Friday, May 21, 2021

Braces in the Summer

With summer around the corner, comes warm weather and a challenge to stay cool. You want your clothes to be airy and breathable: this is not the time for skin-tight pants! Even if your pants are roomy, the problem can be at the waist – when you tighten a belt. This is exactly where braces are perfect for achieving summer coolness – in both senses of the word! 

When pants are loose at the waistline and pant legs it allows air to flow and circulate hotter air up and cooler air in. In order to maintain the pants at your desired height, braces should be used. With looser pants, the pants should actually be suspend by braces. That is, the pants would simply fall down when braces are not worn as well.

Stripped navy braces with dress pants for a more casual look

In addition, while you may want to wear t-shirt and shorts all the time, this may not be appropriate for all occasions. Take a wedding, for example. It’s generally not appropriate to wear shorts (although there are some exceptions), so a man must wear pants. However, he can be stylish and functional by wearing looser fitting, high-waisted, vintage pants supported by braces. Braces add a formal touch to your outfit and allow you to express your personality.

Or take an example from the corporate environment. It is generally not appropriate to wear shorts to the office, so pants are a necessity for men or women. Here again, you can be stylish and functional by wearing looser fitting, high-waisted, vintage pants supported by braces. Braces add a sophisticated touch and express your personality. This style looks great on both men and women.

High-rise checkered pants with braces

High-rise pants with braces by Staud Clothing - perfect for the office

From personal experience, I can attest to the fact that pants with air flow are superior to tighter pants on warm summer days. This can only be achieved with the help of braces. It’s a win-win, braces complement the outfit and provide air movement - style and function at the same time! 

In addition, people recognize the effort I’ve put in to my personal, vintage style. They comment that the high-waisted pants coordinate well with the braces. Or they reminisce about growing up with a similar style.

On a Spring day this week I wore a blue dress shirt with beige pants for a business meeting. The pants are roomier at the waist, which helped keep me cool.

My beige pants with burgundy braces

The meeting went well and I was very comfortable, all the while displaying my burgundy braces. I said goodbye and left the meeting. As I was leaving the coffee shop, I walked past a young lady who piped up and said, "Nice suspenders!" and nodded her head in approval. I smiled and thanked her.  It's so nice to receive compliments on my braces and style. I will be wearing this style again.

Are you heading to a wedding or the corporate function this summer? Wear braces for comfort and style. I’d love to hear your experience and what people’s comments are on your style.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Tales of Brace-wearing (Part 2)

Remember the man working in a corporate office from "Tales of Brace-wearing (Part 1)"? 

We rejoin him as he visits an elderly lady and her adult son at a business meeting. 

The man knocks on the door and is greeted by the son, “Welcome, glad you could come out to us rather than us going to your office today.”

“My pleasure,” says the man.

“May I take your coat?” asks the adult son.

“Sure,” replies the man.

“I can also take your suit jacket, if you’d like - my mother likes to keep the temperature toasty in here,” says the son.

“Sure,” replies the man as his mother walks up.

“Welcome to my home,” says the elderly lady smiling. “Thank you for coming to me. I must say, you are well dressed in your high-rise pants and braces. I haven’t seen those in years! That is so lovely.”

“Thank you, I find them very comfortable and love the nostalgia of braces,” says the man.

 “As do I,” says the lady. “I grew up when all boys and men wore braces with their pants. Nobody thought twice about it; braces were commonplace.”

Errol Flynn wearing braces

“I’d love to have grown up in that era,” says the man.

 “Well, here we are. At least you can wear clothing from that era. I see you are wearing braces with buttons, not clips,” said the lady. “That’s the correct way to wear braces. How did you find pants with brace buttons? Do they still make them?”

“Oh I didn’t,” replied the man. “I found these pants at a thrift store and sewed the buttons on.”

“I see”, says the lady, “and you know something about button placement - above the main pleat and on the side. You’ve done your research. I used to be a seamstress back in my day. Can I see the rear of the pants?”

The man turns around to reveal his back side.

“Beautiful,” says the lady. “I see the rear buttons are attached on the outside of the waistband, but the front ones are on the inside. Why the difference?”

“Two reasons,” replies the man. “First, I like the look of the brace tabs overlaying the buttons, on top of the waistband. As you commented, its a beautiful look! Secondly a practical reason: when buttons were sewn into the inside, the waistband had multiple layers and the pull of the button would cause the waistband to separate internally. So I decided to sew them on the outside to keep the brace tab flush with the waistband.”

“Yes, the rollover effect,” says the lady. “That’s why I would sew all the buttons on the outside of the waistband.”

“Oh yes, I forgot you were a seamstress,” says the man.

“Yes, I’ve sewn my fair share of brace buttons in my day,” says the lady. 

“I’m so glad some young people these days are getting back to the classics of style. Some people call it vintage, but that’s what I grew up with and familiar with. You look so dashing in your braces – keep wearing them!”

“Thank you, I will!” says the man.

The lady continued, “some people think braces should not be shown in public. I don’t know where that came from because back in my day braces were worn and shown. It was commonplace to see men in dress shirts and braces without a jacket or waistcoat, especially in  hot, summer months. Men had a jacket for meetings, for instance, but took it off around the office or at home.”

“That’s interesting to hear,” said the man. “I’ve heard conflicting advice that braces should not be seen, but then why have interesting designs and patterns on the braces? It’s comforting to hear it from you.” 

“You’re welcome,” replied the lady. “Don’t think twice about wearing braces in public – more young people should. I enjoy the different styles and patterns of braces like you said,” says the lady.

“Thanks,” says the man.

“We could probably continue talking about style and braces all day, let’s move on to why you came today,” says the lady.

“Absolutely,” says the man, as he smiles and strides across the room in his high-waist pants and braces.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Waistlines are trending up

Pants with suspenders

Have you noticed? Waistlines on pants and skirts are rising. 

Over the past 10 or so years, waistlines lay below the belly button - at or just above the hip bone. The next generation of young kids coming up is looking to differentiate themselves from the previous generation, and one way they are doing this is by wearing pants and skirts higher on their waist. Designers are happy to oblige. 

Pinstripe pants with braces

This is a natural cycle, moving from low-rise pants to high-rise. This is occurring in different styles of clothes, including office wear, casual wear, and sportswear. Dress pants have risen and taper to the ankle. Jeans and cotton pants have high rises. Yoga pants sit higher on the waist. The placement of skirt waists are higher than 2 years ago.

Skirts with braces

All of these different styles recognize the value in smoothing over the midsection. You can be underweight or overweight and take advantage of a waistline sitting above your waist. High-rise pants lengthen the legs as there’s more vertical fabric to fool the eye.

High-rise jeans with suspenders

As someone who’s worn high-rise pants for a long time, I welcome this trend. High-rise pants and skirts are the first stage before wearing braces. As waistlines rise, people will look to keep their pants at those heights, and that's where they will be re-accustomed to the art of wearing braces. I foresee braces becoming more prevalent in society.

This lady loves that braces have come back!

Diane Kruger at the Polo Ralph Lauren Children’s Fashion Show in August 2015 took her comfy wide-leg pants to a whole new level by wearing braces. In fact, the commentator mentions that "suspenders
are the ultimate menswear-inspired accessory and may be the little extra your outfit is missing."

It’s a fantastic style and I’m glad to see it coming!

The serious face for seriously comfortable braces

1. Have you seen people wearing high-rise pants more often these days?
2. Have you worn high-rise pants or skirt recently?

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Reflections on Wearing Braces

Today is National Suspenders Day. I’d like to share some current reflections on braces. I’ve been intentionally wearing braces for over 20 years now, starting in my early 20s. I’ve written before about how I got started, and why I wear them. Essentially, I wear braces for their both their comfort and functionality – they allow my pants to be loose-fitting and as such, are held in place with braces.

I wear braces almost every day, even while working from home. I’ve found it helps my mind get into work mode when I dress as I would for the office. I’m sitting at a desk for most of the day, and the loose waistline allows me to breathe in and out without having a restricted belt around my midsection. It is so comfortable. And when I stand up, my waistline stays at its proper place.

As I reflect on this, braces are the perfect complement to the clothes I wear for work. They allow me to display my personality through different colors and styles, add a vintage aspect, and are a distinctive yet understated accessory. I've branched out from only black and navy suits and pants to browns and greys as well. This also allows me to coordinate different colors of braces. When people notice my braces they comment that the look is so dapper and classic. I take it as a genuine compliment on my style. I enjoy these conversations!

Ad for Pioneer braces - transport me into these beautiful high-rise pants and braces!

I was looking recently at vintage photographs, in particular men wearing braces in the photographs. I noticed that their front brace tabs were quite spread out. I did some more perusing of old photographs and noticed that the placement was usually quite wide: one button directly above the main pleat (which is what I’ve always advocated), and the other button directly above the side seam of the pants. Here's some examples:

Exterior outer buttons are at the side seam

Exterior outer buttons are at the side seam

The man wearing the hat has his outer button above the side seam

When I inspected my button placement I noticed that the distance between the main pleat and side seam was another inch or so past my usual spacing of 3.5 inches. I was curious and wanted to try out this more vintage button placement. I sewed buttons directly above the side pant seam and attached my braces. 

On the particular pair of braces I chose, the brace tabs fanned out very nicely (see photo below). The waistline did not bulge but rather floated gently with the support of the spread-out brace tabs. I felt the outer brace tabs tug gently throughout the day, which kept my side seam straight. This was more noticeable when I sat down and felt a slight tug at the side seams.

The side seam on the left and
main pleat on the right

I have an ordinary build - my waistline is not overly large, so spanning the main seam and side seam with the brace tabs works well. But I realize brace tabs come in different sizes and have different spacing, so it may not work on narrower tabs.

I decided to wear this pair of pants to a family dinner recently. I matched the high-rise pants with the stripped Y-back braces, a blue dress shirt, and a knitted burgundy cardigan for warmth. Travelling there I was comfortable, but once I got inside the home it started to warm up; especially in the kitchen with the oven heat. I took off my cardigan and displayed my stripped braces and high-rise pants. People noticed, but things carried on, as everyone knows that I wear my pants with braces.

View from the front

I had to get up from the table a few times, and every time I stood up my braces were there to hold my pants in place. As I rose and bent forward I noticed that the outer brace buttons tugged my side seam more than the the previous button position. It was reassuring to me as it reminded me that my brace tabs were keeping the side seam straight and taut.

View of the rear

I enjoyed the dinner and the rest of the evening without thinking about my cardigan. It wasn’t until it was time to leave that I put the cardigan back on. Reflecting back, this must have been how men wore suit jackets and cardigans in the 1920s to 40’s. They would take off their outer layer when they got inside, and then put it back on when it was time to go out. Men revealed their braces and it was commonplace see braces around the home or office. In fact, it added to his whole outfit with stylish colors and designs.

As I take a look at what people are wearing these days, I notice that vintage styles are returning. I’m glad to be contributing my part by wearing braces! I plan on wearing braces for the rest of my life.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Being Recognized from my Personal Style

I was walking down the sidewalk recently, waiting for time to pass as my take-out order was in process. I had just left work and was still wearing a pair of high-waisted, teal pants with inverse-V maroon braces and a short-sleeve dress shirt. Someone called out, “Hey there!” I looked up with curiosity.

“We saw you from up the block and agreed that you dressed like someone we know. As you got closer we realized it was, in fact, you! Your style is so distinct with your high-waisted pants and braces,” said my friend. I thanked them and we carried on the conversation.

My personal style

This got me thinking about my personal style. I’ve been developing my style to include more higher-waist pants, always with braces.The waistline should be roomy enough that when I sit down, my stomach is not constricted. This means the waistline would slip down, wit ere not for braces. When I'm standing, the larger waistline allows air circulation and keep ms me cool in the summer months.

For those of us that wear braces, people associate braces with our personal style, which I think is great. Braces are an excellent way to show your personal style as there's so many  colors, designs, and styles.

I like the cover of The Country Gentleman from August 18, 1923. It shows a young lady attempting to convince the older gentleman to try a belt instead of braces. He refuses the belt and reattaches his right brace tab. I agree with him, a belt would not be comfortable or suitable for his high-rise pants. In fact, it appears his waistline doesn't even have belt loops to accommodate a belt. Like the gentleman, I'll stick with my trusty braces.

Some people say that my style is "old man" or "old school", as I wear high-waist pants with braces, a dress shirt, and a cardigan - like what the old man above would have worn! I'll accept this description, as it references back to a time when men had high style standards. And this style is so comfortable. I'll bet if any of the critics tried the style for a few days they'd fall in love with it as well!

People do appreciate your personal style. If that includes braces, that's great!

How would you describe your personal style?

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The importance of the position of the rear junction

Brace straps cross over (X-style) or come together (Y-style) on the wearer's back. The place that they come together is referred to as the rear junction and it's one of the most important elements of wearing braces, but not often considered. This post highlights different positioning and provides recommendations for you to enjoy brace wearing all the more.

The rear junction

The rear junction can either be fixed or movable. A fixed junction is more secure and is common on higher-end, luxury braces. A movable junction allows the wearer to shift the junction higher or lower on the torso to adapt the straps to the person's body.

Why is this important? Because straps slip off shoulders when the junction is low. The higher the junction, the closer together the straps are as they run over the shoulders, and the less frequent they slip off. But you don't want the junction to be too high, that it's at your neck (see photo below). This causes the straps to curve around your neck rather than the shoulder blades.

Rear junction is too high

The optimal positioning of the rear junction is such that the straps are in line your shoulder blades as they run over your shoulders. This allows your shoulders to move freely while minimizing the possibility of the straps slipping of your shoulders.
The placement of the rear junction is a tad low


The placement of the rear junction is too low
Perfect positioning of the rear junction
Perfect positioning of the rear junction

The alternative is no rear junction. That is, two straps that simply run from the front of your pants to the back, never connecting at the rear to each other, such as this pair of braces:

While this may be possible, it is not recommended. 

I came across some video clips of Jennifer Lopez sharing on the "The Elvis Duran Z100 Morning Show" and “HOT 97” on April 9, 2019 in New York City. 

Jennifer is wearing a simple white tank top with high-rise black pants. The pants have button-on black braces attached, giving a classic and stylish look. The high-rise pants sit above her waistline, allowing the braces to support them. 

I think this is a great outfit and don’t want to critique it. I couldn’t help notice as I watched the videos that Jennifer adjusted her brace straps twice during the 15 minute session. In the second clip, she adjusts her straps once (potentially more when not on camera). This tells me that the rear junction of the braces is too low relative to her shoulders. We don’t see the rear view of the braces. However, the way the straps slip from her shoulders indicates that the rear junction is very low. Therefore, the rear junction should be moved higher. This can be done by moving the junction point (if its movable) or by sewing excess fabric from the pants to extend the rear brace tabs higher. This was common in earlier decades.

Looking at how close the placement of the buttons is on the waistline (basically next to each other and not spread apart), I think the braces simply run parallel over the shoulders - identical to the brown pants shown above. As stylish as it may be, the straps have a tendency to slip off the shoulders. And this is what was occurring to Jennifer’s straps during the interviews. 

On another interview with the Breakfast Club, we notice that her left suspender strap is twisted. This helps keep it in place, but as someone comments “Her left suspender is bugging my OCD”, “Me too! She fiddled with it at one point, but then it was still twisted.” It's not natural to have a twisted suspender strap or for the straps to slip off.

Jennifer’s stylist has some options: cross the straps in the back, or otherwise connect them potentially as an H-style, or tighten the straps. By making these adjustments Jennifer would  comfortably wear the braces without having to tinker and adjust them throughout the day.

1. Have you worn braces that slipped off your shoulders during the day?
2. Have you worn parallel braces?
3. Where do you prefer to have the rear junction?

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Popped brace buttons

Let's admit it: buttons pop off. It could be the button holding your waistline closed on your pants or skirt, buttons on your shirt or dress, or, as we are focusing here, brace buttons.

Brace buttons carry significant responsibility: to keep your pants up. You rely on them to do their role all the time. In fact, you probably don't think about the importance of their role until it's not there, that is, when the button is not there.

Contrary to belief, buttons popping off is not poor design. In fact, they are to protect the braces. Would you rather have your braces break and be irreparable, or have a button pop off and simply replace the button? I think you'd agree that its easier to replace the button than the braces. There is an important principal of using cheaper replaceable parts (buttons) to minimize damage to more valuable parts (braces). Thus, by allowing buttons to pop off under significant stress this saves the brace loop and ultimately the braces. I would rather have a popped button than a broken button hole on the brace loop or broken braces.

One of the primary advantages argued by those in favor of clip-on suspenders is that  buttons pop off and need time to sew them back on, whereas once a clip snaps off, it can be easily reattached. While this is true, it misses the point of that buttons are much more securely attached to the pants than a clip and the style benefits of buttons.

Easy come, easy go: Clip-ons are easy to attach, and easy to snap off

Buttons become detached for one of two reasons:
1. the button is pulled beyond it's capacity, and the thread capacity, and it gives way
2. the button is not under pressure, rather the button threads simply wear out over time resulting in the button slipping off

Let's look further at these 2 reasons.

1. Buttons under pressure
Given enough pull on the braces, buttons will pop off under sufficient strain. In West of Hot Dog (1924) a comedy with Stan Laurel, Laurel is on way to collect an inheritance in the small town of Hot Dog when he is robbed by a gang of highwaymen. He's asked at gunpoint to come out of the carriage, which Stan signals he'll happily do by exiting the opposite side of the carriage - in order to make his getaway. Stan turns to exit, with his braces as the only thing available to restrain tan. The highwaymen grabs the rear brace straps and pulls as Stan pushes forward. The camera angle shows Stan's rear braces pop off from the strain:

Rear buttons popping off under the strain
Stan falls forward, but the braces restrain him. The highwayman pulls the braces and Stan exits the carriage. Stan's braces no longer hold up his pants and the remainder of the scene shows in comical fashion what happens when Stan raises his hands for the gunman.

Notice that the brace tab button holes are still intact. All Stan needs is two new buttons to be sewn on to his pants and he can use his braces again. Also notice the durability of the left button - only popping off after significant pressure. So unless someone has the braces in their firm grip and pulling them with all their might, braces generally do not pop-off. 

Clip-on suspenders snap off all the time and would need to be constantly attached, which is annoying - your pants are not held up when your suspender clips keep snapping off! The fact is, clip-on suspenders would have snapped off a lot sooner than the buttons popped off in this case. Therefore, use buttons.

Testing if any buttons will pop off

Brace thread
Ensuring buttons stay attached can partially be addressed by using a strong thread. But balance is needed when determining the strength of the button threads to anchor braces – too strong and the brace strap will break from pressure resulting in the braces not being usable, too weak and the button threads will be constantly failing and buttons popping-off, resulting in the need to sew on buttons. Therefore, use a stronger thread weight and strength for sewing on brace buttons.
This brace button is separating from the waistline as the thread is lengthened. The button is about to pop off due to poor quality brace thread

2. Button threads wearing out
Similar to other fabrics, thread can wear out over time, especially with constant use. It's also very thin and can be ground down. As a result, there can be a slow tearing of the thread that eventually releases the button. Sometimes this is quick and sometimes it's a very slow process. 
I remember observing a man in a suit with his jacket off one summer day. He was wearing Y-back braces. His rear brace tabs were about an inch from the top of his waistline, as the braces were hanging on by a few strands of thread (similar to the photo of the lady above). It would only be a matter of time before those threads would give way and the buttons would have not be secured to the waistline.

I used to think that brace buttons always became detached from strain or when pulled. Maybe it's because that's what I saw in movies and comics. I've come to learn from wearing braces for many years that this is not always the case - sometimes it's simply that the threads wear out.

Case on point, I was working at a professional office a while back. I was wearing a brown pair of dress pants with stripped blue, inverse U-tab braces and a dress shirt. I had taken my suit jacket off for the day (as was customary). I went through my day with my braces on display and didn't think anything of it. The pants were securely attached and held in place by my braces - or so I thought.

Late in the afternoon I was walking down the hallway when a considerate lady stopped me to ask if my pants felt secure. I replied, "yes, thanks to my braces," lightly tugging on my straps. She clarified that she meant the rear of my pants.

A popped button on the rear inverse-U tab braces
"Do you know that one of your attachments is disconnected at the back?" I was shocked and instinctively reached back with my hand to confirm it was true. One side of my inverse U-tab had slid all the way up and the rear strap was only anchored by one button. I hadn't felt the change in tension at any point during the day!

"Oh no, you're right. I've popped a brace button," I said, feeling self-conscious and blushing. She smiled and said, "Don't worry, that can happen with any button. Buttons are easy to sew on. I bet you can sew another one on easily."
"Yes, I'll have to do that," I replied.
She continued on by stating how much she liked that I wear braces. "Your braces are so stylish and befitting of you. You look very dapper and professional. I hope you don't stop wearing braces because one button popped off?"
"No, I definitely won't," I replied. I thanked her and forced a smile.
While one button was detached and provided no support, I still felt secure and confident that my pants would stay where they should be, which is something you can't say for those wearing belts.

In conclusion, don't be too concerned about buttons popping off - it's a right of passage for us wearing braces.