Braces with Belt Loops. A Faux Pas?

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In No Time to Die, James Bond wears dove grey Albert Thurston braces with his “Desert”-coloured pinwale corduroy suit from Massimo Alba. This has drawn criticism because the suit trousers have belt loops. This criticism first came up when Daniel Craig was spotted filming in Matera, Italy, and more recently a still in Entertainment Weekly showing the braces and empty belt loops reignited the critics.

Is it wrong to wear braces (sometimes known as suspenders in America) when the trousers have belt loops?

The simple answer is no, it is not a major faux pas to wear braces when the trousers have belt loops. It’s a minor faux pas at worst and something that is best avoided, but it has long been accepted amongst well-dressed men.

If Bond were wearing a belt in the belt loops at the same time he was wearing braces, that would be wrong because a belt serves the same purpose as braces: to support the trousers. As Henry Fonda’s character in Once Upon a Time in the West said, “How can you trust a man who wears both a belt and suspenders? Man can’t even trust his own pants.”

Wearing a belt and braces together is how the idiom “belt and braces” came to be, and according to Cambridge Dictionary it means, “the use of two or more actions in order to be extra careful about something, although only one is really necessary”. This is the true faux pas.

It is not wrong to have empty belt loops, especially in Bond’s case since he is still using a device to hold up his trousers. This isn’t to say that empty belt loops is a good look. It’s not, but that doesn’t make it a major faux pas.

American ready-to-wear suit trousers traditionally have belt loops but also come with buttons for braces inside the waistband. Americans have commonly been wearing braces with their belt-looped trousers for over half a century. People are not expected to remove the belt loops from their suit trousers when wearing braces, especially since the belt loops are commonly sewn into the waistband and difficult to remove. Some men like to have the option to wear either a belt or braces.

Wearing braces with empty belt loops merely marks a suit as a ready-to-wear suit, which Bond’s is. Wearing braces with belt-looped trousers is not a faux pas any more than wearing a ready-to-wear suit is a faux pas.

By wearing braces with belt loops, James Bond is saying that he is wearing a ready-to-wear suit. This is the first ready-to-wear suit that James Bond has worn since Timothy Dalton was Bond. According to The New York Times the suit was purchased from Massimo Alba in sizes 50, 52 and 54, and suit in the film may be intended to look like it’s off the pegs because the costume department did not remove the belt loops.

The costume department, however, added the buttons for braces. These trousers did not come with buttons for braces. Someone, perhaps costume designer Suttirat Anne Larlarb, must have made the decision not to remove the belt loops.

Suits are meant to be worn with the jacket on when in polite company, and in that case the belt loops and braces will usually be hidden. Because the Massimo Alba suit jacket is unstructured, it doesn’t hold its shape when left open and the belt loops are revealed.

The biggest problem with wearing braces with trousers that have belt loops is that belted trousers generally have a lower rise than trousers meant for braces. The mid rise of the Massimo Alba trousers makes them sit slightly lower than ideal for braces. Wearing braces with mid-rise or low-rise trousers sacrifices comfort more than it sacrifices style.

Some menswear scholars, like Alan Flusser, do indeed consider it a faux pas to wear braces when the trousers have belt loops, but that is an elitist attitude against those who are unable to have their suits made for them. Flusser states in Dressing the Man that it is not a rule to be bent, but despite his wisdom I do not agree with him on this.

What about wearing braces when the trousers have side adjusters? Like belt loops, the side adjusters wouldn’t be used when wearing braces either. An advantage to wearing braces is that the trousers’ waistband can be loose and thus more comfortable. Though side adjusters are better hidden than unused belt loops, this unused detail still remains on the trousers.

Ultimately there is nothing wrong with wearing braces when the trousers have side adjusters, so long as the side adjusters are not pulled tight. That will not allow the braces to do their job, and they will give the wearer an unconfident look for the same reason that a belt and braces do not belong together.

The ideal way to wear trousers is with a raised fishtail back, which positions the braces in the most comfortable way possible. Tab extensions, like on Ralph Fiennes’ M’s suit trousers, can similarly help. Tab extensions are only present on trousers that can have alternative methods of support, like side adjusters or belt loops.

Ultimately whether or not you can accept braces on trousers with belt loops is down to personal taste. It has historically not been considered a major sin and is not something to get up in arms over. But this is below Bond’s usual sartorial standards, and it primarily comes down to Bond wearing a ready-to-wear suit in a way it was not originally intended to be worn. Sometimes that can be okay.

40 COMMENTS

  1. Well said, a minor faux pas at best. In a perfect world this suit wouldn’t have belt loops, if for nothing else than to maintain visual cleanliness. But to suggest it’s somehow wrong to wear braces with these trousers at all is silly, in my opinion.

    That said, I was surprised they went this route. My initial thought when I saw photos during filming was that the braces would only be used in stunt shots, with the blue silk meant to blend with the blue shirt. Imagine my surprise when it was revealed to be otherwise. It wasn’t a bad surprise, but not what I’d come to expect from Craig’s wardrobe. I’ll be interested to see the entire context within the film for him deessing like this.

    • Same here. Like the Spectre funeral suit, I’ll wait to see the context in the film and make up my mind. (My patience was rewarded with the last film and it did make sense.) I actually kind of like this suit on Craig, it looks better than it does in the product shots for Massimo Alba. It also would have looked good with a belt and that’s probably how I’d wear it. To our modern eye, it does look odd for a casual suit to be worn with braces. But historically, linen and cotton suits were worn with them too, as were work trousers and the very first jeans.

      • Yes. It’s more to do with how it gets battered (typical scenario for a Craig Bond movie) than the outfit’s quality. The shirt could certainly have been improved upon. If anything, it’s this which looks like something from a chain store, off-peg line.

  2. Fair enough, not a complete faux pas. Problem is, it looks like pure shit.

    I like everything else about the outfit, but this detail is unforgivable.

  3. Once more, you provide a very thorough, nuanced analysis of the situation, Matt, and readers are certainly grateful, and appreciate all the passion you put into the topic. Henry Fonda’s quote is magnificent too.
    Now, be it a major or a minor faux-pas, truth is it still is a faux-pas. Nothing wrong about off the rack suits: some look much better than overpriced, shrunken Tom Ford suits (with, in my opinion the extra faux-pas of deliberately open sleeve button, but it is another debate..)
    I actually quite like the suit and the combination with the shirt+tie.
    Braces I am not generally fond of, and consider them as too cumbersome. I have a hard time understanding the presence of empty belt loops together with braces.
    Why, with the pharaonic budget at disposal, such a choice ? If it is an omission, blame the costume department. If it is a deliberate choice, then blame them too, or Craig, as he seemingly has an influence while not having as much cloth-consciousness, or a thorough interest for tailoring as a Roger Moore would have had, and which you definitely have, in abundance.
    The problem here is that keeping apparent, empty belt loops while wearing braces gives the impression of someone who wishes to overdo it, who is not 100% at ease with a (of the rack ?) suit and needs to compensate this unease in some way.
    This suit would have looked fine with just a belt. Or just with braces. If they took the time to sew 4 buttons for the braces, they might have as well removed (or chopped off) the belt loops, if really in a hurry.
    It all seems like wearing a cummerbund with a double-breasted jacket, except that the latter remains closed, and serves as a convenient cover for any potential faux-pas.

    • “Braces I am not generally fond of, and consider them as too cumbersome.”

      I’m just the opposite. I find belts much more cumbersome. Wearing a belt with even the best fitting pants means you always have to be mindful of them at all times. If my clothes are a distraction from my life then they’re not going to present me as I wish to be presented.

  4. I have no problem with the clothes, and Matt as always covers them well. And I apologize in advance for going off-topic, but that production still of Lea and Daniel looks like Bond is with his daughter. This is stretching into For Your Eyes Only (my personal favorite, but it still has this problem), Never Say Never Again, A View to a Kill territory…

    • I felt the same way with Spectre. I think that going forward they have to either keep the lead actor on the younger side (30-42), or make the women match the age of the lead. That’s a fairly straightforward solution that avoids the awkwardness of the films you mention. Seydoux is a fine actress but she should never have been cast opposite Daniel Craig being 17 years his junior.

      • Jennifer Connelly, Gabriel Union, Malaika Arora, Marisol Nichols, Kate Beckinsale, Marion Cotillard, Vanessa Paradis, Jennifer Garner….Rachel Weisz/Mrs. Daniel Craig, and those are just some “names”. There are plenty of actresses born between 1968 and 1974 that would, with an adjustment to the SPECTRE/MR. White story, work just fine.

      • Great suggestions, Christian. I agree that this practice needs to end. There are plenty of people who will watch movies with women over 40 leading it. There are also women over 40 who are clearly capable of carrying action movies but need better work to show it. Kate Beckinsale (as mentioned by Christian) is one, Milla Jovovich another.

    • With the greatest respect, this is one topic which I don’t have great issue with. Younger woman + older man. What’s the issue? A great deal of younger women like, in fact actively seek, an older, mature partner because the older man offers experience and protection in a way that a man of their own age or younger couldn’t. I don’t think any of the actors to have played Bond looked sleazy alongside younger actress’ in the films they appeared in although yes, if people are uncomfortable with this, I agree that a Maud Adams/ Roger Moore Octopussy scenario gets around this. Roger and Carole in FYEO worked fine to my eye because he played a slightly wearier Bond and his behavior towards her always seemed protective, if not quite fatherly. In fact, dare I say it, his acting capabilities showed through here. There have been a great many movies since the start of Hollywood where a leading man in his 40s, 50s, 60s, has been paired with a younger actress.

      • David,

        I understand your points, and I have a few thoughts so please bear with me. This is a complex and sensitive topic, at the intersection of culture, entertainment, social awareness, and business. I think the issue is Hollywood’s portrayal of women and its treatment of actresses over the age of 35 or 40. In an industry that rewards men over 40, it punishes its actresses by typecasting them in motherly or other background roles after they reach about 35. As a major worldwide franchise, the Bond films have an opportunity to not play into casting stereotypes for its female leads and provide actresses with an opportunity that is comparatively rarer for women than for men (would Bond ever feature a 54-year old CIA female ally as it does with Jeffrey (The best Felix Leiter) Wright? The Bond films could also provide (as they occasionally have) a complex, challenging co-lead to match Bond and make the audience believe that he sees something in her beyond a Fleming-era chivalrous attitude or a swingin’ ’60s one. The lack of depth in Lea’ character as portrayed in Spectre is a serious problem with believing the attraction between the two leads later in the movie.

        Such more appropriate casting would also give some meaning to the Bond producers’ sporadic claims of the female lead being “a new Bond woman for the times.” And I never suggested there was a sleaze factor.

        That said, my specific point was over this casting and a few others, not over the age difference in general. Lois Chiles and Maud Adams were, respectively, 20 and 18 years younger than Roger Moore, and their characters worked fine with Roger, in part because Roger looked younger in Moonraker than he did just two years later, and because Maud’s role was fairly well-written and mature to go with her easy chemistry with Roger. I am sure Rosamund Pike was 25+ years younger than Pierce, but that more or less worked because, well, its Pierce. Similarly, 35 year old Rebecca Ferguson works well opposite Tom Cruise in the recent (and terrific) Mission Impossible Rogue Nation and Fallout because her character is written well and Tom Cruise looks incomparably younger than any other 55+ year old actor.

        As for Roger and Carole, the movie (again, one of my favorites) works for the reasons you say and because there is no sexual attraction between them until the final, “moonlight swim” scene that feels tacked on to meet audience expectations.

        I do feel that for FYEO, NSNA, AVTK, and as FS points out, Spectre, the female leads look and are written too young for a comparatively mature Bond. And I would think that Charlize Theron or (37 year old) Ann Hathaway would add a lot more to a Bond film than continuing to cast relatively unknown (but also relatively inexpensive) young actresses. (who wouldn’t go see the Atomic Blonde (not as the character) matching wits, fists, and resourcefulness with James Bond?)

        Or, perhaps the problem is a lead actor (and I am a fan of his first three movies, with Skyfall making that 5 Bond-flick, desert island list) who should have retired 5+ years ago.

      • The problem is, that sort of age gap is what is overwhelmingly seen when a man is over 40 in movies. It’s time to change that. Especially considering the number of heterosexual couples in real life with that age gap isn’t the same as what the media would have you believe. Just because something has always been done, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t change.

    • Of all the Bond actors, only Daniel Craig can pull off a corduroy suit with suspenders and a buttondown collar shirt in such a cool way and look nothing like an old college professor. Craig is indeed a stylish man, even though, unfortunately, his clothes are almost always too small. He could’ve improved the fit a little, while still maintaining the tough look. This particular suit though seems to fit him well.

  5. Well, ‘de gustibus et coloribus…’ as they said. This pertains to everyone’s opinion. But unfortunately, it still looks cheap, and out of place, sadly.

      • Jovan, i was actually a reply to Matt’s opinion, before the age gap chapter.
        And I still stick to it.
        As much as braces may look nice, I am sure you also experienced a precocious wear of your shirts, mainly on the front?
        I personally came to the conclusion I found them too affected, for me at least.
        Besides, as opposed to braces, belts have proved quite resourceful in some unexpected situations life has to offer, but that is a different topic.

  6. Indeed, the real faux pas does not lie on the loops, it is in the design of the trousers themselves. Braces only work with reasonably high waisted ones. Unfortunately here, bond’s trousers are the kind of low belt-narrow legs you find on the market since ten years or so. Like it or not, but this cut will never look good with braces. Question of silhouette, balance, and a real mistake in my opinion; then, the loops are just a detail.

    • This I’ll agree with. I won’t buy a suit with trousers that have less than a 12″ rise since I started wearing mine with suspenders. Ideally, I’d prefer ones with a 13″ rise, but I can’t afford bespoke just yet. Of course, that also means I have to search through a lot of clothes before I’ll find one off the rack that suits my needs as well.

  7. I not see any problem if the trousers are high rise and if the coat is buttoned (better if is a double breasted).

    • How would a double breasted improve anything? They are on either side and will not be seen when a single breasted jacket is closed. These trousers have a medium rise at best, but I don’t think that’s the worst thing ever.

      • Because the double breasted coat is always (or should be) ever buttoned.
        The single breasted often is not buttoned,and if one have not a vest,is more easier see the belt loops empty.
        However they are nuances,

      • I suppose so. I don’t consider braces and shirts “underclothes” though, and it’s hardly the worst thing if somebody sees that there are empty belt loops.

  8. Matt do you think the cord suit really works? Do you think an odd jacket instead of the unstructured suit would have worked better with no suspenders at all.

  9. Christian,

    I can’t seem to reply directly to your excellent summation of the age gap issue above. Just to say that I think all your points are absolutely valid and I can fully appreciate that actress’ do have a hard time of it in Hollywood and roles become limited over a certain age in a way which male actors just do not experience. My “sleazy” comment wasn’t directed at you either (it’s more to do that this is the kind of response which often arises when an “older” actor is matched with a young actress). I agree that Lea lacks the kind of charisma needed to give spark to her role here and that this doesn’t help matters.

    I would have absolutely no quarrel with any of the actresses which you suggest being paired with Bond. The trouble with a 51 year old Craig (at time of filming) is that, despite how much his followers adore him, he looks, objectively, far less fresh than Roger did aged 51 (Moonraker) or even Sean aged 52 (NSNA).

    All that said, I still believe that, since time immemorial, the mature man and younger woman, has had its place in society. It shouldn’t be an issue if portrayed properly on screen and the picture of Craig and Seydoux above doesn’t, on the face of it, look in the least odd to my eye.

    • Good discussion – if a little off topic! – regarding age of the protagonists. Honourable mention for the criminally under-used Monica Belluci who is the oldest Bond girl in the canon IIRC.

      • Yes, we haven’t gone off topic quite like this in a few years. But many of the regulars here have thoughtful and varying opinions, so such a discussion is always enlightening. And agreed on the criminal under-use of Monica Bellucci in Spectre (same goes for the Rome location – just shows how underdeveloped virtually all aspects of that movie are). Beyond the age-gap issue, the other problem is not just casting but writing the female leads. Holly, despite her name, works well in Moonraker not just because Roger Moore looks younger than in FYEO and later, but also because she is a well written CIA agent and astronaut, who pushes back against Bond’s sexism, we are shown she can can hold her own in a fight, and she is integral to the plot’s resolution. Madeleine Swann, by contrast, is supposedly dangerous because she can unload a handgun, misses the shot against Hinx, and then spends the last 45 minutes as a useless damsel-in-distress. I would actually on a glance say that the Craig era, certainly the last two movies, have not had particularly well-written female leads, Camille in QoS and M in Skyfall excepted, and that the last five films of Roger and the four films of Pierce had better written (if not always well-acted) female roles. Hopefully, the franchise is feeling some pressure from the culture and a variety of sources (and directly on the business front from Mission Impossible) to remedy that track record in No Time To Die.

  10. I’m very glad you’re not in the camp of “braces + belt loops = major faux pas”. I think it’s actually perfectly acceptable as it affords the trousers extra versatility in lieu of braces.

    I DO love the paddles of the braces being so dark against the light sand pinwale and mid-range blue of the shirt. It’s a great contrast (though I personally go for braided rather than leather as the latter is always a bit stiff for my personal liking).

  11. I.T., Why pick on “old college professors”? They are the best-dressed men on most college campuses (which I realize isn’t saying much these days). Students go to class in pajama pants, and administrators wear cheap-to-mid-range pinstripe suits. Older professors in vintage tweeds look better than either of the other two groups.

    • Braces should never have clips. They can ruin trousers, and they don’t allow the trousers to hang as well because they don’t hook into as many places as button braces do.

  12. It is a much cleaner look to NOT have the belt loops, but understand the “minor” aspect of them being there while wearing braces. The pants obviously have buttons on the interior of the waistband specifically FOR braces so . . .

    This is a cool blog – keep up the great work!

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