The Advantages of Braces

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Braces
Navy and green stripe braces with black leather ends, blue barathea braces with white goatskin ends, and printed silk braces with tan leather ends.

Not many people wear braces anymore. Sometimes called suspenders in America, braces are the most secure way to hold up one’s trousers. When wearing braces, your trousers stay at the same height all day long. They never sag, which can happen all too often with a belt or side adjusters. With a three-piece suit they also prevent a bit of shirt from showing underneath the waistcoat, like we see with Sean Connery in his fight scenes. If you’re worried about braces showing, nobody will ever know when you’re wearing a three-piece suit. They will also always be hidden when wearing a double-breasted suit. Another great advantage is that trousers can be worn a bit looser than with a belt, which is especially helpful to people who have health problems caused by too tight trousers. Braces require a higher-than-currently-fashionable trouser rise to work properly. Braces allow trousers to hang elegantly from the waist and can be a bit awkward on low-rise trousers.

Barathea braces are great for year-round wear and wool boxcloth braces are great for winter. Striped grosgrain braces can be worn whenever a regimental striped tie is appropriate, and fancy printed silks are great for almost any occasion. Since braces aren’t meant to be seen, you can really wear any braces you want to. You can pick your braces as you pick your lining, to match or to contrast. But the leather ends, like a belt, should match the shoes. That is unless the ends are white goatskin, which goes with everything. Proper braces button on, not clip on, and are preferably not elastic in the front. Braces do, however, always have elastic in the back. If that elastic wears out—and if the braces are properly cared for the elastic will wear out before the front parts do—it can be replaced.

Ralph-Fiennes-Braces
Ralph Fiennes in Skyfall wearing navy fleur de lys braces and attached to tabs in the back of his trousers.

Braces and a belt should never be worn together since they are achieving the same goal, so it’s okay to wear your trousers with empty belt loops if you’re wearing braces. It’s better to not have belt loops if you’re wearing braces, but side adjusters are best if you want the option to not wear the trousers with braces. For trousers only worn with braces they can be cut with a “braces back” that is higher than in the front. For a similar effect, cloth tabs can be sewn into the back so the braces attach higher in the back than in the front, but they can be tucked away for when not wearing braces. Ralph Fiennes wears such a style in Skyfall. Buttons for braces are typically found inside the waistband on trousers with belt loops or side adjusters. On trousers just meant for braces the front buttons are often put on the outside for additional comfort.

Daniel-Craig-Braces
Daniel Craig in Casino Royale wearing white silk moiré braces  with gilt brass fittings with black tie.

James Bond has worn braces with black tie in four films: The Living Daylights, Licence to Kill, Casino Royale and Skyfall. In Daniel Craig’s Bond films he wears white moiré braces with braided ends, traditional for eveningwear. Timothy Dalton wears white braces as well, but in The Living Daylights we clearly see that they clip on. Clip-on braces don’t attach to the trousers in as many places as button-on braces, meaning the trousers won’t drape as well and won’t be as secure. Clip-on braces can also potentially damage the cloth of the trousers. If Dalton were wearing a cummerbund it would hide the unsightly clips from view when the jacket is open. Some people believe there is a rule that a cummerbund and braces should not be worn together, thinking that it’s the same as wearing a belt and braces. But there is no such rule. Whilst a belt holds up one’s trousers, a cummerbund does not. It’s there to cover the waist, just as an evening waistcoat does. Whilst Bond has only worn white braces with black tie, black is equally acceptable.

James Bond also wears braces with his naval uniform trousers in You Only Live Twice, though the braces cannot be seen under his double-breasted jacket.

Do you ever wear braces?

Dress-Braces
Left to right: White silk moiré braces and ivory silk fleur de lys braces, both for evening wear.

44 COMMENTS

  1. I certainly do; as often as possible, in fact! They are comfortable, and they definitely keep your pants at the same level all day. My only problem is, sometimes I feel like Michael Douglas in “Wall Street”. Or…IS that a problem…?

  2. I wear braces with my tux. They are black, probably synthetic material. The tux is flat front trouser, two button, single vent, and, unfortunately, notch lapel. I now rather have peak or shawl, but I bought the tux 3 1/2 years ago. I’m a bit more enlighten since then.
    I’m currently hunting for a white dinner jacket w/ shawl.

  3. Nice post. I feel about the same as David – there’s a weird cultural “Wall Street” feel to braces I think, at least in the US (that was my first thought when I pictured a man in braces!). I own one pair that I wear occasionally, kind of jonesing for some more now though…

    • The “Wall Street” feeling seems to be the same here in Hong Kong. My investment banker buddies told me they are banned from wearing braces to work.

  4. I very much prefer trousers with a fishtail back rather than the cloth tabs Fiennes’ trousers has got. It’s not very elegant. But I guess some people would have said that he was too old-fashioned if he wore such kind of trousers, so the costume designer choose this option…
    Personnaly I have some white moiré braces and suits with button for braces and side adjusters, but I have never wear them. I don’t wear suits very often though. Besides, I also think that braces (the ones with a “classic” width) only look fine when you have a rather important torso/build. I don’t, so I wait…

    About the “Gekko” effect, it’s just that braces are a rare item nowadays, and often immediately associated with some characters. Let’s remenber that Gekko’s braces are very showy, flashy, and look very expensive. All braces aren’t like that, and lots of different models are available (eg the Albert Thurston website is very impressive !). Personnaly, braces will always remind me of Clark Gable in Capra’s masterpiece It happened one night.

    • You’ve mentioned braces width, but what to you is a classic width? My widest braces are from Thurston, like the blue ones in the middle of the top picture. Your build doesn’t matter for how braces look since they aren’t meant to be seen anyway.

      • Well Matt, to me, a classic width is a width like your Thurston braces. There are also some “skinny” braces that exist but they look awful, in my opinion (some Drake’s braces for example are, even if there are different widths available now).
        Braces, as you say, aren’t meant to be seen, but can be seen at home, in privacy, in a hotel room (thanks Craig), at the office/ at work, or simply, when the weather is very hot ! So then I guess it’s better to look the part if you wear such accessory, which is rare nowadays. Perhaps it would be better to match the braces width to one’s build, like matching the lapels width to the tie widht, but I just don’t like skinny braces. By the way, Matt, since you wear braces, can I ask you with what kind of trousers do you wear them ? Fishtail back, cloth tabs back or just a simple normal back ?

      • The English braces tend to be wider than the American ones, but it’s not really a noticeable difference. Daniel Craig and Ralph Fiennes both wear very classic braces. Daniel Craig’s braces look perhaps slightly wider than Ralph Fiennes’. Unless braces are noticeably narrow or wide I don’t think it matters.

        I wear mine mostly with a normal back, but I have one suit with a fishtail back and one suit with the tabs. I find that they do make a difference. I would only get a fishtail back with a three piece suit, otherwise I’d get tabs.

  5. I remember seeing so many guys wearing really outrageous braces after the movies “Wall Street” and ‘Working Girl” came out. (Those was strange times: suits with big shoulder pads, loud braces, power ties, women wearing sneakers with suits.) The last time I wore braces, it was black satin along with a SB peak-lapel tux and cummerbund on my wedding day. I never removed my dinner jacket that day.

    Thanks for the information about trouser tabs for braces – I didn’t know they existed. I’ve never been a fan of raised scalloped-back waistbands (which uncomfortably reminds me of my daughter’s diaper when seen from the rear), and I think those tabs are a nice, trim alternative.

    For a moment, I thought it was very “eighties” and ostentatious for Mallory to meet with M without his jacket covering his braces, but the lack of jacket seems OK since that was a particulary private, informal discussion they were having. Plus, Mallory looked like he was still unpacking in his office.

    Matt, do the tuxedo trousers worn by Bond in other movies have tabs for braces?

  6. More and more. I don’t care what people think. If you wear a suit on a regular basis, braces are so damn comfortable.

    Forget the GG form wall street stereotype for a moment:

    1. Your trousers are always perfect. No puddling which makes you look like crap, no matter how much you spent with that tailor.

    2. You can move around after a big power lunch or that second plate of pasta after work. Admit it, even a washboard needs periods of relax. Sit down, stand up without fear of office gut.

    3. Chicks dig them.

    4. And they’re your secret. Stick with black braces. Why be foppish and get funky stuff just because you saw it in a movie. Basic black is far more elegant and practical than paisley braces or trying to match them to your pocket square.

    I’ve had my last 4 winter suits made exclusively for braces. I’ve asked the tailor to leave out the belt loops and place the buttons on the outside. It’s so comfortable, I regret not having done it sooner.

  7. It’s funny, I always had the impression that inside braces buttons were more “formal” than outside buttons, since they were hidden.
    Do you think there was some formality in colour in the 30s-40s, Matt ? We often see -thanks to movies- people wearing black braces rather than white with black tie, and, of course, white braces with white tie, a “full formal colour” for a full formal outfit. Today, white tie is only a privilege of sovereigns or Nobel prizes, so people both wear white or black braces with black tie, but I think it was different in the golden age of Hollywood. Sorry if I talk a little too much, Matt…

    • Braces buttons were on the outside at first and then tailors started putting them inside. Since suits always had waistcoats, or at least were double-breasted, the outside buttons were hidden anyway.

      White braces may be more formal than black. I prefer white myself, probably due to the Bond influence. I have three white and one black. It’s the same with studs, since originally when stiff shirts were worn with black tie, onyx studs were worn with black tie and mother of pearl studs were worn with white tie. When Bond wears studs with black tie they are mother of pearl (except for Licence to Kill), but since he more often wears soft shirts with black tie they just have regular buttons.

      I always appreciate your comments!

      • Now that’s amusing. I had this dichotomy about the stud colours, as well as the one about the waistcoat colours that could be worn under a dinner jacket, in mind as I wrote my comment, but thought it was a perhaps little too much for a comment… Funny ! Personnaly, I prefer white braces and mother of pearl studs/buttons over black braces and onyx studs, whatever the outfit is. There is always enough black colour in a dinner suit or a tailcoat, we don’t need to add more black.
        Thanks for your comment, Matt ! As far as I am concerned, I always appreciate reading your articles. Keep up the great job !
        May I suggest an article ? How about M’s first outfit in Dr No ? I always wondered if his DB suit was a flannel one !

  8. I wore the same brand as Daniel Craig did in Casino Royale with my tux to a ball in Thailand. I highly recommend them, because they have a class bots just don’t provide.

  9. I do have a mid-grey glencheck suit that is meant to be worn with braces only (trouser without belt loops). So do I, and I love it!

  10. I have brace backs for all my bespoke suits – much more comfortable and practical.

    For most suits I have an extra pair of trousers with daks adjuster to be worn without the waistcoat. I keep belts for casual flannels, linens and cords.

  11. Braces over belts with suits and tuxes, always. Superior in comfort and style. When possible, I get one pair of trousers made with high English back and one with a regular wasitband.

  12. I wear a suit for work and braces every day. Plain black, nothing fancy, clip on if I haven’t fitted buttons yet.

    Never looked back since I first wore them, and as a fat guy there’s nothing better.

  13. I have recently returned to wearing braces and now do so all the time. In the past I felt self-conscious about being seen in them and tended to keep them covered, as a result becoming uncomfortable in a warm restaurant, for example. My wife, too, used to be uneasy at me letting the braces show, but is no longer fazed by this.
    Nowadays I do not worry about being seen in them. It is a brilliant feeling being able to go around hands out of pockets, back held straight and everything in place. I let my jacket move naturally and take it off if it gets warm.
    35mm is the best width for me I think. I wear Marks and Spencer clip-ons a lot but probably my favourite braces are old-fashioned button-on ones, red-grey with leather ends.

  14. I’ll be wearing braces for the first time on Saturday at my wedding. When the suit was made I knew I wanted brace buttons and no belt hoops. They also have side adjusters.
    Didn’t want to ruin the line from the waistcoat to the trousers.
    Of course the trousers fit perfectly as they’ve been made for me, but the braces are a lovely touch and make me feel a bit more different/special.
    Looking forward to having them on!

  15. I’ve seen comments about having belt loops removed. Is it so wrong to have belt loops and buttons for braces in the waist? Otherwise, you do not have the option of wearing those pants with a belt.

    • Braces can be worn if the trousers have belt loops. However, trousers for braces should be worn a little looser around the waist than trousers worn with a belt. Ideally you’d have different trousers for belts and for braces.

  16. I don’t, but I intend to quite soon. All my recent new suits have been three-piece, and as a belt doesn’t go with a waistcoat, braces are the practical and sensible way to go. And for evening wear, where you’d hope even uninformed men would instinctively feel a belt isn’t quite right, they are the only option.

    Part of the problem with braces is that many men who do wear them seem to think it’s ok to walk around with jacket off and braces on full display. This in turn is part of the wider tendency over the past ~50 years for men to wear a shirt with nothing on top of it, and to regard the jacket (not to mention tie) as something to be taken off at the earliest opportunity.

    It’s not sensible to regard the formal/dress (as in business attire, not evening wear) shirt as an undergarment (although it was seen as such in centuries past), but men could benefit from regarding it less as acceptable outerwear than it currently is. In most circumstances and at most times a man should wear some kind of jacket, waistcoat or sweater over a formal shirt.

  17. Has any of you ever had a brace button pop off ? How frequently does this happen ? . MY friends say that it does happen from time to time .

    • Matt , exactly how often do brace buttons pop off ? My dad used to wear braces , but said that the buttons on the trousers should be re stitched periodically. Could you shed some light on this ?

      • I’ve never had braces buttons pop off, but I don’t wear braces all that often. Just like with any other buttons, stitching wears down and should be checked from time to time.

  18. A question has always come up in my mind . why is it that Suspenders are viewed as underwear to be hidden under vests and suit jackets ? I mean ; they accomplish the same task as belts
    But no one ever thinks twice about displaying their belt in public.
    p.s : Sorry about my numerous questions. I am new to the high end menswear . Until last last year most of my suits were READY MADE from Banana republic. Then l got a taste for the good stuff.

  19. Me too as a young man in a big clothing store in Paris I saw and had a crush upon a pair of long slim black leather trousers with the large black leather belt and the superb large 4cm clip on black leather braces ajustable with big metal buckles,I really dig them,and All of my freinds especially my girl freinds find me absolutely sexy in my attire! Even my girl freind neighbour living next door to me went out to this stor and bought herself the same outfit,and me too seeing her dressed up like me I had a second crush on her,and now we go out together with our black leather ,trousers,belts and braces and we really enjoy the feeling of being strapped up like this .It’s funnt because before I was’nt too keen of wearing braces but now I agree It’s really cool wearing braces!

  20. Matt, I’ve noticed that the ears on the suspenders in Casino Royale are a lot, for lack of a better term, shorter than Mallery’s in Skyfall. What’s the reason for this? Thank you.

  21. Matt , l noticed that most Vintage Fishtail trousers from the 1920s have a strap across the back. It looks like a slide buckle side adjuster but there is only one and it is positioned in the rear. What is this strap buckle for ? Does it allow for the trousers to be worn without braces ?

  22. Matt,

    What type of braces would you recommend with a sharkskin grey Sinclair Conduit Cut suit? Grey? I like the white but is that too formal?

    Thanks!

  23. On a similar note, should the clasps match the side adjusters (silver) or the rest of my hardware (ring, cufflinks, etc.) in gold?

  24. Are there any rules as to where on the waistband the braces should fasten? Daniel Craig’s picture shows them approximately a quarter away from each hip, facing the front. Elsewhere I have seen them fasten very much on the hip, facing one’s side (e.g. here). Perhaps I am perceiving the images incorrectly.

    • They are positioned approximately the same way in both pictures. The inside button should be positioned over the main pleat or crease. The outside button should be 2.5 to 3.5 away from the inside button. Craig’s buttons are closer together than on the photo you shared, which is accounting for the difference you see.

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