First off, let’s not call them “suspenders” - not just because we’re Anglophiles (although we are), but because the American term also tends to conjure the clip-on variety that has no place in a well-dressed man’s wardrobe.
A Functional Form
While the choice between wearing a belt or buttoning braces is to some extent a matter of personal taste, they serve different functions for different types of trousers. Braces are intended to maintain traditionally cut longer rise trousers on the natural waist. Belts tend to most comfortably rest just above the hips, and are thus better suited to the lower-rise trousers more widely worn today.
The Braces Boom
Made all but extinct in the low-rise 1970s, braces made a roaring comeback in the 1980s, when Alan Flusser made them instantly and infamously iconic as the rakish rigging of Michael Douglas’ corporate raider Gordon Gekko in Wall Street. Long considered underwear, unseen under a waistcoat in polite company, braces rose from their literally supporting role to take a turn on center stage, popping off men’s contrast-collar dress shirts in a riot of bold regimental stripes and whimsical patterns.
An Elegant Understatement
Today braces have returned to the more genteel status of a quiet classic, enjoying devotion among traditionalists who enjoy the drape and comfort of having their trousers securely suspended. Even belt devotees should consider braces when wearing three-piece suits or tuxedos, the elegant effect of which is ruined by peeking belt buckles.
Quality braces are not one-size-fits all; the brass slide adjusters on a properly fitting braces should rest, comfortably and inconspicuously, in the hollow between the ribcage and hips. When choosing braces for an ensemble, the color of the leather tabs should be considered with one’s shoes, although a classically stylish alternative is to wear braces with white kid leather tabs, which, matching nothing, can be worn with everything.