Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What Braces does Backtobraces Wear?

Readers have requested I post photos showing evidence that I wear braces. I am only too happy to oblige! It goes without saying that if I’m giving advice on wearing braces, I should also wear them. So this post is all about me wearing braces and suspenders.

I started wearing suspenders at a young age. My first suit, a standard black suit with black pants, came with clip-on suspenders. The suspenders were striped, narrow X-back suspenders, and the clips had small time-clocks printed on them. The suspenders were stripped with red and blue in the middle, surrounded by white and navy stripes. I can remember how comfortable they were to wear, and I wanted to wear them all the time. Eventually, due to the excessive use, the rear clips started to snap off occasionally. But I didn't care, I was wearing suspenders! Here’s a photo with my suit jacket off:
After wearing suspenders during my pre-teen years, I didn’t wear them again until university. I started wearing a suit again for networking events and began researching accessories to add that would give some personality. I came across button-on braces and have been wearing them ever since. (I also enjoy wearing bowties, cufflinks, and hats. Its these small details that add personality to a standard suit and set men apart from the standard dark suit with white shirt outfit).

Back to braces… my first pair of button-on braces was a pair of black and white Ascot Satin Braces by Trafalgar. I thrifted them and they were in excellent condition, showing no sign of age. In fact, I still own them.

I generally prefer vintage braces – older, unique and rare braces that are in great shape. These are unavailable at department stores, so I hunt for them in vintage shops and second-hand thrift stores. For anyone wanting to start wearing braces, I’d recommend looking at second-hand stores first before paying $100-200 for a pair of high-end, quality braces.

I prefer to wear braces, as compared to suspenders, as I find the placement of buttons is superior to only clips. Braces fully support the pants and adjust with your body movement. Additionally, I find them more classy and traditional than suspenders that trend-seekers can snap-on and snap-off at will. The feeling of snapping on a pair of braces is priceless, as it gives you a peace of mind that your pants will stay in place and be comfortable all day.

I currently have about 20 button-on braces and 6 clip-on suspenders, and looking to increase. I am very selective and specific in the braces and suspenders that I buy. I'm currently looking for a historic pair of braces that are not made anymore. They were called President Suspenders and had a "give-and-take" feature in the back to accommodate every body movement.

President Suspenders were not just for men, they also made a line for women:

I have yet to see these braces being worn in person. Let me know if you have a pair and have photos!

In the meantime, I will wear braces. My favorite outfit is black braces with black dress pants on a white dress shirt. Some frequent outfits I wear are a dark suit with black or navy braces and a tie, and a grey suit with light blue suspenders. Here’s a photo with my one and only:

I did a photo shoot in the vintage part of town last year, and I wore simple black, Y-backed braces, over a white dress shirt, with a stripped tie and fedora:

A more recent outfit I wore was a white dress shirt with a polka-dotted bow-tie and black X-back braces. I received many complements and will do it again.

As I mentioned, I wear braces with business-wear and formal wear. I sometimes wear braces with casual wear, if the braces are casual and the pants fitted with buttons. I generally wear suspenders with jeans and a t-shirt and have a number of suspenders, including a solid navy pair, and stripped pair of light brown and green.

I encourage you to join in by posting your photos online – upload them to an online site like flickr or photobucket and then provide the link in the comments below - please keep the photos appropriate.
Lets share ideas and spread the message that its stylish to wear braces and more comfortable than a belt!

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


  1. Good luck finding your “President” suspenders, it’s a worthy quest. I’ve never seen any and didn’t know they existed until I saw your article on them. I will keep an eye out. They don’t look particularly comfortable to me, but who knows.

    Regarding getting more people to wear suspenders I don’t think it’s going to happen and in many ways I hope it doesn’t. Your right, probably more people would, if more people did, wear them. There was a period in the 90’s when that happened. They were suddenly a fashion fad for a while and some people did wear them that probably wouldn’t have otherwise. Like most fads it faded. Yes, I used to, and still do on occasion, feel a little strange when I’m the only one in a room full of people with them on. That, I think is a lot of the problem some of the fence sitters have. But I’ve come to the realization that it is actually cool being the only one in the room with them on. So I’m hoping there are just enough of us out there to keep a few companies making them.

    Finally I’ve come to conclusion that most regular suspender wearers are kind of like lefthanders. There aren’t very many, its really hard to become a right hander and why would you want to anyway?

    1. @Anonymous: I agree with you that the President Suspenders could be uncomfortable, with the extensive straps and pulleys moving around in the rear. Nevertheless, I'd like to try it out!

      I found your comments on wearing braces very thought-provoking. I agree with your logic that its better to avoid the fashion fad of suspender-wearing, because then those that do are more of a novelty, rather than the commonplace - just as left-handers are a novelty. Everyone doesn't have to use braces, belts provide certain fashion appeal. But for pure functional purpose of holding up pants, belts do not even come close to the comfort and ease of braces. My purpose in writing this blog and encouraging people to wear braces is that once they discover the comfort braces provide, they will never go back. Its like wearing a pair of worn-out shoes and then discovering the comfort of wearing a brand-new, comfortable pair of shoes - you wish that you'd switched earlier. I estimate a large number of people will be wishing they'd worn braces earlier.

      Enough about wearing braces... I'm going to get off my soapbox now and let my pants do the talking - I know with my braces attached they will hold up to any criticism!

    2. I have found,on many occasions, to be the only one in the room wearing suspenders, as my wife has pointed out to me several times.Although it feels strange at the time I have noticed that after a while I feel more and more at ease. I attribute this to the fact that I may be the only one there who is truly comfortable.
      No belt digging in to the tummy,not having to hitch up my trousers,and not having the waist of the trousers hanging below my waist.Suspenders do as their name suggest;they suspend the trousers rather than a belt that only cinches.
      I like wearing suspenders for these reasons and I feel that the benefits outweigh any social drawbacks.

  2. Oh my :) I wasn’t questioning the premise of your blog. I like it and read it regularly, keep doing it and for the record it’s a very nice soapbox. I was just giving you the questionable benefit of an alternate point of view.

    Just by way of keeping the conversation going.

    I think there are relatively few people in the world that will only wear belts when no other option exists; I suspect you fall into that category. I think there are proportionately a greater number of people that wouldn’t wear braces no matter what. Finally, there is the majority that probably don't care very much but go with the proportionately larger number of non-braces wearers. I think those are the people you’re trying to appeal to using the benefits of braces to belts logic.

    I think your analysis of all the benefits of braces over belts is spot on. The problem is that as a marketing tool it’s probably not effective. That’s like the Surgeon General’s warning on a pack of cigarettes. If you’re trying to increase the use of braces on trousers amongst the majority I would recommend one or all of the following advertising schemes. (a) woman prefer their men in suspenders (insert JLo here ...) or (b) your car will go faster and look sexier (insert Ferrari here ...) if the driver is wearing braces or perhaps getting Tiger Woods (insert fire hydrant here...) to wear them at the next British Open.

    Personally, I'm really OK when I'm the only one in the room wearing them. It would be nice if there were others so I'm behind you all the way on getting the numbers up. But as a left hander, it isn’t all about the numbers there are some quality issues that need to be addressed. When I’ve been in that hypothetical room full of people I've thought long and hard about slinking out of the room when the other people wearing them are; grossly overweight; wearing them with a belt; wearing the really thick obnoxiously colored ones emblazoned with things like "Budweiser", "John Deere", or a tape measure on them. I've even seen someone wear a pair with what I presume were his kids and wife’s faces on them.

    1. @Anonymous: Thanks for the discussion; I appreciate the exchange of ideas.

      I agree with your 3 camps: (a) people that choose to wear braces and need absolutely no convincing, (b) people that won't wear braces and no amount of reasoning or coercion will change their mind, and (c) people that simply follow the crowd; the I-don't-want-to-attract-attention group, which is sadly the largest group. This last group is influenced by public opinion so until that changes, they are not going to start wearing braces.

      It hasn't always been that way. Braces used to be worn by this last group prior to the 1950s when braces were prevalent in society, along with men wearing suits every day. Braces were considered underwear, and so covered with a vest. Gradually, a cultural shift occurred that saw men turn away from wearing suits in casual settings as well as the shedding of vests. This resulted in braces also losing appeal. Those people that did continue to wear braces - primarily the portly and senior - had little motivation, broadly speaking, to remain fashionable. As such, braces, and specifically clip-on suspenders, started to receive a bad reputation. Braces were seen as an accessory to avoid for the chic, modern individual.

      The truth is, braces provide more opportunities to be modern and personal than belts. Braces allow an individual to display their own personality, creativity, and do it at their choosing (when their suit jacket or cardigan is off). The designs and colors of brace straps in addition to the styles of braces (Y-back, X-back, H-back) is far greater than the opportunities of a leather or cord wrapped around one's waist.

      All this is to say that brace-wearers are wrestling with changing public opinion. I suspect there is a significant number of young people tempted to wear braces, and will do once they see that others are wearing them as well. So those that do wear braces need to proudly proclaim that fact, and do it in a way that's not obnoxious or gaudy. There needs to be a shift in perspective. Wearers are not only the thick, bright-colored clip-on suspenders with brand names kind, or those wearing a belt and suspenders, or even that its only for the portly or senior aged. There needs to be young, modern men and women wearing braces with casual pants, dress skirts, and casual shorts, in addition to the quintessential suit. I contributed to the change just yesterday, by wearing a pair of braces with jeans and a t-shirt.

  3. I think we’ve successfully beaten the “marketing” topic to death. As I read through your last response I thought of a couple of other questions. At the end you mentioned contributing to the change by wearing braces with jeans and t-shirt. The sentence got me thinking, since we left-handers are a pretty small minority, and since you’re the owner of this blog and outspoken advocate of the change we should found out just how committed you really are (we really don’t :) but for the purposes of this discussion). How often do you actually wear suspenders? once-in-a while, couple of times a week, all the time etc. I know people that only wear them with suits for example. If you’ve already covered this, I apologize for not doing my homework. Do you wear them with shorts? I cant think of any reason not to, but I seldom (actually never) have seen it on males and seldom on females.

    Thanks for the discussions, keep doing them.

    1. @Anonymous: Pleasure to continue on the conversation!
      I probably wear braces 2-4 times a week. I'm a traditionalist, so I primarily wear braces with suits and more formalwear. But I also wear braces and suspenders with jeans and a dress shirt, depending on the look. The frequency also depends on the season, as I find wearing suspenders with shorts is sometimes too tacky in the summer. Shorts are generally not made with a higher rise or tailored to fit a specific body, to accommodate braces. That said, I think you can wear a pair of solid-colored shorts with a shirt that's dressier than a t-shirt and pull it off. Otherwise you may look more like a clown that needs to hold their shorts up than a stylish individual. As shorts are generally worn for sports, or going to the beach, its generally not fitting to wear them. Its like hats. I love hats, but I don't wear a hat to the park when I'm planning to play soccer and sweat. On the other hand, if I go to the park for a picnic without any physical exertion, I may wear a pair of suspenders with a solid black pair of shorts.

      Wearing braces in warm weather has key benefits, be it with pants or shorts. As your pants/shorts are suspended from the shoulders, there is roominess around the waist. This improves air circulation and reducing heat buildup around the waist.

      I agree that suspenders with shorts are seldom seen on males or females. But I've observed that more and more retailers are pairing straps with shorts this year - specifically for females. There's currently a number of suspender shorts available - have a look online. I think I may even do a post soon!

  4. Wearing suspenders is very feminine!Like me who is married and with two children a boy and a girl,aged 8 and 12,they like wearing clip on suspenders with their shorts,pants and skirts.As for me,I like wearing large clip on suspenders suspenders with my large pants or bermudas,and when doing my house work or in the garden,I like also to put on top a white buttoned working overall ( housecoat),and sometimes not buttoned ,so with the wind it fly's open and you can see my large pant suspenders,I wear also a big men's cap on my head too,and I stay like this even going to the local store or shops nearby!A matter of fact the other day when my husband returned home from work and I was coming back from the local store,he did'nt recongnize me and pulling the car in the alley and me coming along,he was bewilderd ,saying wow!,you sure look great ! honey,with your cap,and overall opend and your large pant suspenders,and gave me a big hug,then my children coming home from school at the same time hugged me and clinging to my front suspenders ,( wich I appreciated very much§ ) i felt that I was a loved woman!.And the other day my husband knowing my tastes,did me a surprise and offerded me a nice packet neatly done I opened it and it was a pair on large leather black shinny pant suspenders with big buckles in front and in the W back of them there is a big O ring in the middle,I was "thrilled",but those one's I only wear them on sundays or when going out,with my long leather black skirt,Perhaps one day he will buy me also a black leather cap too,anyway I agree with the previous comments that suspenders for ladies is sexy and great!

    1. It is so great that you wear your braces with pride. My husband likes me in mine. I love how they hold my pants up but I'm still hiding them!! Do you own any button on braces? I'm wearing a nice Red elastic pair! Extemely comfortable and they look great!! Andie.

  5. The whole thing of this discussion is what's comfortable ie: constantly pulling up your trousers because you are wearing a belt or wearing braces that are always comfortable and keep trousers at the right position/ height. My wife is always moaning at me for constantly pulling my trousers up ( except when I wear braces ) which I am wearing more and more as they are the most comfortable and practical option. I have both clip on and button and button is by far the most comfortable and as to being cool and fashionable, if it's comfortable and practical then it's fashionable!

    1. @Anonymous: I completely agree! Once you have worn braces for a day you will wonder why you never wore them before!

      Thanks for posting and enjoy wearing braces!

  6. As a 22 year old guy, I had never considered wearing braces until I had to wear a rented Morning suit to a wedding recently. The trousers had no belt loops, and were clearly not going to stay up on their own, so I sheepishly asked to borrow a pair from my Dad, whom I had previously criticized for wearing them, particularly without a jacket. Once strapped in I found them not only efficient, but also very comfortable, indeed, much more so than a belt. As a result, I have now purchased a couple of pairs to wear with my work suits, although I cannot bring myself to show them in public, even in this hot weather.

    However, I will never criticise any wearer of braces in the future. I am a convert.

    1. @Anonymous: Thanks for sharing. It's quite common for men to resist wearing braces, only to discover how comfortable they are. Men wear them for 1 event and then are hooked (pardon the pun)!

      You do not need to be ashamed of exposing your braces. As long as you wear them tastefully, people will be impressed and appreciate your style. I've wrestled with this same issue, and have finally decided to show off my braces proudly. They are a nice fashion accessory. As more men wear them, there will be fewer critics.

  7. As a 22 year old guy I had never considered wearing braces until I recently had to wear a Morning Suit to a wedding. It was quite clear that the trousers were not going to stay up on their own, and had no belt loops, so I sheepishly asked my Dad if I could borrow a pair of his braces, having previously criticised him for wearing them, particularly without a jacket in hot weather. Having struggled to clip them on I could not believe how efficient and comfortable they were, and have now bought a couple of pairs for my own work suits. have yet to brave removing my jacket in company. Suspect my mates would laugh, but I am a convert.

  8. Good news, Back to Braces! A friend of mine has found a pair of 'President suspenders' in excellent condition, and she wishes to sell them! If you're still interested, please let me know: I can send photos.

    All the best,
    Marc Chevalier

  9. Sorry about that -- they were just sold to a customer from Japan. In any case, I can still provide you with photos for your archive.


    1. @Marc, Thanks for notifying me. Please do send the photos for archiving. Thanks


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