Friday, December 5, 2014

Ramblings of a Brace-Wearer: A Popped Button

It is inevitable: when you wear braces you are bound to have a button pop off occasionally. The 6 brace buttons undergo strain and tension throughout the day to support your pants from the constant pull of gravity. Yesterday it happened to me: one of my brace buttons popped off on my jeans. I was wearing a pair of jeans that I only wear with braces (no belt loops). I should not be surprised, but I am!

My surprise came from the fact that I was not doing strenuous activity. The braces were not being pulled or stretched - I was simply walking in the kitchen, when I felt my left brace strap suddenly shift to the left. I looked down to find the freed button on the ground and a dangling brace tab.

Drooping waistline from the popped brace button

I think most people assume brace buttons pop off when pulled or with a significant tug. But I share this story because buttons can also pop off simply by everyday wear and tare. This gradually results in the threads losing their hold with the button slipping from the threads and coming off.

Fortunately I was wearing inverse-V brace tabs so the change in brace tension was minimal. The braces continued to support my jeans and I made it through the day. If I had been wearing braces with inverse-U tab, the strap would have been ineffective to support the pants. Here's the result:

My front, inner brace button popped off
The button that popped off was the front, inner button on the left side. I’ve mentioned in a previous post that the front-inner buttons are frequently under a lot of strain; hence they are likely to pop off. Now I’m wearing lopsided braces until I spend time to sew on the button.

Where the brace strap should be

Buttons are better than clips - even when they pop off

Braces are designed to be attached to pants or skirt with 6 buttons – 2 on the front left, 2 on the front right, and 2 in the rear. Any less than 6 buttons and the equilibrium is thrown off. Brace wearers will feel that the pants/skirt isn’t correctly supported without 6 buttons. Because the left strap is further to the side and not as taut, the strap has started to slip off the shoulder. I should sew this button back on soon!

A few days later I decided to wear clip-on suspenders with another pair of pants. I haven't worn clip-on suspenders in a while, so I thought I'd try them out again. This was a big mistake: within 2 hours of wearing them 3 of the 4 clips had snapped off. I was constantly reattaching them. I wondered why I was even wearing suspenders, as they were not keeping my pants up! 

Button-on braces attach and stay securely attached to pants much more than clip-on suspenders. Even though I didn't have all the buttons attached to the jeans, I was not constantly reattaching clips. When suspender clips pop off, you lose the only anchor on that part of the pants. With braces, when a button pops off, you still have 1 anchor holding your brace strap in place. I will wear button-on braces over clip-on suspenders any day!

Now you might think that buttons should be sewn in so securely that they never pop off. However, this is counter-productive as a popped button will save the brace tab and strap when under significant strain. A good tailor knows how much to sew the button on to keep it in place but also to give way if needed.

Given my particular situation, I think it’s fitting to explain how to sew on a brace button in my next post. Stay tuned!

Discussion time:

  • Have you popped any buttons? How did it happen?
  • Which button(s) do you find pop off?


  1. Yes, I’ve had the “buttons popping off” thing several times. It’s pretty annoying, when its happened I’ve gotten through the day by buttoning the dangling brace tab on the remaining button and keeping my suit jacket on. Feels strange, but the suspenders are still doing their job. As you mentioned it’s generally been on the front when it happens but it did happen once on the back. In that case I can’t really blame the button, one of the brace tabs had snagged on decorative piece on metal chair back. When I stood up the extra weight of the chair popped the button.

    I used to have the same problem with clip-on’s slipping that you had. Oddly enough the slippage usually seemed to happen in the back clips rather than the front clips, not sure why. It seems like it’s the same forces involved. However it seemed to occur when I was leaning over or flexing my shoulders when doing athletic activities. With clip-ons, over time I think either the metal in the clamps fatigues and they don’t clamp as tightly or the small nylon buttons designed to grab your pants in most suspender clamps get smoothed over with use and they don’t clamp as well. Either way I think most clips-on’s have a shelf life, could that possibly be what happened with yours?

    There is a company here in the states that manufactures clip on suspenders that don’t slip. I got a pair as a birthday present a several years ago. The design seemed like it would eliminate the problem so I’ve since gotten about ½ dozen pair and I’ve never had an unscheduled suspender departure like you describe with them. The wear out mechanism of these suspenders now seems to be the elastic material in the straps themselves rather than the clips. Anyway if you don’t want to entirely give up on clip-ons you might consider that. Personally I think clip-ons are a casual alternative to button on variety.

    1. @Anonymous: Thanks for your comments. Popped buttons are annoying but I think worth the hassle to save the brace tabs.
      I agree that clip-ons have a shelf life, because of the design of clip-ons. The clip must grip the waistband, while a brace tab simply connects to a button.

      I'm aware of the Hold-Up Suspender Company's patented no-slip clips. I don't have any pairs, but have heard from happy wearers.

      Personally, I like buttons for a number of reasons:
      - buttons are vintage and historically accurate
      - buttons offer a decorative element over clips
      - buttons are permanently attached to the pants and prompt the wearer to use braces

      I've always preferred buttons over clips. I'd rather live with a popped button occasionally than use clip-ons.
      Enjoy wearing braces - weather with buttons or clips!

  2. you mentioned in an earlier post that braces should be worn to keep trousers at the proper place on the hip - do you think it looks daft to wear braces if the trouser sits lower on the hip?

    1. @Anonymous: Good question - there is a good reason for wearing braces above the hips.
      Trousers were originally designed to be worn at your natural waist line. This was only achievable by wearing braces. The "rise" of trousers (distance from the crotch to the top of the waistline) has dropped over the past decade due to cultural influences, but for the first 100+ years of trousers, they were worn at the natural waistline. The natural waistline is different then the location of your hips. The natural waistline is on the same horizontal plane as your belly button.

      Trousers sit best at the natural waistline, providing a smooth transition over your stomach. Everyone (whether thin or portly) has a slight bulge around the waist when you inhale to breathe. Wearing trousers at the natural waistline allows the trousers to stay in place throughout the day, and minimize the effects of this bulge while breathing.

      If the waistline is below the natural waistline (even when worn with braces), then the bulge while breathing is constantly on display - which emphasizes your weaker features. This is why larger, portly men should war trousers at their natural waistline, supported by braces. Too often I see larger men wearing trousers below their hips and their waistline extending over their belt (such as this example). A better style choice would have been to buy trousers at their natural waistline with braces (here's an example).

      I would recommend wearing trousers at the natural waistline, supported by braces.

  3. One of the nice parts about suspenders is you can put your pants wherever you want to. If you keep any tension at all on them, your pants are going to wander up to your "natural" waist line. For those of you that took physics they go up until the upward force generated by the suspenders = the weight of the pants minus the co-efficient of static friction between your pants and you. Kind of the opposite effect happensif you tried to keep pants with a belt at your natural waist line. They would wander (at least mine do) down to my hips if for no other reason than the weight of the belt would pull them down until the circumference of the belt is less than the circumference of me.


    1. @Ken: Thanks for the scientific explanation for wearing suspenders. Hope it convinces more people to wear them!


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