What are Suspenders?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Suspenders are a clothing accessory designed to hold up a pair of pants or trousers. They consist of a set of straps that go over the shoulders and attach to the pants with buttons or clips. The pants are literally suspended from these straps, which explains the origin of the name. In British English, they are known as braces, because they could be said to brace, or support, a pair of trousers. While suspenders are no longer widely worn, they are available from gentlemen's supply stores and other specialized clothing stores, depending on the desired style.

Suspenders attach to the pants with buttons or clips.
Suspenders attach to the pants with buttons or clips.

On the front of the body, the straps of a pair of suspenders travel straight down from the shoulders, to attach to the pants with clips or to be buttoned in, depending on the design of the pants. In the back, they are often crossed, to provide more stability and prevent them from sliding off the shoulders. Sometimes, a y-shape is made, by connecting the straps together to form a single strap that attaches in the middle of the back of the pants. Either way, the suspenders are elasticized and typically include buckles so that they can be adjusted to fit the wearer.

In the back, suspenders are often crossed to prevent them from sliding off the shoulders.
In the back, suspenders are often crossed to prevent them from sliding off the shoulders.

Modern suspenders are usually fully elasticized. More formal ones may be made from stiffer materials with elasticized tabs for some flexibility of movement. In addition to elastics, they can be made from rugged cotton material and leather in an assortment of colors. They come in different base lengths to accommodate a wide range of bodies, from short men to very tall ones. Some companies also make joke suspenders, imprinted with bright and funny patterns.

Some men use suspenders to hold their pants in place.
Some men use suspenders to hold their pants in place.

Suspenders were popular throughout the 1800s, and were worn by all men. Belts were used ornamentally, on the outside of clothing and coats, while suspenders did the work of holding pants up. These traditional versions were designed to hook into buttons attached to the pants. This changed in 1894, when David Roth filed a patent for clasping suspenders, rather than those that buttoned directly into pants.

The popularity of suspenders has waxed and waned during the 20th century. Modern ones usually fall into two categories: highly formal dress suspenders, designed to be buttoned into pants as part of a white tie outfit, or basic working suspenders used by farmers, plumbers, and carpenters. These prevent the workman's pants from falling, even with laden pockets and a full tool belt.

Modern suspenders use elastic.
Modern suspenders use elastic.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon943626

My girlfriend got me braces (suspenders in USA), for Christmas. I thought they were a joke present, and only realized they weren't when she asked me why I hadn't worn them. So I clipped them onto my jeans the next day. I felt a right idiot, but they were not only more comfortable than a belt, but also far more efficient at keeping my pants up!

However, although I felt very self-conscious, nobody made any adverse comments, so I shall persevere with them. I just wish more guys would do the same!

anon318273

I have recently lost a little weight, and belts became too uncomfortable, if they were to hold my pants up. I borrowed a pair of my Dad's clip-on braces to try, and was most surprised at how efficient and comfy they were. I am a convert, and I am sure many other guys would be if they just made the effort to try them. By the way, my girlfriend thinks they look great.

anon289546

I am going to call them braces, as I am British, but whatever you call them, they are great - so much more comfortable to wear than belts, which need to be too tight to be efficient. I am sure most guys have toyed with the idea of wearing braces, or at least trying them, but get too embarrassed. If more wore them, many more would follow!

minthybear19

@w00dchuck41 - I just buy the guy's suspenders. They're elastic and fully adjustable -- so why not? I've never actually seen women's suspenders. I'm sure somewhere out there, there's a store with them.

Suspenders for men come in a lots of colors anyway. I have pairs that are red, rainbow, blue and red striped and there are way more on my wish list. I don't see why more women don't wear them. They are better than belts, in my opinion.

w00dchuck41

@minthybear19 - I think Doctor Who makes a lot of people wonder about suspenders. The only other place I see suspenders are in police movies. The gruff old police man usually is wearing a pair of suspenders.

I think that suspenders for women would be harder to find. Most stores seem to assume only old men wear them. I guess if I ever get over to England, I'll have to buy a few pairs.

amsden2000

@w00dchuck41 - I started wearing suspenders after watching Doctor Who too. They go great with short skirts and jeans. I did notice that British fashion still includes suspenders on occasion.

Aside from being really comfortable, I actually use mine when I go out hiking. I go on nature hikes with my family every summer and everybody wears suspenders! Belts are uncomfortable if you have to bend over a lot, but suspenders just bend with you. I wish that they would come back into fashion too.

ElbowTickle

Suspenders are one of the things that I wish would become mainstream again. I watch a lot of Doctor Who and the Doctor has always wore spiffy suspenders. I never even thought about suspenders until I had to wear black suspenders for my sister's wedding. They were so cool.

Between my sister's wedding and Doctor Who, I decided to get a pair of red suspenders to wear. They're way more comfortable than a belt so I wear them to work all the time.

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