Monday, September 30, 2013

Problems wearing Braces or Suspenders - and how to correct them

I attended a wedding recently where the groomsmen were wearing suspenders under their vests. This is very stylish, as the suspenders allow for the vest to lie flat, and do not create a bulge where a belt would be, as the vest moves smoothly over the pants. The problem was that when the dancing started, the straps started slipping off the shoulders, out of the arm pockets of the vest, similar to the photo on the right. Not only did the groomsmen have to constantly put their straps back on their shoulders, the suspenders were not holding up their pants.

This is one of the problems with wearing suspenders or braces incorrectly. I say incorrectly, as people are snapping on suspenders more often these days, but are not aware of the correct style. In this post I describe several problems to wearing suspenders or braces incorrectly, and how to fix them:
  • Improper button/clip placement: Brace buttons that are positioned too close to the center seam are uncomfortable and tend to distract from the rest of the outfit. They also do not allow the side seam to be properly supported. The opposite is also true – brace buttons that are positioned to far to the sides do not support the pants and are uncomfortable. For suspenders, people position the clips too close to the center seam, or too far to the side.
  • How to correct it: For braces, the first front button should be half-way between your belly button and the side of your body (hip bone). Use the inseam on the pant leg as a general rule. The second button should be placed about 3-4” along the waistband. This should be near the side seam of the pants. The exact placement depends on your waist size and personal preference, but I’ve found this to be the most comfortable. While we are on button placement, the rear buttons should be placed 2” on either side of the rear center seam for Y-back braces, and 2.5-3” for X-back braces. If you are taller, you should space the braces farther apart. Also, if you have a larger waist (36”+), you should position the braces farther apart. Aim for half way between the center seam and side seam. This will keep your pants level and secure.
    For suspenders, the front clips should be positioned half-way between your belly button and the side seam on your pants. For the rear clips, X-back suspenders should be placed about 2-2.5” from either side of the center seam; Y-back suspenders are positioned directly in the center of the pants.
Proper button placement
Buttons are too close to the center

  • Non-adjustable back-junction: Braces and suspenders are designed to have either an X-Back where the straps cross over each other in the rear, or a Y-Back, where the straps join together into a single strap as it continues down to connect with the pants. The place that the straps meet is called the back-junction. When the junction is fixed in place, it cannot be adjusted to fit your body shape. Taller people require the junction to be positioned higher on the back (but not on the neck), than shorter people. See the first photo below - this should be adjusted down, but it is unable to. When the junction is fixed, the straps are uncomfortable as the junction gets too close to the neck and shoulders, or they straps are constantly falling off the shoulders as the junction is too low.
The back junction should be raised
Non-adjustable back-junction

  • How to correct it: For braces or suspenders that have an adjustable back-junction, simply move the junction to be higher or lower. For braces or suspenders with fixed back-junctions, use some of the material from the hem of the pants to sew in rear-tabs on the back of your pants, forming "brace tabs", see image below.
  • Rear-tabs to raise back junction
    This effectively raises the back junction to reduce the chances of the straps slipping of your shoulders. Historically, men wore braces every day, but did not always have adjustable back junctions. Brace tabs were the common solution to keeping straps from slipping off the shoulders.

  • Faulty clips: Suspender clips eventually fail, and when they do, they can snap off suddenly. The more suspenders are worn, the more chance they will lose their gripping power, especially if the cloth material is thick.
  • How to correct it: Unless you love the colors or patterns of the straps, throw out the suspenders and get a better pair. You should also consider graduating to braces, as buttons popping off are less frequent and do not involve metal objects flying around your body!

The next time you wear suspenders or braces, remember to avoid these problems.