No one wants to admit the real reason they wear suspenders, but let’s face facts: They’re fun! Suspenders — or “braces” if you’re feeling old-timey — instantly confer a jaunty, whimsical look on their wearer. Sure, they hold up your pants, but most people wear them for fashion, not function. And while suspenders are most frequently seen on men, there’s no reason women can’t rock them, too! Now, since suspenders aren’t an everyday wardrobe item for most people, mistakes can get made with the strappy accessories. A few Do’s and Don’ts follow.
DO Check Your Irony Meter
If hipster isn’t what you’re actually going for — and in fact you live in fear of getting called a hipster — it might be best to stick with old-school suspender wearing. In other words, keep it simple.
But if you’re “braced” for the consequences, let your ironic imagination run wild. Typical hipster pairings for suspenders include cardigans, luxurious knit scarves, and of course, the iconic fedora. A long beard and horn rim glasses never hurt, either.
A mini “Don’t” within the “Do,” however — don’t add a belt, even as a goof. Wearing both makes you look paranoid, not whimsical. Not to mention, all those buckles, clips and clasps add up to an incredibly cluttered, bulky look. In other words, you won’t be so much hipster as… hip-heavy.
DON’T Be a Sag Sap
Your suspenders of choice might be the kind with natural elasticity, since they’re so much fun to pull out with hooked thumbs and then snap back dramatically. Or you may prefer traditional fabric types, which are manually adjusted via clips and bars. These fabric braces may not have the fun “snap” quotient, but they do offer more variety in terms of colors and pattern.
But whether you’re all snap or all clip, it’s important to make sure your suspenders never droop. When suspenders aren’t properly fitted, they have a tendency to bow out, usually in either the chest or belly regions — and sometimes at the back, depending on the type. Chest sagging is even more unflattering on women than men, for obvious reasons, but it’s not a good look for anyone. Of course, the “hunchback” or “bloated belly” illusions are also not exactly figure-flattering, either.
Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to avoid the heartbreak of suspender sag. Replace elastic suspenders as soon as they lose their snap. Non-elastic suspenders can be adjusted via the “pulley system,” so check them once in awhile to make sure they’re lying flat, rather than drooping or curving outward.
DO Mork Out With Your Cork Out
Back in the day, suspenders might as well have been cork bulletin boards, for all the buttons and gadgets people chose to pin on them. The inspiration for much of this, of course, was Robin Williams, who brought his own unique circus-clown look to television when he was cast on “Mork and Mindy.”
Soon, kids and adults alike were following suit, festooning their rainbow suspenders with all manner of decorative buttons — a moon badge was a Mork constant — as well as safety pins, oversize clips, and pins featuring the shapes of rockets, clowns and pointing fingers.
There’s no reason that you, too, can’t be a human bulletin board, with vintage political buttons and costume jewelry pinned to your suspenders. Heck, why not pin your shopping list to those straps while you’re at it? Multifunctional is so in right now.
DON’T Fear the Retro
Of course, if you really want to capture the mood of any decade in which braces were big, you’ll need more than just the suspenders themselves. Go retro with your whole outfit.
For example, a key feature of the 70s look was sleek on top, and baggy on the bottom. Why not set your suspenders off with a color-blocked long-sleeved tee or jersey, pleated “paper bag” khakis and brightly-colored sneakers? It’s a look that either gender can carry off with flair, of course, but women back in the day also rocked their suspenders and baggy pants with print blouses featuring Peter Pan collars and little ribbon boleros. And a cute little fedora, of course.
Beginning in the 60s, working class men in the U.K. began pairing super-skinny braces with t-shirts and tight jeans — a look that has resonated in the punk community ever since.
On the other hand, if you want to let your inner 80s tycoon out, go full Gordon Gecko with wide, leather-clip suspenders, paired with an expensive-looking tie and a striped dress shirt with white cuffs and collar.
Finally, if you want to really hit a historic note, go full 1820s, when braces were first invented. High-waisted, light-colored trousers with a short-in-front, long-tailed jacket would really set off the look!