Guide: How to get set up for braces

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Braces and suspenders, a belting alternative:

Braces, or suspenders if you like, are a mainstay of a gentleman’s attire. Sometimes you may be in luck and find the lucky pair of trousers that will sit on you without falling down, and hopefully without acting like a tourniquet round your vital parts. Mostly though, you will be in need of some aid to avoid embarrassing trouser droopage and this will come in the form of either a belt or a pair of braces. Or the trouser maker may have foreseen the need and added a cinch at the rear, though this is quite rare these days.

Pike Brothers trouser come with buttons ready for real braces. These are RAF surplus braces, superb and dirt cheap.

Pike Brothers trouser come with buttons ready for real braces. These are RAF surplus braces, superb and dirt cheap.

Belts are so simple and well documented that I will stroll right past them today and head right to the more interesting and curiously elite world of the braces. Braces being the British term and suspenders being the American term. I tend to vary which term I use depending on the setting, so don’t get upset or start putting accents on my words, ok?

A very dapper wee chap, carefully dressed up by his mother. One day he will rue the day this photo was taken.

A very dapper wee chap, carefully dressed up by his mother. One day he will rue the day this photo was taken.

Braces, a warning:

To start with, let’s get one thing straight: Clip-on braces are for kids. Or the clueless poser. Agreed? Oh, you’d like to hear my reasoning? The reason is that clip-on braces are purely for looks. I’ve yet to come across a clip that can get any real tension into holding a decent pair of trousers up, so it follows that they are merely for show. And while show is fine when added to function, on it’s own it brings us into a world where expensive watches, silk ties and expensive shoes without a functioning sole are par for the course. We don’t go there. And thus I alienated a few thousand readers looking for hot tips on how to style their clip-on braces. Such is life!

 

Indicating placement of the six necessary anchoring points for symmetrical and safe trouser suspension.

Indicating placement of the six necessary anchoring points for symmetrical and safe trouser suspension.

 

So, having established that clip-ons are out of the question we realise that braces are all about the buttons. If your favoured trousers already have them, congratulations, you’re sorted. If they don’t, you have two options. And this is where you need to make a decision: Will you be wearing the trousers with only braces, or will you occasionally be going commando, so to speak, and replace the trouser suspension unit with a regular belt. This is an important decision, as if you will only use braces for ever and ever, you can go for the best option. If you will occasionally want to “rock a belt”, you’ll want to go for the second best option, or else you will be filled with regret at you tighten your belt and feel six metal studs press into your waist.

Properly reinforced buttons on a pair of H&M tweed trousers.

Properly reinforced buttons on a pair of H&M tweed trousers.

Second best option:

The second best option, and notice how I am building up the suspension towards the grand finale, is to sew buttons onto the waistline of your trousers. You will need six buttons, a needle and some thread. The buttons are just regular buttons, about 1/2″ in diameter, or a little less, and hopefully not too flimsy. It looks nicer if they’re all the same, and I tend to favour black or brown for looks, though you could be creative. The needle needs to be sharp and strong enough to go through the waistline of your trousers. Experiment, or ask your mother. For thread, buy a spool of button thread. It’s a little more expensive, but in return it’s very much stronger, and you want to do this job once and not have the buttons fall off. Take pride in your work.

Press buttons as standard on Black Iron Clothing jeans.

Press buttons as standard on Black Iron Clothing jeans.

The best option:

The best option, and you’ll realise now why I mentioned the belt, is to use the press buttons you would commonly find on the fly of a pair of jeans. These require a small hole to be made, the two parts assembled and a careful tap with a hammer. And then it’s done. If you performed a quality tap, the button will sit there forever and be just the ticket for hanging your braces on. Plus if you find nice press buttons they’ll look good as well, especially on a pair of jeans.

The tape measure is your friend. Work to the old rule "measure twice, sew once" and avoid silly mistakes.

The tape measure is your friend. Work to the old rule “measure twice, sew once” and avoid silly mistakes.

 

To work out where to add the brace-anchoring implements, or buttons to keep it simple, work like this. At the rear of your trousers, find the mid point and go about 4cm/1.5″ out to either side, halfway down the waistband. That is a good starting point, though check with your braces to see if it looks sensible. A little further apart is also ok. At the front it gets a little more complicated as you have 4 buttons to place here. I prefer to work from the outside in, placing the first buttons about 1/2″ from the outside front edge, and then the second ones 8cm/3″ further in. If you have a pleat in your trouser, reference against this, but you should be pretty close to perfect. Mark your points and attach anchors. Or buttons.

Press buttons I found in a speciality shop in the centre of Gothenburg.

Press buttons I found in a speciality shop in the centre of Gothenburg.

Braces, summary and verdict:

Note, the best option is also of the more permanent kind, so if you’re feeling a little lumbersexual now, feeling the need for braces to go with your plaid shirt and so forth, but suspect it might wear off in the same way that drinking coffee out of jam jars wasn’t all that once you realised the benefit of having a mug with a handle, then the less permanent kind might be for you. This brings us back to buttons. Buttons can be removed and there will be little damage left over.

Or if you’re truly a weak-minded fashion follower, just get the damn clip-ons, just don’t let me catch you wearing them.

From my personal collection of splendid buttons, a vintage set of brass suspender buttons. I've yet to determine which trousers are worthy of these.

From my personal collection of splendid buttons, a vintage set of brass suspender buttons. I’ve yet to determine which trousers are worthy of these.

 

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7 Comments

  • Dominik 21/01/2015 at 11:29

    Interesting read… I am a fan of braces myself. 🙂 But If you allow me, one tiny bit of critisism – clip ons are as well for holding the trousers as buttoned ones ( I myself normally prefer buttoned braces, too). I do have both types and it really depends on the quality of the clip. For example I own braces from Karlinger, a Viennese manufacturer of belts and braces – they use heavy duty extra strong clips and they hold up the trousers really well. Of course, their main customers are older gentlemen, not fashion-conscious teenies – those braces aren’t cheap… Good clips are normally Made in Germany. 🙂

    Reply
    • Well Dressed Dad 21/01/2015 at 11:31

      Thanks, Dominik! You are entitled to your opinion, and I hear what you say. I still maintain that clips are a huge no-no, both functionally and aesthetically.

      Reply
  • janp 23/01/2015 at 19:12

    Great post, and those brass buttons are a beauty!

    Reply
  • Coolguy 19/05/2015 at 01:33

    Agree that buttons are best, but Hold-Up Suspenders from the States incorporate a pin in the clips which anchors to your pants even if the clip fails. They are not too expensive apart from the import tax and shipping costs, but do save the hassle of getting button sewn on, and do look more modern for younger guys like me!

    Reply
  • Daniel 14/02/2018 at 21:11

    If I have suspender buttons already on my pants (Rota) will any damage by stress occur to the material or pants by using suspendeders?

    Reply
    • nick 14/02/2018 at 21:13

      I can’t imagine so, you’re not putting a huge load on them. It doesn’t take much to keep you trousers up, unless you keep your pet rocks in your pockets 🙂 Go for it!

      Reply

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