I have a wedding coming up this week, and it’s black tie.I have a terrible confession though…I do not own a tuxedo.
I know, I know, what kind of respectable menswear blogger lacks this true staple of formalwear?
But, I just have not attended the necessary events to warrant the dough for quality cloth like that.
So I am improvising with a slick black suit, a crisp white shirt, and a sharp charcoal wool tie to give it a little texture.
I had a thought that suspenders could add a little sophistication to the look and little old-school flair.
Let’s take a closer look at the historical menswear staple common to every level of style from the skinhead/punk, to the banker on Wall Street, to the black tie gala, and of course now, the stylish hipster.
The Belt Starts Here
Suspenders originated over 300 years ago. At the core, they are simply fabric worn over your shoulders to help hold your pants up from the front and the back.
Unlike a belt, which cinches your pants tight around your waist to keep trousers from falling, suspenders merely hold them in place. This is important to consider when thinking about your silhouette, and your pants. If the waist is too big, suspenders won’t help the pants look tighter; they merely help keep pants in place…literally suspended around the waist.
Albert Thurston introduced the first modern suspenders in 1822. Thurston invented the suspender in response to the high cut of pants at the time, which made a belt unrealistic. Still, men continued to view suspenders as an undergarment.
The belts we know and love today returned to prominence by the 1930s as the stylish waistcoats (that were used to hide suspenders from view) became less worn. But suspenders live on.
When to Suspender
Are suspenders formalwear only? As you’ll see above, they were historically viewed as undergarments. However, high quality suspenders—often made of silk—are notably white collar wear, only to be attached by buttons that are placed on the inside of a waistband.
RULE: If you do choose to go the button route, be sure your shoes match the leather of the suspenders! Clip on suspenders, which attach to the waistband of any pants are also a viable option. TIME.com notes, “In the 1960s, British skinheads adopted suspenders as part of their working-class look—often attaching them to tight blue jeans that didn’t really need help staying in place.”
Though perhaps not as formal, many writers agree that it is OK to wear them with pants that even have belt loops. No matter how they attach, they are not formalwear only. If you’re as cool as Larry King you can get away with them anywhere.
Why not try it out to add some texture and a layer to your daily wear. Just be sure the fabric colour matches or contrasts your shirt, pants, socks…you know, the usual rules of matching.
In my opinion, it depends entirely on the material and the make. If they are silk then wear them to your next cocktail party or black tie event. Whether they clip or button, I’m not concerned—if they look sharp, and you know how to match, then break the rules.
However, be forewarned: This sartorial staple is not on trend yet, so be prepared to stand out. My only piece of absolute advice is widely agreed upon by every style writer—never wear suspenders and a belt together!
The GQ Style Guy puts it best: “Whenever I see a man wearing a belt and suspenders, which is not all that often, I think, Now, here is a pessimist. Guys who wear a belt and suspenders probably carry umbrellas on sunny days and wear more than one condom.”
Essentially, this modern man is explaining that one would only wear both pieces if he was that worried about his pants falling down, in which case he probably worries about the sky falling daily, the world ending tomorrow, and spilt milk. What are you so worried about hiding?
As we enter the holiday season, whether it’s a holiday party, a new years bash, or a gift, check out some of these modern sharp suspenders and find the one that’s right for your style from street, to punk, to heritage, to classic, to formal.
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