Saturday, September 11, 2010

Y-back vs X-back Styles

One of the special things about wearing braces is the different styles they come in. Brace straps are generally worn straight down in the front, and cross over (X-back) or join (Y-back) in the back. However, there are other varieties, including crossing over in the front (X-front) and not crossing over at all (parallel). Before taking about X-back and Y-back, lets take a moment to discuss these other varieties and why they are generally not recommended.

X-front, as shown on the right, crosses over in the front. This may look fashionable, but is actually distracting with the large X in the front. It also crosses in the wrong place. For ladies, this is probably uncomfortable.

Parallel brace straps run over the shoulders and attach to the same side on both the front and back. They are not connected together. As a result, when they don’t have sufficient tension in the straps they will easily slip from the shoulders, as nothing is holding them together. This style was the original style of braces, and people found them to be very uncomfortable as they always slipped off. As such, they joined the straps in the back (H-back), or crossed them over (X-back).

The next style is the H-back, which connects the two brace straps in the back. These braces effectively support the pants and do not slip off the shoulders. In fact, ledehosen are designed around the H-back style. Wear H-back braces if you can find them, as they are very rare. By rare, I mean those with buttons and excluding ledehosen.

Now onto the more common styles: Y-back and X-back. Y-back have shoulder straps that combine at the mid-point of the back and then go into a single strap to attach to the pants.  
Y-back braces
One variation on the Y-back is worn by military people - V-back braces shown below. This is to accommodate any height of the wearer. They can tend to slip off the shoulders easier as the junction is lower down the back.
V-back braces

X-back go down the back and cross-over to the other side. This allows wider range to actually hold up the pants. As such, it is recommended for people with larger pants. For illustration, as this gentleman is more portly, he should not use Y-back braces as shown...
Y-back braces with large pants
Rather, the gentlemen should use X-back braces like these, which provide better support of the pants.
X-back braces with large pants

Notice the total of 4
brace buttons on the back
Fish-tail back
Some people suggest that Y-back are more stylish than X-back. I couldn’t say, but from a functional perspective, there are advantages for each. Y-back attaches to the middle of the pants, and can provide the random wedgie. Even when button-on Y-back braces are used, the space between the buttons is generally less than 4 inches, and can cause the pants to ride up. This look is desired when wearing a fish-tail back such as those illustrated to the left.

The junction on X-back braces cross higher on the back and thus can be spaced wider apart when they reach the pants. This allows them to anchor approximately one-third the distance on the back of the pants and provide better support. Thus, when you need to hold up the pants, X-back is preferred. In fact, you can add two more connection points to X back to have a total of 4, and ensure your pants are secure. Notice how level the pants are to the right.

X-back braces may also have the added benefit of positioning the junction at the correct height, relative to the wearer. This is important for people with sloped shoulders. When the junction is lower on the back, the shoulder straps will have a tendency to slip down the sloped shoulders and even slip off. This is annoying and doesn’t serve the braces purpose. To solve this problem, the junction should be raised higher on the back, closer to the neck, while still being comfortable. X-back braces generally have a movable junction to facilitate this. 

The junction on these braces is too low and will likely slip off the shoulders. As the junction is movable, it should be raised. 
The junction on these braces is not movable, but is at the correct height. Notice also the fish-tail back:

If the back junction cannot move, you can effectively raise the junction by adding tabs at the rear of the pants:
Pants with tabs to raise the junction
Placement of braces without tabs

X-back braces can also use a D-ring, illustrated below. These are common among Albert Thurston braces and very comfortable.
D-ring rear junction braces by Albert Thurston

Swivel Back Braces
One variety of X-back braces that is very comfortable is the swivel-back braces, as illustrated to the left. These are also known as Paris Free-Swing braces. These have a joint loop that swivels with the bodies movement. I have tried these out and can verify that they are very comfortable and keep the suspender straps in place on the shoulders – no slipping!

Here's the complete look, complements of this link - very stylish.

There's also ads for President Suspenders. I have yet to see these in use. They look comfortable and very flexible, with all the pulleys and strings, but that could also be annoying.

You may think that we have exhausted all the possible styles for braces. On the contrary, there have been at least 12 different versions over the history of braces, as shown here:

And a page from the "Suspender Department" from an old catalog.

Discussion time:
  • What do you think of the different styles?
  • Do you find the Y-back or X-back style more comfortable?

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


  1. Please keep these coming, you are doing a great job. Feel free to use any photos from my yahoo "women in suspenders" group, and feel free to upload any photos you may have to the group which is far from being full. thanks!

  2. I own a pair of Paris Free-Style suspenders, which I find to be very comfortable. The only drawback is the width, which is about one inch, which I find quite narrow. I wear suspenders everyday and so I find that 1&1/2" to be more suitable for me.
    Having said this however,these suspenders are very nice and I usually wear them with a suit.It would be nice to be able to find free-style suspenders in a wider width though.

  3. I own a pair of the swivel back stlye exactly like the women above and to be honest i wear them nearly with the same outfit also but without the jacket. They are so comfortable and want to get more. The y back is good also but does depend on their made without the back strap being to high. h back are good also as you can slide the back section to suit your body which is the case with some x back styles but most are usualy fixed in one position. I also have had the style of pant that have the straps that are built into the pant but dont crossover any where in the back and just go over the shoulder that is on that side their connected to. these are a waist of time as the keep falling of the shoulder. my suggestion is find a store that stocks a good range and try them on cause everyone has their favourites.

    1. @Anonymous: Great to hear that the swivel back is still around - I've been hunting for a pair for a long time. I agree that the H back is also good - but it very rare. What store do you buy your braces from?

  4. Visiting paris this summer,I found at the eiffel tower shop,superb ladies black leather clip on braces with holes and big metalic buckles in front to regulate them,I took two pairs actualy finding them so cute,a pair in black leathet and another in brown leather they're about 2cm large and 110cm long,and I put them on with all my pants ,and long skirts ,everybodt tells me how great they're are,and they are allways "update" and practical too,letting alone the nice feeling you have when put on the leather braces rubbing you up and down, agarenteed succes!

  5. Hi,

    I bought several Y, X and H (pretty common to my surprise) in local secondhand. How high the junction should be, is it any rule like 'measure from your waist to neck, then..." Some of them are movable, some not. Or it's just a matter of personal preference? Please advice


    1. @paero123: Glad to hear that you have found several braces at secondhand stores. This is definitely the place to find braces.

      For the back junction on Y, X, or H back, the goal is comfort and to ensure the straps don't slip off the shoulders. If you have steep angled shoulders then you would want the junction to be higher, closer to the neck. If you have square shoulders, then you can let them be at the mid range.

      After comfort, you should aim to have the junction located just below the shoulder blades. Please see this post on where the back junction should go.

      Enjoy the comfort of wearing braces!

  6. Hello - I prefer old fashioned braces (suspenders) as they are more comfortable then the newer styles. It is quite difficult to find these anymore. I own two pairs of Paris Free-Styles and would like to find more. I like the fact that the D-Ring is more functional than the all leather tabs that are in style now. I would appreciate if you or someone could tell me where I find some of these classic suspenders.

    1. @Anonymous: Glad to hear you prefer traditional braces - they are so comfortable to wear. You must enjoy wearing the Paris Free-Swing braces!

      As far as I am aware, braces with a D-ring on the rear junction are only made by Albert Thurston. They are very exclusive and comfortable.
      For adding to your collection, you can order them online at:
      - Bromleys
      - Sharp & Dapper under the box cloth section
      - eBay or a local thrift store

      Have any other readers found braces with the D-ring junction at other stores?

  7. You seem to of missed a style. I was browsing ebay recently and came across "German Army Braces" in which at the rear from the leather end spring two elasticated straps in a 'V' which then go over the shoulder - I've never seen this arrangement before so I've no idea if it's unique to the German military or merely just rare.

    1. @Anonymous: Thanks for pointing this out. I have seen these before, but forgot to include them in this post. They are generally referred to as German Army Braces.
      I'll update this post.

  8. Thanks A lot.I am very Impressed for your nice Tips.
    upper back brace


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