – and I do think that it also depends on your family experience. My Dad and Gramp both wear braces, so I have not felt in the slightest embarrassed at being seen wearing a pair in their company, but I don’t think any of my mates know I wear them. However, I do find it difficult not to be caught out and would love to have the courage to show them in public. Any ideas, guys?

  12. Giles says:

    Luke,
    Like you I find braces very comfortable, but used to dread being caught wearing them, until I actually was, and then it did not seem to matter at all. If you are still worried, try showing them to strangers and gauge the reaction. Nobody cares – really !

  13. Josh says:

    Any guy who has ever worn braces will confrim that he would always prefer them to a belt, except for the old (and frankly outdated) maxim that they should never be exposed. That is impossible, and why would they be produced in so many colours and patterns if they were not meant to be seen. I am proud to wear mine, and have converted a number of my mates at Uni.