Today we want to talk about braces, otherwise known across the pond as ‘suspenders’ (and certainly not to be confused with the variety commonly worn with stockings). Though worn today as more of a fashion statement than an essential, here we uncover the history of braces.
The original purpose of braces was to hold up trousers
That’s because trousers were cut differently than they are today and needed to be held in place. Centuries ago in France, the original braces were created from strips of fabric tied in place, which rapidly became the norm across Europe and the rest of the world as French fashion trends travelled through the continents.
It wasn’t until 1820 when braces became commercially available in Britain. Albert Thurston started manufacturing them as we might recognise them today, made in leather and designed to support trousers as an item of underwear.
It was considered indecent to show your braces in public
As underwear, braces were not meant for public show and would have been hidden under clothing, usually a waistcoat. This didn’t change until the 20th century when braces changed to become a stylish emblem of social class and became more prominent and visible in their appearance.
This trend was subverted in the 1960’s when working-class British men would adopt the wearing of braces with jeans, not because they needed keeping in place but as a statement against social attitudes and the class system at the time.
Women jumped onto this trend in the 1970’s and began wearing braces themselves to create a unisex look that echoed their feminist fight for equal pay and rights. Since then, fashion designers have taken braces as an accessory to make a style statement.
These days braces are available in a wide range of styles
Worn as an accessory, braces today are still long straps of fabric like the original invention but are attached with clips or buttons. The actual design can vary from an “X”, “Y” or “H” shape depending on preference and how much support is needed, although you’ll seldom find the “H” design anywhere except for a fireman’s uniform.
The thickness of the straps depends on the look you’re going for, and the trousers you’ll be wearing the braces with. Aiming for a mid-range width of 1.25 to 1.5” is a wise choice. Thicker widths are generally best for men of a bigger build or trousers made from heavier fabric.
The great thing about braces is that you can wear them with just about anything
Suit and a tie? No problem, just stick to a slim width and buttons rather than clips. You could always take your fashion statement further by opting for a bow tie.
Just be sure to never wear a belt and braces at the same time, that look isn’t a good one and is more of a fashion mistake than a statement. What do you like to wear braces with? Drop us a comment below and let us know how you rock the look!
I read with interest your article on braces as I wear them all the time. It started for me as an alternative to belts which I have always found very uncomfortable and much less effective when it comes to keeping trousers in place, without the awful sloppy appearance often associated with belts that consistently fail to prevent sagging. On the other hand, sometimes I would prefer the option of wearing a belt if only it could be worn without having to be seriously tight and very uncomfortable around the waist to prevent ‘slippage’! Why is it that you cannot buy trousers that are genuinely self supporting???
Oh what we men have to contend with haha.
I am a great fan of braces and wear them most of the time. Despite being only 21, I still feel that they should always be covered, but the hot weather of late has made me switch to a belt. Big mistake! It is not only uncomfortable, but doesn’t keep my pants up either! I just wish that they were not considered underwear.