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 about. 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.