How to Wear Suspenders (Without Looking Like a Hipster)

They're cool, practical, and officially back in style. Here's how to wear them right.
IMAGE INSTAGRAM/ @thesignetstore

Suspenders may have you thinking of Larry King and similarly aged men, but it's hard to deny that the undergarment staple is one of the easiest ways to upgrade your style. Made popular by Wall Street bankers in the early 20th century, suspenders or “braces” were originally used by men to hoist their trousers up, quite literally “suspending” them in place.

With the rise of the modern low-rise pants after World War II, suspenders were replaced by belts, and have mostly remained that way until today. Still, its sartorial appeal is undeniable. With the return of mid-century style in the 2010s, suspenders suddenly feel cool again, and are no longer relegated to your grandfather’s musty closet of untouched items.

Before you dust off his trusty pair, though, know how to pull them off:

Suspenders are a great alternative to belts

While belts have been a wardrobe essential for a while now, there is definitely room in your closet for both accessories. Belts are dime a dozen, with many stores offering different versions in various price ranges, from fabric to leather, inexpensive to premium. They're also easy to use: You simply loop it around your waist and buckle it on.

Meanwhile, suspenders are comfortable to wear, probably even more so than belts. Instead of relying on your midsection to hold your pants in place, they distribute the tension more evenly on your back and shoulders, offering more mobility.

This makes suspenders a smart choice for heavy-set men, who find that their pants still fall down despite wearing a belt. Because of their vertical orientation, suspenders also offer the illusion of making legs look longer and men look taller.


There are different types of suspenders

Suspenders come with either two attachments: button or clip.

Buttoned suspenders: Suspenders that are meant to be buttoned come with two loops on each of their straps. These are designed to be fastened to buttons sewn on the inside of pants, a feature that mostly comes with business trousers. Should you find that your pants don’t come with these buttons, you can always go the DIY route and sew them in.

Buttoned suspenders can be worn with casual outfits: Think striped or leather straps with dark jeans. Of higher make and price than clip-on versions, these are the choice for men who plan on wearing suspenders regularly or for black tie events.

Clip-on suspenders: If you’re planning to wear suspenders only on occasion, clip-on suspenders are the more practical choice. These are less expensive and easier to wear: Just clip them on and you’re good to go.

This makes clip-on suspenders a great option for trendy casualwear, especially for pants that don’t necessarily need to be held up. Clip-ons are best suited for aesthetic reasons.

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Know the right size and fit for you

Suspenders aren’t necessarily one-size-fits-all. While there are significantly fewer sizes to figure out, the right length and width are crucial to making them look good. Guys of modest stature (between 5' to 5'9") should go for 42-inch suspenders; those taller (6' to 6'5") can pull off 52- and 54-inch suspenders; men in between (5'3" to 6'2") can pull off 46- and 48-inch suspenders.

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Aside from height, there’s also the matter of strap width. Suspenders that are an inch to an inch-and-a-half in width are the most common and the most versatile: You can wear them with dressy casual, business dress, and black tie.

Any thinner and it's something strictly for casualwear. Thicker straps are meant for heavy-duty work like, say, carpentry or plumbing, and will hardly come in handy.

Don’t wear suspenders with a belt

Groomsmen, take note. This is the biggest faux pas you can make while wearing suspenders. It’s an either/or situation for these accessories, as wearing both would be extremely redundant. Suspenders and belts were both created to hold your pants up, although through different mechanisms. Hence, belts were created to replace suspenders, not to complement it. Wear one or the other.

A sport coat or a jacket is preferred, but optional

True, suspenders were invented with the assumption that most men will wear them with a sports coat, blazer, or a dinner jacket—and they still look good with any of these options. (Parting one side of the coat to let the strap peek through is the ultimate style move.) If you’re going the formal route, then wearing a suit jacket with suspenders is a must.

However, as blue-collar men, '70s skinheads, and speakeasy hipsters have shown throughout the years, suspenders can also look just as stylish without a coat. You can never go wrong with a white shirt, suspenders, and jeans combo for example. Skip the coat if you’re going casual.


Be wary about wearing print

When it comes to printed suspenders, stripes are your best bet, and will always look good and tasteful. Other patterns largely depend on personal taste, as well as your ability to match them. When in doubt, follow the same rules for matching ties and shirts. Bold prints will always go with solid or neutral fabrics. Printed suspenders and shirts must have a complementary color to tie the pieces together. Meanwhile, if you choose to wear leather suspenders, it is imperative that they match the leather of your shoes.

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Keep the straps on your shoulders

Suspenders must always stay on your shoulders, no matter what rebellious teens will have you believe. Leaving it to lay on the sides looks, well, juvenile. As much as pairing a belt and suspenders offer redundancy, having it hang beside your waist completely defeats the purpose of wearing suspenders. Please wear your accessories properly, even for strictly aesthetic reasons.

What are suspenders and who should wear them?

Suspenders are fabric straps worn over the shoulders to hold up pants. Back in the day, they were necessary for men who wore high-waisted trousers, and typically treated as undergarments, not meant to be seen in public. After Albert Thurston invented the modern suspenders in the 1820s, they enjoyed immense popularity until World War II, when fabric rations forced manufacturers to make lower-rise pants to use less cloth, leading to the rise of belts.

Knowing how to wear suspenders isn't as hard as it seems. Anyone can wear them, but for heavy-set men, they will be the better alternative. A belt strains and wrestles against a large midsection, while suspenders hold pants up from the shoulders, making them more comfortable to wear.


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