How to Rock Suspenders (and Why You Might Want To)
Erin Gray (Pronoun: she/her) is a Portland, OR based writer with an affinity for working behind the scenes with companies that offer something unique to their market. When she’s not writing, she likes to roam around mossy hiking trails, wear leather hats, and build stuff. You can find her on instagram @rawhidelaces or email her by clicking on the little envelope below:
Not to overstate things, but suspenders are quite possibly the best masculine style accessory of all time.
They’re functional, yet decorative.
They add visual interest to any outfit, and they come in both formal and casual styles.
Unlike ties, you don’t have to button up your shirt all the way up to sport a pair of suspenders, so they’re a great way to dress up during warmer weather (think: summer wedding).
You don’t even have to wear a button-up at all - suspenders look just as good worn over a t-shirt or even a tank-top (if you’re going for true heart throb status).
Suspenders aren’t anything new - they’ve been around since the early 1800’s, so they pre-date pretty much everything else we use to hold up our pants nowadays besides buttons.
Despite their distinctly old-school vibe, but they’ve withstood the test of time and are still so popular today that you can find them in a wide variety of materials and styles to suit your taste.
Despite what mainstream fashion would have you think, suspenders aren’t just for people with a Ruby Rose body-type either.
If you’ve got a bit more around the middle, suspenders have several benefits in store for you:
Benefit #1: They help you create a more streamlined body shape.
Instead of creating a bulge over the beltline by pulling you in around the middle, suspenders are supported all the way up on your shoulders, resulting in pants or shorts that lay flatter over your midsection.
Benefit #2: They make you look taller.
The vertical lines of suspenders can also elongate your figure by getting rid of a horizontal line (your belt) that cuts you in half visually.
Don’t get us wrong - we’d never recommend nixing belts from your wardrobe all together.
But mixing it up with suspenders is a great way to elevate your frame, your personal style, and it’s worth the extra effort.
There are really only 3 things you have to do before you can start rocking suspenders like a boss.
Let’s get right down to it...
Tip #1: Choose the right suspenders for your outfit.
Like any accessory, suspenders aren’t the main ingredient in your outfit - they’re the spice.
Therefore it’s important to choose the suspenders that will compliment the foundational pieces of your outfit - in other words, your shirt and pants (or in some cases, your suit).
To make this choice, you’ll want to consider two factors: material and attachment style.
Material refers to the strap material of your suspenders, and attachment style refers to the way they attach to your pants.
Choosing materials is pretty darn simple.
For a more formal outfit involving dress pants and a button-up, choose suspenders with a thinner material and a finer weave. On the higher end this would mean silk, but it could also be a thinner & finer weave elastic or polyester.
A more casual outfit with chinos or jeans pairs well with thicker materials - whether it’s a coarser weave elastic or a non-woven material like leather.
Any material with more of a sheen is going to lean towards the formal end of the spectrum, while matte finish materials make appearances in both formal and casual settings.
Patterned suspenders also make appearances in both casual and formal attire, but they’re more common in formal because of their preppy aesthetic.
Attachment style is a bit more complicated (just like in therapy).
There are two main attachment styles for suspenders, plus one that is lesser known but equally awesome. Don’t worry, we’re going to talk about all three.
The Classic Option: Button Suspenders
Button suspenders have several advantages over the other attachment styles.
First, this method is easy to put on and super secure - you can rest easy knowing nothing is going to snap off and pop you in the eye.
Second, they are also beloved by serious clothes hounds and will tend to garner you more compliments than a similar pair of suspenders with snap attachments.
Why? Because button suspenders radiate intentionality.
Anyone can throw on clip suspenders, but button suspenders require planning ahead to get those buttons sewn into your pants.
That kind of forethought demands respect.
Third, unlike clip suspenders, button suspenders won’t do any damage to the waistband of your favorite pants.
But they also come with disadvantages - namely the effort it takes to sew the buttons (or have them sewn) into any pair of pants you’d like to wear them with.
But if you ask us, the visual effect is worth it:
But what if you’re not into sewing buttons on everything? We hear ya.
We’re not purists here - there is room in your collection for more than one attachment style, and this next one is good to have on hand:
The Versatile Option: Clip Suspenders
Just like the name says, these suspenders clip on to your waistband:
If you’re choosing clip suspenders, just be aware that over time, the clip is going to wear on the waistband of your pants.
Look for clips with some rubber protection on the inside, and if you notice you’re wearing a certain pair of pants with suspenders all the time, consider investing the time to sew in some suspender buttons (it’s also really affordable to have a tailor do it).
That brings us to our third option, lesser known but just as sexy:
The Rugged Option: Trigger Snaps
Of all three options, trigger snaps have a decidedly casual air to them. They’re far more at home on the farm vs. the formal occasion.
Because they are a heavy duty fastener designed to stay put under tough conditions, you’ll usually find them on thicker suspenders made of leather or heavyweight elastic (sometimes a combination of the two).
Instead of attaching to the waistband via buttons or clips, trigger snaps fasten to your belt loops:
Because sometimes you wanna feel a little less dandy, and a little more rugged.
Trigger snap suspenders will get you there.
But make sure you are investing in quality denim (ahem) with good belt loops before you clip a pair of these on.
So now that we’ve talked about what kind of suspenders to wear, let’s talk about how to (and how NOT to) wear them.
Tip # 2 - Layer your suspenders correctly (over your shirt, under everything else).
Sometimes the key with accessories is not to over-do things.
Suspenders have a history of being a less outward accessory. There was a time that they were even considered an undergarment.
If you’re a little bit thrilled whenever you see them peeking out from underneath someone’s jacket, that’s why.
In fact, having your suspenders visible in public was considered risque until the late 1930’s.
Even though that has changed, one thing about them hasn’t - they’re meant to go over your shirt and nothing else.
In short, don’t be this guy:
Tip #3 - Leave off the belt.
This one is pretty settled as far as internet style forums go, but the question still gets asked so it needs to be addressed.
Suspenders are not just decorative - they’re functional. Until belts came on the scene, they were literally all that held up the pants of the world.
So trust your suspenders. They’ve got this.
Wearing a belt with them is overkill. You’ll be secure and stylish when you wear one or the other - no need for both.
Time for a Bonus Fact!
Ya know what’s sexy? A well rounded sartorial vocabulary.
If you’re ever out there rocking suspenders and someone says “nice braces!” - they’re not talking about your teeth. They’re also likely to be British.
In the UK, “braces” is the term they use for what the USA calls “suspenders”.
If you want to get technical, braces are button-on and suspenders have metal clips. But in practice, this distinction is pretty much lost on everyone but true purists.
What's your favorite style of suspenders? Or are you strictly belts only?
Let us know in the comments!