Every man thinks about it occasionally. What would it be like to lose the belt and embrace the braces – to become a suspenders guy? Honest answer: pretty great. You just have to know what you're doing and remember not to take it too far and start dressing like you're in a period piece.
Suspenders started appearing in the early nineteenth century, when high-waisted pants (think: Joaquin Phoenix in Her) made traditional belts impractical. Besides the addition of elastic, that greatest of modern technologies, not much has changed since then. In a practical sense, suspenders are advantageous if you're wearing a secondary belt – something like a tool belt or a holster – so that buckles don't clutter up your waist. In terms of style, they have a slimming effect.
"Belts draw the attention to the waistline where suspenders draw the attention to the chest and shoulders, which might be an added benefit for heavier guys," says Ryan Timm, Senior Manager of Product Development for Filson, which makes classic leather tab braces.
Nailing that look takes a little experimentation. "The right fit is dependent on your comfort level and desired waist height," Timm explains, adding that suspenders "should not hang" or "blow in the wind." Timm says that the adjustments – the little metal clips on the front straps – should land parallel to one another across your chest, not lower on your abdomen: "They should attach in the front waist so they are exactly perpendicular to the floor. Do not have them angled toward your crotch or too far on your sides."
Clips are the easiest way to incorporate suspenders into your current wardrobe, but some pants will have buttons where you can attach tabs. If they don't, most tailors should be able to add them to existing pants. It looks better, but you've got to want it.
Suspenders can span a lot of styles, from traditional to rockabilly. We find that it's best to stick to something traditional like Paul Stuart's memorable tri-colors - if you want something a bit louder – High Cotton Ties' tartan and madras models. Filson's are great for a more vintage look, but remember that you want to look like a man who knows how to make an old-fashioned, not a man who does so professionally. [$64; filson.com]