A common question that comes up early in a man’s style journey is whether belts or braces are the right choice.
Some people and writers like to say that there are rules as to whether you should wear belt or braces, but the truth is that there aren’t really any hard and fast rules – bar one specific one – that determine which you should wear. Or if you should even wear either.
However, your choice of what you wear will imply a certain message that your choice will communicate about you. This can be helpful in deciding what you want to wear.
Because of the nature of this, I’ll split the following into a discussion of what each type of trouser fastening might say about you, or why you might want to choose it.
The belt is a classic choice for many men. Available in leather, fabric, mixed weave or more exotic options like using a strip of fabric or rope, belts can be fashioned out of all sorts of things and be made for any occasion from the most casual to the most formal.
As such, wearing a belt is a safe option for most men and just wearing one alone won’t make much of a statement, so if you’re wanting to play it safe a plain belt is a good choice.
For more summery outfits you can go with woven leather or fabric belts to make a statement, or fabric strips/ropes for a big fashion statement. Western belts are a cool casual choice too.
I don’t tend to wear belts a whole lot, as I prefer to wear neither – a well fitted trouser waist shouldn’t require anything. However I occasionally wear a belt when I want there to be a divider between my shirt and my pants.
There are some useful rules of thumb when it comes to wearing belts:
If wearing a waistcoat, avoid wearing a belt.
There’s something aesthetically displeasing about a belt buckle protruding from underneath a waistcoat, so it’s advisable to go with either suspenders or have side tabs on your trousers instead.
If wearing leather shoe and leather belt, avoid mixing black and brown.
As much as the ‘don’t mix black and brown’ rule is generally nonsense, it has some merit when it comes to belt and shoes. Black belt with brown shoes – or vice versa – tends to look tacky.
This isn’t to say your belt and shoes need to match, though. Mixing shades of brown looks quite good.
Also, watch bands don’t apply to this rule in my opinion. They’re far enough removed from belt and shoes that you can wear whatever harmonises with your outfit.
The suspender was the classic choice for many men in times gone by, but has been experiencing a low in popularity for some time.
It’s easy to see why, as they do give off more of a vintage vibe. Add that to the trend of clothing fitting closer over time – suspenders work best on looser fitting clothes – and people largely preferring to look modern as opposed to vintage, and you can see why suspenders are no longer the popular choice.
I’ve only worn braces once in my life, in my Prohibition party outfit. I find that they look weird on me, because I am broadly built with a short torso and long legs. But I do understand the appeal in some circumstances and I certainly found them to do a better job than a belt.
For example, I find that braces do tend to look more elegant with a suit than a belt does. And naturally, they’re great for a more vintage look.
Another good use for them is if you prefer to have a trouser that is looser in the waist, and you don’t want to cinch them with a belt. Considering that trousers cut specifically for wearing braces are usually a bit looser fitting and can hang more naturally; as a consequence, these type of trousers can have some of the best drape you’ll ever see.
So, if you’re planning to have a big dinner a trouser cut for braces worn with braces would be perfect!
But I’d still prefer to wear side adjusters and just loosen them a little after dinner.
Side note: clip on suspenders look tacky and cheap. Go for buttons: if you’re going to wear them, do it right!
Wearing neither belt or suspenders is what I usually do. While I often just wear a trouser with a fitted waist and no adjustment, my preference for an adjustable waist is to have side adjusters.
While this isn’t an option that’s readily available on off the rack trousers, some niche off the rack brands will offer it and most made to measure or bespoke makers will offer it.
A less known option of adjusting the waist fit is a rear cinch, which I have on my pair of Polo Ralph Lauren seersucker trousers.
These kinds of options are great if you want to have your trousers fit a little looser so you can open them up. As aforementioned, it’s good for adjusting the waist size after a meal. But it’s also good economically; you can simply adjust the cinch to tighten or loosen the fit if your body weight changes, rather than having to have it altered or put up with a less than desired fit.
A lot of the trousers I wear don’t have either of these options though, simply because I don’t have the money to order all custom clothing or shop for new luxury clothing.
So I just wear what I can find, and make sure it fits well enough that I don’t need to belt or brace it.
In an ideal world, I’d be having the belt loops removed from these trousers to achieve a cleaner look. But that’s a detail that I don’t think it’s wise to be spending a lot of money on alterations to achieve at this stage in my life.
Conclusion: every option’s an option.
Belt, suspenders or neither: all can be a viable option for you.
Which do you prefer for yourself?