If you’ve ever seen a man rocking a pair of suspenders, you’ll know they can either look pretty damn cool or, well, a bit old fashioned, if we’re honest. There’s a reason for that - did you know that suspenders have been around a long time, and in the 19th and early 20th centuries they were considered underwear, so it was improper for a gentleman to have them on display? Prior to the First World War, very few people outside the military actually wore belts, as suspenders were used to hold up a man’s pants. The wearing of belts is actually a pretty modern trend, and they’re not always the most comfortable fashion accessory.
Whether you already own a pair of suspenders and are wondering how to wear them or are totally new to the world of suspenders (also called ‘braces’ in the UK), we’re here to show you how to wear them and give you some styling tips.
What are suspenders?
First thing’s first: what the heck actually are suspenders? Also known as braces, they’re straps of cloth (that are usually elasticized all the way around or at the ends) that go over your shoulders and down to your trousers. Suspenders can come with clips or buttons on the end, which attach to your waistband, and they generally join at the back in a Y or X-shape. You’ll find them in a range of different materials, from wool blends to rayon and even silk. Suspenders provide a smarter appearance to belts, as there’s no unsightly bunching of fabric or ballooning that you can sometimes get with a belt. Many men also find suspenders more comfortable as there’s no leather or cloth band pressing up against your waist when you sit down.
How to wear suspenders
When it comes to how to wear suspenders, there are a few things to bear in mind:
- Some pairs of suspenders will have a plastic or metal attachment that grips your trousers, while others have a small button at the end of each suspender
- Button styles are the best if you’re concerned about damaging the fabric of your pants, but bear in mind you’ll need to ensure your pants have button flaps (these are usually on the inside of the waistband.
- Suspenders are a must for black-tie outfits, but they shouldn’t be seen beneath your jacket
Suspenders couldn’t be easier to wear, just throw the straps over your shoulders then clip or button them to your pants - job done! Because they are usually worn underneath a jacket, they’re not usually visible until you take your jacket off, so you don’t need to worry too much about making a style faux pas when shopping for them.
There is one thing you’ll need to consider for how to wear suspenders: buckle placement! All suspenders have buckles so that you can adjust the length to suit. Make sure you don’t wear the buckles too high up on your shoulders or too low down by your waist. The ideal placement is around mid-way down your torso, or sitting around the middle point of your tie.
Suspenders vs belts: which is better?
Should you choose suspenders or a belt when it comes to keeping your pants up? Turns out, as well as being practical, it all comes down to which style you prefer…
Let’s face it, suspenders probably aren’t going to replace belts anytime soon. We’ve all got a favorite belt that we love to pair with our work suits or jeans and tees at the weekend, whether it’s a chunky brown leather style with a cowboy buckle or a sleek skinny black leather belt. Yet suspenders are most definitely a logical solution to keeping your pants exactly where they should be, and when you’re wearing suspenders you won’t get that annoying bunching up of fabric you often get under your belt that can be so uncomfortable - usually at the most inconvenient of moments!
Comparing the benefits of each is easy. This handy table will help:
Benefits of suspenders
Benefits of belts
More dressy and classy
Can be dressed up or down
Great if you’re on the short side - suspenders eliminate the horizontal line a belt creates that cuts you in half, so you look taller and your legs are elongated
Come in a wide range of styles from traditional to modern
You don’t need trousers with suspender buttons - it’s easy to add these yourself or ask your tailor
Acceptable to wear in a wider range of situations - for example, on a date or at work
Can create a stylish look by matching your shoes to your suspender ends
Easy to choose the right belt for your outfit - pick a black or brown leather one and you can’t really go wrong
Ultimately, it’s a personal decision which to go for - but you’ll want to think about the following:
- What’s the occasion? For a date where you’re dressed casually, a belt is likely to be the best option, whereas suspenders are ideal for a wedding and a must for black-tie events
- What look are you going for? Suspenders are a bit more traditional (unless you’re going for wild patterns and colors)
- What will be most comfortable for you? If you’re going to be doing a lot of sitting down, suspenders may be more comfortable than a belt
- How do your pants fit? If your pants are a little loose, a belt may cause extra fabric to bunch up under it, a problem that can easily be solved by ditching the belt in favor of suspenders!
Choosing the right suspenders: what to consider
So you’ve decided to embrace suspenders, but how do you choose the right ones? There are a few things you’ll need to consider, such as:
Let’s look at each of these in a bit more detail.
Good news: choosing the right length of suspenders is actually pretty simple! Although you’ll find different lengths available, suspenders are generally around 46 inches long, and they’re almost always adjustable to fit. If you’re worried about them being too short, there are companies out there who will make suspenders to order to a custom length.
Image source: sharpanddapperinstagram
The usual width for suspenders is 1 ⅜ inch. This width is suitable for most guys, but there are a couple of caveats:
- If you’re a big guy or you want to rock a more conservative look, you can wear wider suspenders, up to 2 inches wide.
- If you’re a skinny dude or you’re going for an edgy, trendy vibe, thinner suspenders might be a good choice. Just don’t wear any thinner than 1 inch as not only will these look a bit silly, they won’t be functional!
Choosing the material for your suspenders is entirely a personal decision. Take a look at what else you’re wearing - you might want wool suspenders to complement your tweed suit, or silk suspenders if you’re attending a black-tie event, for example. You don’t have to match fabrics either - sometimes it can be nice to choose a material for your suspenders that contrasts with the rest of your outfit.
One rule is important to remember when rocking suspenders. The leather ends of your suspenders should always match your shoes. So if you’re wearing black pants and brown shoes, you should pair them with suspenders with brown leather ends - and if you have a leather briefcase or bag, ideally that should be the same color. While this is seen as a pretty important rule, you don’t need to live or die by it, as long as you try to avoid clashing!
Should suspenders match your suit, shirt, and tie?
This is a question a lot of men ask - when it comes to how to wear suspenders, do they need to match your suit, shirt and tie? The answer is not as simple as you might think, which is why we’ve created this handy table so you can match your suspenders to your outfit at a glance:
Navy blue, dark brown, dark grey
Navy blue, black, dark brown, dark grey
Navy blue, dark grey
Navy blue, black
The general rule to remember when choosing suspenders is that they should always be darker than your shirt. This is why navy suspenders look so good with a pale blue or white shirt, and why you shouldn’t wear pale grey suspenders with a burgundy or black shirt!
Play it safe and choose a solid color if you’re attending a formal event or heading for the office - for a date or less formal event, you can get away with a patterned pair. A plain black or navy pair of suspenders are a versatile choice, but if you’re feeling brave, you can wear suspenders that pick up or complement a secondary color in your outfit. For example, choose suspenders with silver hardware to match a silver tie pin or silver patterned tie.
Wearing suspenders to a wedding
Suspenders are a must for most black-tie events, and while you don’t have to wear them to a wedding, they’re a great alternative to a belt. If you’re wondering what to wear to a wedding, here are a few things to bear in mind:
- If you’re one of the groomsmen, you may all have different outfits but be asked to wear the same color/style of suspenders. Make sure you stick to the bride’s wishes, as this may be the one common thing that you’re all wearing - and if you are the odd one out, it could ruin the wedding photos!
- Suspenders are a great way to add personality to a wedding outfit, but bear in mind the following rule:
- If you’re wearing a patterned tie, opt for solid color braces
- If your tie is a solid color, you can wear patterned braces such as plaid, checks, stripes or spots - depending on the rest of your outfit
Ultimately, suspenders are the ideal accessory for a wedding and can offer a smarter, more formal look than wearing a belt - but whatever you do, don’t be tempted to wear both!
Rocking suspenders on a date: what to do and what not to do
We’ve seen plenty of guys on dates - whether they’re blind dates, first dates or those all-important third dates - rocking a great pair of suspenders, but there’s a time and a place!
Here’s what to think about if you’re wondering whether you should wear suspenders on your date:
- Is your date going to be formal or casual? Suspenders might look great with a suit, but who wears a suit to the movies?
- What will your date be wearing? Suspenders and a suit may not be the best choice for a first date when you have no idea of your date’s dress sense or style. If they turn up rocking jeans and sneakers and you’re in a light grey suit, brown shoes and suspenders, you might be left feeling like a fish out of water!
- Steer clear of wacky prints and crazy patterns on your suspenders unless you’re going to an event that calls for it. Solid colors and classic style - think navy blue suspenders with brown leather ends - are the safest option and will look stylish with whatever you’re wearing.
- How comfortable are you wearing suspenders? A first date is nerve-wracking enough without it being the first time you’ve worn suspenders too. You should always wear a favorite outfit that you’re confident in when you’re on a first date.
Remember that, although it’s great to look stylish on your date, the most important thing is to have a great time and dazzle your date with your personality, so that they will barely even notice what you’re wearing.
What socks to wear with your suspenders?
Whether you’re attending a wedding, going to a work event or heading off on a date, choosing the right socks is more important than you might think. Opt for crazy outlandish socks for a client meeting and you could come across as unprofessional, while wearing no socks at all is an even bigger fashion faux pas. We’ve picked out some of our favorite men's dress socks from Soxy to wear with your suspenders, whatever the occasion.
Sometimes it's best to keep your dress socks simple, particularly if you’re wearing lots of little details with your outfit, like a pocket square, tie pin, and suspenders. These grey square socks tick all the boxes - they’re soft, a nice, dark color and have just enough interest in the pattern to add a little personality to your look.
If you’re planning on dressing up as Dr Who for the next comic convention in your city - suspenders included - may we recommend the Earth and Space sock bundle? Perfect for all aspiring nerds and scientists, these novelty socks channel your inner geek and are pretty colorful and fun too!
These fun Movember Moustache print socks are a nod to the dapper air wearing suspenders gives a man. Pair them with a stylish dark grey suit, light blue shirt and navy blue suspenders with brown leather ends - and perhaps a pair of brown leather brogues - and you’ll be the envy of everyone you meet!
Real estate agents have a reputation for looking dapper at the best of times. If you’re wondering how to wear a tie clip or what color pants to wear with black shoes, ask your realtor friends! And if you’re in real estate yourself, pick up a pair of these snazzy Real Estate Home socks, which will pair nicely with your navy suit, navy suspenders, crisp white shirt, and polished black shoes.
It can be great to pick out one color in your outfit and choose accessories that match it. So for example, if you’re wearing navy suspenders, match your socks to your suspenders. For red or blue solid color suspenders - or even patterned suspenders - these red diamonds and waves socks are the perfect choice! Bright enough to get you noticed yet not so bold that they’ll be the focus of your outfit, these cool colorful socks are our favorite pair of the moment.
5 disadvantages of suspenders
So far we’ve told you how to wear suspenders, helped you choose the right colors and styles, and given you some tips for wearing suspenders on different occasions. It’s about time we let you know about some of the disadvantages of suspenders - they do exist.
- Suspenders are considered comfier than a belt, but they’re not always as versatile or as sturdy as your trusty black leather belt that goes with everything.
- If your suspenders catch on something and snag, they could damage your pants. It’s particularly important to bear this in mind if your pants are made of delicate material or if they’re a rental for a wedding or other formal event.
- Suspenders don’t age well. An older pair of suspenders can lose their elasticity and fit which can lead to your pants sagging - not a good look.
- If you’re the kind of guy who loves putting together all the little details of an outfit: belt, tie pin, pocket square, etc, then suspenders may not be ideal for you. They’re generally hidden by your suit jacket, so they sometimes give you less chance to express your personality.
Now you’re aware of the disadvantages of suspenders you can make an informed decision about whether they’re the accessory for you - but we recommend giving them a go to find out.
Need more how to wear suspenders inspiration?
There are some great instagram accounts out there sharing photos of outfits with suspenders that will give you the fashion inspo you’re looking for. Check out some of these:
For suits, boots and braces (suspenders), this insta account is the place to be. Expect regular pictures of outfits with everything from brown leather suspenders to more colorful styles, which will help you when you’re stuck for what to wear!
For quirky, colorful suspenders and color combos, Dautan’s Instagram is one to follow. We love some of their bold colors and bow tie and suspenders combos, like the one above. If you’re looking for advice and inspiration for how to sport bolder color choices, check out this account!
This Italian brand’s Instagram features hundreds of colorful braces (suspenders to you and me) made in sunny Italy. We love their Liberty print suspenders! You’ll also find some great inspiration for how to pair colorful suspenders with more toned down outfits, and some classic styles like navy denim and brown leather, which will go with just about anything in your wardrobe. And because they’re made in Italy, you know they’re going to be high quality.
Japanese brand Nomura creates colorful, eye-catching suspenders as well as more traditional styles, so there’s something for everyone. There are suspenders for both men and women too, whether you’re looking for an everyday navy blue and brown leather style or something a little crazier!
This guy (Luigi della Cost) definitely likes some vibrant colors. He’s always immaculately put together and there are some color combos there we’d never come up with ourselves, like this yellow tie and colorful suspenders - see how the pattern in the suspenders picks up the color from the tie?
Now that you got some inspiration, go out into the world, suspenders over your shoulders, and show the fashionistas how it’s done!