It's a hold up: how braces became the ace accessory

It's a hold up: how braces became the ace accessory

Suspenders - or braces as we like to call them here in the UK - have become something of a menswear relic in the mainstream market, which is just as well because who on earth wants to be 'mainstream'?! At Favourbrook, we like to espouse the traditions of sartorial style, and suspenders are very much part of that genre. If you haven't ever been down to our waistcoats and accessories boutique in the Piccadilly Arcade, we would very much recommend popping down and letting Agata guide you through our collection of braces. You'll find plenty of classic moire silk styles alongside more unique and colourful variants.

There was a time not that long ago that they were seen as something of a gimmick, a token gesture to bygone fashions. Larry King, the famous TV anchor, was never not seen wearing suspenders. To be fair, Larry looked great in them, but an ageing news guy using them as his motif for the past half century wasn't really the inspiration younger generations needed to take the plunge themselves. In a 2009 interview with TIME magazine, King estimated his collection to be in the region of 150 pairs, including one set with holes cut out for the nipples, gifted to him by Janet Jackson, who clearly has a sense of humour.  "I wore them once," King told Variety in 2007, "they were cute."

Larry King, the famous American news anchor, wearing braces.

BLACK PICKWICK SILK BRACES

BLACK PICKWICK
SILK BRACES

BLUE KENT COTTON KENT DOUBLE CUFF SHIRT

BLUE KENT COTTON
DOUBLE CUFF SHIRT

IVORY MOIRE SILK BRACES

IVORY MOIRE
SILK BRACES

WHITE HERRINGBONE COTTON IVY SHIRT

WHITE HERRINGBONE
COTTON IVY SHIRT

Today, we're seeing something of a resurgence in younger, stylish, sartorial types embracing braces, no doubt helped by the commensurate resurgence in high-waisted 50s-style trousers. If the demise of braces could point the finger of blame at anything over the course of the last few decades, it would be the proliferation of slouchy trouser styles. Why the need for a device that lifts the trousers, when all everyone wants to do, it seems, is wear styles hanging off their hips? 

"If you haven't ever been down to our waistcoats and accessories boutique in the Piccadilly Arcade, we would very much recommend popping down and letting Agata guide you through our collection of braces. You'll find plenty of classic moire silk styles alongside more unique and colourful variants."

Formal trousers look infinitely smarter when held up correctly around the waist, with a clean pressed line down the front and a slight break at the shin.

Leonardo Dicaprio in The Great Gatsby.

The first suspenders can be traced all the way back to 18th century France, in the form of basic strips of ribbon attached to the buttonholes of trousers. Trousers back then did not have belt loops, and any concept of belt was purely decorative and most likely military in origin. President Benjamin Franklin is said to have been an early adopter but discreetly so - in those days, braces would have been worn beneath garments, rather than over them as a styled accessory. Visible suspenders were, in fact, considered rather gauche, even up to the early part of the 20th century, when a town Long Island, NY attempted to ban any man wearing them without a coat, on the subjective grounds of sartorial indecency. Residents were having none of it however, and the ban was swiftly quashed.

BLACK BEES SILK BRACES

BLACK BEES
SILK BRACES

PINK KENT COTTON KENT DOUBLE CUFF SHIRT

PINK KENT COTTON
DOUBLE CUFF SHIRT

BLACK MOIRE SILK BRACES

BLACK MOIRE
SILK BRACES

CHARCOAL CULCROSS LINEN NEWPORT JACKET

CHARCOAL CULCROSS
LINEN NEWPORT JACKET

The suspender heyday of the late 19th century would not have happened were it not for the business acumen of one Albert Thurston, who had the nouse to manufacture in 1820 what we recognise today as braces. The trend then was for not only high-waisted trousers, but very high-waisted trousers, rendering belts useless. Thurston used neat little leather hoops to attach to buttons on the waistband of trousers, a method still in use today. Interestingly, one of the first U.S. patents for suspenders was filed in 1871 by a Samuel Langhorne Clemens, who otherwise went by the pen name, Mark Twain.

EMERALD DOUPPION SILK BRACES

EMERALD DOUPPION
SILK BRACES

CORNFLOWER DOUPPION SILK BRACES

CORNFLOWER DOUPPION
SILK BRACES

CLASSIC BLUE DOUPPION SILK BRACES

CLASSIC BLUE DOUPPION
SILK BRACES

Which takes us up to right now. Are braces being held up as stylish accessories or are they simply a menswear relic? We're happy to report that it's most certainly the former. With higher-waisted trousers making a comeback among the more sartorially inclined, braces have never been more relevant. Functionally speaking, they still serve their purpose, but from a style point of view they can be a very welcome addition to a smart ensemble, adding a hint of pattern and colour to break up the otherwise two-tone combination of suit and shirt. And let's be honest, doing away with a belt can't be a bad thing, especially if lockdown has been unkind on our waistlines (far better that our collective shoulders and braces bare the burden of keep our trousers up, than a belt that digs in as a constant reminder of our culinary transgressions!)

Braces can be the signature finish to a beautiful outfit but be mindful that you avoid venturing into gimmick territory. A simple navy pair with a polka dot pattern  will look splendid contrasted against a white or pale blue shirt. Or similarly, layer our ivory braces atop a white shirt for a subtle but no less impressive affect. We think braces are here to stay. Whether you need 150 pairs like Larry King is another matter.

To see our full collection of braces, head down to our dedicated waistcoat and accessories boutique in the Piccadilly Arcade where you'll find many styles to add to your collection.

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