Saturday, September 4, 2010

Suspender Connections: Clip-ons versus buttons

Clip-on suspenders
Suspenders can be connected to your pants or skirt in two main ways: with clips or buttons. There’s also a few more, which I’ll briefly mention, but these are the 2 methods.

Clip-on suspenders have sharp teeth that grip the pant material. They are sometimes called alligator clips. The clip grips the waistband of the pant, leading to the material being damaged over time. Clip-ons provide a quick, easy method to attach suspenders to your pants or skirt. Each shoulder strap has 1 clip that snaps to the front of your pants on each side of the hips, and 1 or 2 clips (depending on if it’s a Y or X style) that clip to the back. They come in wide variety of colors, can be thin or wide, and add a fresh spice to a dull wardrobe. Because they are so easy to attach, they are designated to the novice suspender-wearer.

Wearing clip-ons with a formal suit or skirt not only looks tacky and cheap - like wearing a clip-on tie - but also damages the materials from the pull of the sharp teeth. No well-dressed individual would use clip-ons when wearing a formal outfit.

Button-on braces
The better option is to use buttons to attach the suspender straps to your  pants or skirt. Button tabs use leather or cloth "ends" that attach to the strap. Button-on braces are more comfortable, traditional and formal than clip-on suspenders. Where clip-ons have 1 point of contact with the pants, button-ons have 2. There are 2 buttons at each end of the suspender straps - 2 on each side in the front, and 2 buttons in the back for a total of 6 buttons. This results in 6 “connection points” to the pants, compared to a minimum of 3 connections with Y-style clip-on suspenders – double the connections! More connection points means your pants stay in place better and the straps will not move as much. Your pants will still stay up even if you pop a button. There’s also braces that have 8 connection points – 4 in the front, and 4 in the back, which can be very comfortable.

Connection points are the key consideration. If you just want to follow the latest trend, you can use clip-on suspenders. But if you actually want comfort and to hold up your pants, you should use button-on braces. Case in point, this man wearing suspenders when he should be wearing braces. The suspenders are not adequately supporting the pants. In the photo below, the gentleman should be wearing button-on braces to properly support his wider waist with 4 connection points in front.
More connection points (with braces) would better support these pants

Brace tabs

Inverse V-tabs
With buttons, there’s a sub-category: inverse V-tabs and inverse U-tabs. V-tabs have 2 separate straps or tabs that connect to the buttons, while U-tabs are a half loop. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.  

V-tabs are more traditional, with a D-shaped ring that allows the straps to pivot on the shoulder strap. As the brace-wearer moves, the straps pivot along the ring, but do not shift when you lean left or right. Therefore, when you lean sideways, the opposite side will feel a pull on the outer button, pulling the pants up. This increased strain is the number one reason for buttons popping off, and why the outer button generally pops off first.
Note the popped button and
loose brace strap
The straps are generally made of leather, although could be made of other material.

As a result of the disadvantages of V-tabs, U-tabs were invented.
Inverse U-tabs
U-tabs are somewhat more modern with a loop to allow the shoulder strap to hold the braces in place, but also glide left or right to accommodate to the body’s movement. This provides more freedom and superior comfort. In the front, when you lean sideways, the strap slides to that side. This results in less strain on the buttons, especially the outer buttons. If you wear Y-back braces, when you lean left, the back strap will slide left; when you lean right, the back strap will slide right. This also occurs on the front straps. Everything stays in line, everything comfortable, and less strain on the buttons! This is likely the reason they have become the predominant style for braces (excluding clip-on suspenders).

Below is a photo of Robert Shaw playing Doyle Lonnegan in The Sting from 1973. He is wearing inverse-U tab braces. I've highlighted the change in the straps position in this still image capture. Notice how the inverse-U tabs shifted as he bends forward (the red outline). The strap shifts closer to the inner front button than the outer one, accommodating the body movement. This is in contrast to if he was wearing inverse-V tabs (the blue outline). The inverse-V tab puts extra strain on the outer front buttons, whereas the inverse-U tab style shifts some of the pull.
Doyle Lonnegan from The Sting, 1973

Many opponents to braces state that buttons pop off easily. After wearing braces for many years I have simply not found this to be the case. In fact, up to this point I think I can only remember one time that a button popped off, and that was due to poor workmanship. The button popped off, and I noticed it right away because of the change in tension. I was wearing inverse-U tab braces, so I doubled up the tab to the remaining button. The braces continued to hold up my pants, and I continued on my way until I sewed on the button.

What If I'm still worried about a button popping off?
If you are concerned about buttons popping off, I recommend wearing inverted V-tab braces. One drawback of U-tabs is that if one button pop-off, the strap pulls up as one end of the tab is not anchored to anything. This is not the case with inverse V-tabs which retains the tension as the tab is anchored to the pants and to the strap junction. Mind you, if you pop-off a button on either style, the loss in the connection point will be noticed quickly!

As you’ve probably noticed, I generally use suspenders to refer to clip-on suspenders, and braces to refer to the button-on variety.

I recommend button-on braces any and every day over clip-on suspenders. But you do get marks for wearing suspenders!

The primary disadvantage of clip-on suspenders is that they always snap off at the wrong time, or need constant adjusting...
This lady has not even noticed that her suspender clip has snapped off

...but they are easy to put on to hold up pants.

Alternative connections include:
- bachelor buttons provide a permanent connection with a metal rivet and suitable for denim. These are useful when doing heavy labour, but may not be stylish.

- single connection strap – These are simple and basic, but do not provide sufficient support for the pants. This is because there are fewer connection points which will result in sagging.

Or this single-button style that uses braces to attach to a single button:

- Clip on, button-style connectionslike these. These are the middle ground connections that try to be too much. They are handy for snapping on your pants, but are not suitable for formal wear, where buttons show the more polished image.

- Straps sewn directly into the pants or skirt. These are stylish, but don’t allow for movement and stretch during the day. As a result, they are more prone to ripping and tearing which is harder to repair than sewing on a button.

Discussion time:
  • What type of connection do you prefer?
  • Do you buy pants/skirts and then find braces to wear with them, or buy braces and then find pants/skirt to wear with it?

Note: all photos are used solely for non-commercial use and to illustrate braces in fashion. No plagiarism is intended.


  1. I like both types and have some lovely ones. I have just bought some Albert Thurston clip on brace buttons. I'm looking forward to receiving them!!!

  2. I find the clip-on variety more practical as it is rare to find pants with bttons already in place. I agree that they do tend to fly off the waistband under pressure, but there are 2 ways of solving this problem.
    1. Fold a thick piece of cardboard over your waistband and clip your braces over this. It works fine.
    2. This tip came from my Grandad, and it is to tuck your shirt inside your underpants and then clip your braces over both your jeans and your underpants together. Just be careful your boxers are below your pants waistband so they are not showing. It does save lots of adjustments throughout the day, and was popular years ago when underpants didn't have elastic to keep them up.

  3. My issue has to do with the back of the suspenders, where the two straps come together in the small of the back. I hate it when one opens a packet of suspenders to find the "central clip" (don't know what else to call it) is made of cheap plastic, spoiling an otherwise lovely set of braces. I prefer it when the link is made of leather or some other fabric: or, best of all, when the central clip is made of classier, more robust material than plastic, as they do allow one to adjust for the most comfortable fit at the back. So: where can I find metal (eg brass or copper or enamelled) central clips to replace the tacky plastic ones?

  4. Hi Tim, most sewing stores have the metal central clips. Its a simple procedure to swap it in for the plastic one.
    You may want to check out my blog post on this topic on April 2, 2011. Enjoy wearing suspenders!

  5. For me, I prefer the Y back suspenders with clip. I used to own one H back suspender with clip when I was in the UK. The H back suspender is great as it holds up your loose trousers and you don't have to over tighten your belt. My wish is to own a pair of black Y back suspender.

  6. Hi Anonymous,

    The H-back suspenders do provide better support than Y-back suspenders, as they have more connection points. Y-back suspenders are stylish though.

    You can buy a black pair of Y-back suspenders easily online, at sites such as,, or, depending on your budget. Happy shopping!

    1. Hi there,
      Thanks for your reply! Indeed, the Y back suspender looks more stylish. Which type of suspenders do you own?

    2. I own a number of X-back and Y-back braces, as well as H-back braces. If you haven't done so already, check out my posting on X-back versus Y-back styles. But basically, wear the style that you find most comfortable.

      Happy suspender-wearing!

  7. I finally got my Y back suspender yesterday and started wearing them. It is great! The only drawback is the left clip is defective and it tends to slip off. So I have to clip it at the point when the belt holder is.

    1. @Anonymous: Yes, clips are notorious for slipping off at the most important time of need. This is a major drawback of clip-on suspenders and a primary reason to switch to button-on braces.

      If you wish to use clip-on suspenders, try using pliers to bend the metal closer together. Or if that doesn't work, you can also add material or a small pad to the inside portion of the pants, which adds thickness to help keep the clip in place. This technique has limited effectiveness, but can prolong the use of the suspenders. If you can sew buttons into your pants or skirt, I'd recommend trying button-on braces.

    2. How do you overcome your shyness of wering suspender in the public? Until now, I still haven't been able to overcome my shyness.

    3. @Anonymous: Overcoming shyness is a major step to wearing suspenders or braces. This is understandable, as braces used to be considered underwear. But not anymore. Today, braces and suspenders are akin to wearing a belt - but look more dashing!

      Think of wearing suspenders like wearing brightly-colored socks - they are sometimes visible, but not always. They are a fashion statement that takes some time to get comfortable with. But after people start seeing you wear them frequently, it will be part of your style.

      To overcome your shyness, wear suspenders and braces underneath a layer of clothing (a suit jacket, cardigan, vest, etc). Then take the layer of clothing off for periods of time during the day. Get comfortable wearing them and receiving people's comments. Then extend the time until you are wearing suspenders all day.

      Remember to "own it" - its your style! When people ask you why you wear suspenders, be read to state their comfort and ease. You will likely find that others start wearing suspenders just like you. As you will find from other visitors to this site, there is a large group of men and women that like to wear suspenders and braces. You are not alone.

  8. Hey

    As I have several good clip suspenders but really do prefer buttons (for both look and feel) I would really like to snip of the clips and tack on some leather tabs. But bugger me if I can find anywhere on the intertubes that sell stand alone leather tabs... Can you hook me up with a site selling them.


    1. @Martin, glad to hear you prefer braces with buttons. It is definitely more comfortable and stylish.

      For converting clip-on suspenders to button-on braces, you will need both the leather loops and a D-ring to hold the loops or leather straps (depending on if you have inverted-V or inverted-U connections). Leather loops for inverted-U loops can be purchased online here. For inverted-V leather straps, these are more difficult to find, but can be found at leather stores. D-rings can be found at sewing stores.

      It will be a challenge to find the necessary parts. You may also consider buying an old pair of braces that have lost their elasticity in the straps, but have the necessary components for connecting to buttons. You can then take the clips and replace them with the button-on components from the old pair of braces.

      Best luck converting your clip-on suspenders. I'd be interested to know how it turns out. Enjoy!

    2. @Martin, I did some more research and found a site that has spare parts for button-on braces. This site has replacement leather loops in black and brown, as well as the connections to the straps from the loops.
      This should provide the necessary parts to convert your suspenders to braces.

    3. Much Obliged, i'm checking out all the options and will let you know when I have results.

  9. I'm female in my 40s and wearing braces for the first time in a long while now!! I'm wearing a lovely pair!! They are 2 inch maroon and white striped 50s style H back button on elastic ones I'm wearing them with an 80s style black jacket a vest top , thin striped dress pants and high heels! I feel amazing and have just been told by my hubby that I look sexy. I'm going to wear
    them in to work after my day off !!! And I keep snapping them and pulling them - I should have done this ages ago!!!


    1. @Andie: glad you rediscovered braces again, and their comfort and style! It is a great feeling to wear braces after not having worn them for a long time, and realizing that you don't need to keep tugging on your pants or pulling them up.

      You chose a nice pair of braces to wear - I appreciate your detailed description of the braces and the outfit. What other outfits do you plan to wear braces with? Could you suggest a few for our readers?

      Enjoy wearing braces, and tell your friends about them!

  10. Still too embarrassed to tell my friends although I have worn dresses with suspenders on and a skirt with them on a night out. i went to the shop yesterday with my jacket unbuttoned just to give a glimpse to passers. I'm going to wear some dress pants and a suit jacket with braces to work Tomorrow. I am going to give a peek again when I go for a walk today. I wear clip ons when I power walk with leggings and a hoodie and I hitch the bottom of the hoodie up so the clips can be seen at the back !! I have ordered a pair of blue and white striped braces and some polka dot blue suspenders. I'm going to try them with jeans and a bike jacket and go shopping in them!! I wish more women would admit to liking braces and that there was a group I could chat to them on!!


    1. @Andie: Yes, I wish more women would come out and be confident to wear braces. They are a great piece of clothing.

      Your comments on being embarrassed to tell others that you wear braces is very common. You are taking the right steps - keep wearing them and gaining confidence. Pretty soon your friends and colleagues won't even notice when you are wearing braces or suspenders because that's just what you wear!

  11. My husband recently was given a pair of suspenders that had little clips that go through the button holes on button suspenders but are actually clips. They are not part of the suspender and can be used on any button down suspenders. Have you ever heard of these and if so, what are they actually called? We are curious and can find no info on them anywhere. I appreciate any help you can give us.

    1. @Sue: From your description, is sounds like you are describing "clip-on, button-style" braces. These attach with clips instead of buttons, but look like button-on braces. Check out this blog post for descriptions of suspender connections to confirm.
      There is one company that manufactures these clip-on braces, called Double-Ups. Is this what you have?

  12. Like many writers here, I have shunned braces as I am often in my shirtsleeves at work and in public, but have always been told that they are underwear. Can't really see that, since they are worn over ones shirt, but hey-ho. However, belts simply do not work for me. They are either too tight to be comfortable, or if comfortable, too loose to keep my pants up! I have noticed recently that most of the main High Street stores, Burtons, H&M and River Island to name but of few, have a good selection on sale, but I am nervous at the comments I might receive from my family, friends and workmates. Any suggestions? I am 23, and even unsure as to my girlfriends reaction, but I am certain they would be so much more comfortable.

    1. @Neil: Thanks for the comments. Wearing braces shouldn't be any different than wearing any other article of clothing - like stylish shoes, a fitted jacket, or colorful socks. People notice things that are outside of mainstream fashion. I've found that people comment not necessarily to criticize, but to applaud your individual personality and show interest. That's one of the reasons why I wear braces. You will soon discover that most people admire you for being brave to wear something unique and individual to you.

      To get up the courage, consider wearing your pants with braces and a cardigan. You can gradually expose the braces by opening up the cardigan. Talk with your family and girlfriend that being stylish is important to you, and that you enjoy wearing braces. If anyone makes a sliding remark about braces, ask them if they've tried wearing them. People quickly find out the benefits to wearing braces once they try them for the first time correctly. Make sure you are wearing braces correctly (including the proper button placement, brace width, color, and that it fits with the rest of your outfit). Refer to other posts on this blog for guidance.

      Like you, I have been shy about exposing my braces in public. I have come to realize that there's nothing to be ashamed of. People enjoy stylish people!
      This blog is my expression that it's acceptable to wear braces and show them in public.

      Enjoy wearing braces!

  13. Hey guys! Sorry for an off-topic question, but I really don't know who else to ask. I lost a pair of leather suspender connectors from my white Albert Thurston suspenders. I thought it would be easy to just order a new pair from Albert Thurston, but I couldn't find their email address. Does anybody know who I can contact? Seems silly not to wear the braces only because I lost the little leather thingies :) Thanks!

    1. @Mikhail: You are welcome to post the request here. I host this blog for the community of people that love to wear braces and suspenders, and to educate and entertain them. Thanks for your question.

      Albert Thurston's website has a wide range of braces, but I don't think they sell parts separately. You can ask by contacting them at "contact (at) albertthurston (dot) com"

      You could also try a leather maker, but this may be more costly to make a replacement tab.

      To clarify, are you referring to the white brace tabs that connect to the brace straps? From your description, I think you are looking for white, inverse-U tabs. Thanks.

    2. Thanks for the quick reply! I will try to write to Albert Thurston now.

      Yes, that's what I was referring to - the white leather inverse-U tabs.

      Thanks again for your help.