That’s suspenders to the Americans out there; braces to the British.
I’ve always been curious about braces. I can see the argument for wearing one’s trousers on the natural waist (above the hip bone, around the belly button) as was the norm for much of the past century. It’s the slimmest part on your body so the shape up and over the hips is nice. (Women are increasingly realising this advantage today.) The curve down to your seat, over it and down straight in one unbroken line to black, polished calf is also attractive. Perhaps most importantly, when you put your hands in your suit pockets, no shirting is exposed, swelling ugly from the belly.
Equally, there is the comfort argument. Trousers that are hung by braces do not need to be as tight as those that need to grip onto the hips in order to stay up. They are bigger, perhaps not noticeably to anyone else but certainly to yourself.
When I had my first bespoke suit made with braces (and a higher, fishtail back to accommodate them) a few months ago, I quickly became a convert to the comfort argument. It’s not so much that I walked around feeling free and suddenly – without the help of yoghurts and friendly bacteria – unbloated. I just felt normal, perhaps a little bit more relaxed but basically normal. Rather, I noticed when I put non-braced trousers on the next day. That felt constraining all of a sudden. It felt needlessly tight, particularly when I sat down.
The aesthetic argument for braced trousers was also one I could see, looking at myself in the mirror several times that day and upon future wearings – but it was less the clean fall from the butt and more the lengthening effect on the legs. It really does make one look taller – perhaps even, a little broader on the torso – to lengthen the legs and shorten the trunk.
So all positive. But I haven’t had any suits made that way since. Why? It sounds dumb but I just don’t like wearing braces all day long. Again it’s less the aesthetic side of the debate – if anything I’d love more ways to stand out from the crowd – but more the comfort one. It’s hot, constraining and tiring on the shoulders to wear braces.
I’ve tried wool and synthetic models (Drake’s and Thurston) without much difference being noticed – they’re still uncomfortable. Doubtless that feeling of fatigue in the shoulders would be something I’d get used to over time, but the same could be said of non-braced trousers. I never thought they were uncomfortable until I tried braces.
So an experiment failed. I won’t be having the trousers remade (nice to have one pair a little different) but then I won’t be commissioning any more like that either. Nice to have tried it and know it’s not for me.