Wednesday, September 15, 2010

History of Braces

Where did braces come from? According to Alan Flusser’s, “From the time man first chose to wear trousers, either leather belts, rope, or cloth sashes were used to hold them up. It wasn't until the time of the French Revolution, however, when short vests and trousers reaching to the armpits were worn, that the suspender first appeared. These early examples were merely straps of leather that fell directly over the shoulders and were fastened to the waistband of the trousers by means of a hook.

Within a short time, suspenders, which were originally quite heavy and rather uncomfortable, became the favored choice of nobility and were eventually considered the mark of any well- dressed gentleman. In fact, no properly attired Victorian man would have dared consider himself affianced to any young woman of breeding until she had presented him with a pair of suspenders embroidered by her own dainty hands.

In this country, suspenders were also considered the only choice of the well-dressed man, but by the end of the nineteenth century, this thinking began to undergo a slow yet inexorable change. This change was due, at least in part, to the uniforms men wore during the various wars that flared up during the late nineteenth century. Belts became more popular as shoulders were emphasized and waists pulled in, simply in an effort to appear more threatening and imposing.

By the early 1900s, folded belts were all the rage. They were fashioned by joining two-inch strips of cowhide, then stitching the edges to produce a rounded, pliable belt one inch in width. Also popular during this period was the Sam Browne officer's belt, which appealed not only to veterans but to other men as well.

But it was probably S. Rae Hickock, a successful dealer in leather goods, who did more than anyone to ensure the success of the belt industry when he began to manufacture belt buckles with etched monograms around 1910.

By the time American men returned home from world War I, they were wearing coarse yarn belts, which quickly caught the fancy of the general male populace. However, during the summer, when vests and jackets came off, belts went on as men chose not to expose their suspenders. Also during this period knickers became popular, further limiting the use of suspenders. And although suspenders maintained their popularity well into the decade of the 1920s, by the time the stock market fell, most men's trousers were being held up by belts.

Though they have recently experienced a renaissance of sorts, today suspenders are but a small part of the haberdashery industry. Belts, on the other hand, come in many colors, widths, and all sorts of materials, ranging from leather to fabric to plastic.” (“Dressing the Man”, 2002).

Women have been wearing braces for as long as men have, because they work and are stylish!

As you can see, belts have taken over for suspenders, not because they are functionally superior, but because it was considered a source of embarrassment to display suspenders. Considering that we now live in the 21st Century, this embarrassment has slowly dissipated, and now, in 2010, suspenders are not being hidden underneath vests and suit jackets, but being proudly displayed. The range of colors, fabrics, and designs has increased significantly.

Discussion time:
  • How long have you been wearing braces for?
  • Do you wear braces proudly or with embarrassment?
Note: all photos are used solely for non-commercial use and to illustrate braces in fashion. No plagiarism is intended.


  1. I'm a woman proudly wearing black elastic braces ! I have always liked them and ejoyed wearing them! I'm pregnant and got sick of pulling up my maternity trousers and they are so rediculously comfortable to wear!!!! I read some where that women shouldn't ever wear them ever as an accessory as we have no real necessity - I beg to differ they hold up ladies trousers beautifully and sometimes belts dig in!! I used to be ashamed but I got so fed up of pulling up my trousers that I thought it was time to start wearing them!!!Instead Of miserably tuging my waistband up I can now sit and give my braces a contented little tug!!
    And I plan to wear them afterwards - whether fashionable or not!!!!I love them and they look amazing on us girls!!!

  2. That's awesom! Women need braces as much as men do for holding up their pants. The comfort and security that braces provide is unbeatable by the belt. Keep wearing braces!
    Do you sew buttons into your pants or just use clip-ons?

  3. I am also proud of wearing suspenders. Not only they are extremly comfortable but also braces add a quirky look to your outfit. And I enjoy to be seen in suspenders because I think especially women look extremly good in them. When I started wearing braces I discovered that numerous men seem to share this opinion and I received many nice compliments. Also many women show great interest in my suspenders and probably more and more women are going to wear them again. No doubt - I keep wearing braces!


    1. Hi Anonymous,
      I believe you look great in wearing suspenders and you have the guts to do so. Do you wear Y back or X back? As a man, I would like to wear one but feel quite embarrased to do so. Braces sometimes do work better than the normal belts especially when your pants are loose.

  4. Hello - I have been wearing braces regularly since I have been married which is over 40 years ago.When we were married my wife said I should wear suspenders with my suit as she thought my trousers would look better with them.I had worn them as a child and when I put on a pair again,for the wedding, I suddenly realized how comfortable I felt.My wife encouraged me to keep on wearing suspenders and through the years she has purchased several pairs for me.I have not worn a belt since that day.I own several pairs of suspenders but the ones I like the most are a vintage pair from the President Suspender Co.They are x-back which I find very comfortable.
    I remember a few years ago when my wife and I were at a dance and a women friend of hers remarked that I was the only husband there not always tugging at my trousers in order to keep them up.My wife told her it was because I was wearing suspenders which seemed to do a better job of keeping my trousers in place.
    I do not purposely show my suspenders but I also don't mind if people see them.That night,at the dance,the women there insisted that I remove my suit coat so they could have a look at my suspenders which I did.Most said that it had been years since they had seen a man wearing suspenders but that it was also pleasing to know that they were still being worn.

    1. @Anonymous: Glad to hear your wife got you into wearing braces. More wives should do buy their husbands a pair of braces to relieve them of constantly hiking up their pants. Not only do braces hold pants up, but they improve the drape. And people notice this, as you pointed out.
      You are part of a growing class that shows its acceptable to wear braces. Continue to wear them with pride, and show them off with pleasure!

  5. My story is very similar to the gentleman aboves. Back in 1978 My first wife suggested I needed braces to go with my first suit, bought for a wedding. Having made this "breakthrough",and realising I had no objection to wearing braces, she soon had me throwing out my belts and switching to braces with all my trousers. A simple pair of red clip ons, worn every day, saw me through a six month back pack aound Europe. When her father passed on, I inherited a whole wardrobe of vintage suits, each coming with two pairs of very high wasted trousers with fish tail backs, no belt loops but with button braces attached. These remain the most comfotable and stylish garments I have ever owned. But beware of aged braces - they can let you down, and I found to my discomfort when a pair snapped on me on a day trip when they could not easily be replaced!
    My second wife was much younger than me, and while she liked my 'Wall Street look" she dissapproved of me wearing braces with casual wear, as it 'made me look old". During that phase, I tended to stick to a shirt and tie on all but the most informal occassions, or wearing my braces underneath my shirt.
    My current wife is my age and used to men weaing braces - her first husband was an English police officer in the days where Braces were a regulation part of their uniform. She regards them as an unremarkable item of wardrobe. Over the years I have seen braces come in and out of fashion - in earlier decades I was very reluctant to expose them, but now I have no problem at all. Part of this is, I think, that good quality modern braces, carefully chosen, actually look much nicer

    1. @Phil: thanks for sharing your similar experiences with braces. It is true that braces go with suits the best, so its not surprising that this was your first experience.
      Glad to hear the comfort turned into wearing braces and suspenders on all your pants.

      I would love to have inherited a full piece suit set with fish-tail-back pants as you did - you received a true gem. But unfortunately the braces failed - may I ask where they failed? Did the buttons pop off or was it in the brace hardware? I've written a post on braces and suspenders failing - you may enjoy reading it.

      Although the braces failed, you still see the benefit and comfort in them! Glad your last wife sees this as well!

      What are your favorite braces right now?

    2. - this was my only real disaster in 35 years of wearing braces. I was transitioning overnight en route to the Middle East with only the clothes I stood up in. the trousers of my suit, worn for the first time, were of a heavy blue serge, high waisted, fish tail back and a little loose. At the time I had paid little attention to the elderly braces that were attached. The first time I bent over, the elastic snapped at the "Y" and I had to endure several awkward hours with my hands in my pockets searching for replacement 'hosentrager'

      Ever since, I have been very careful about old or second hand braces. In addition, I have not had much luck with clip ons in recent years - the clips don’t seem to last long and once the clip becomes unreliable, they are unfit for purpose. Clips that slip are a pain when there are double straps at the back, but when there is only one, it is intolerable. I am intrigued by the American brand "hold-up" and I would like to hear about readers experiences of their products. I am a bit put off by the embossed logo on the cross patch.

      For choice, I prefer Thurston button ons, which I buy mail order. They have a nice 'country' range that go well with smart/casual trousers. I may recommend Brooksters, who do made-to-measure cords, moleskins or cavalry twill, with a high rise, brace buttons, without belt loops, and a fish tail. Not cheap, but they do have sales from time to time

      Regarding dress, I agree that braces are a little more formal than a belt and I for an old duffer like me I don't feel they look correct with anything other than a tailored shirt. Even then, (speaking for myself) an open neck shirt with braces looks rather 'underdressed' in a mature man, unless you are a lumberjack. A Viyella shirt with a knitted tie is a nice smart casual look (with or without cardigan or jacket),

    3. @P: Sorry to hear about your braces snapping at the worst of times. That is a unique place for the break to occur - it is generally a button popping off or around the button holes on the brace tabs, as I describe in this post.
      I agree that clip-on suspenders are a let-down and not suitable to handle the strains and pulls when the body moves. Braces adjust to the body's positions and support the pants.

      Thanks for your style tips. After wearing braces for 35 years, they must definitely be part of your wardrobe. Enjoy them!

  6. Hello, would you have any idea of what material British Soldier's Suspenders were made out of the 1890s?

  7. Thanks for making the effort to describe the terminlogy to the beginners!

    Buy Gents Leather Belts


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