Before going any further please read: I know the British English term for suspenders is “braces”. You can (in your mind) replace the word “suspenders” with the word “braces” if you are bothered by the fact that I use the American English term, please understand it ain’t easy typing both words every time. Having said that, please continue and enjoy the post…
A very common story. You are almost completely dressed and ready to start your day with confidence. Your shirt and trousers look impeccable. Your tie is perfectly tied, as it always should be. Your shoes shine with pride.
So you reach out to your closet for something to keep your trousers in place.
There’s a belt.
And then there’s a pair of suspenders.
Which of the two will you pick to complete your carefully put together suit ensemble?
Ah, don’t you hate these difficult questions? Why does there have to be rules! So of course, you curse at the reality of being such a classy, dapper man.
Even if you aren’t as exaggerated in your reactions as I am, it’s true these questions cross every man’s mind every now and then.
Does It Even Matter Whether You Wear A Belt Or Suspenders?
I wish I could say it doesn’t, but it sure does.
Even if you see guys wearing suits with belts everywhere you turn (because the fact is, belts are much more common these days than suspenders), it doesn’t mean you should automatically decide to play it safe and reach for the belt every single time.
Not to mention that, believe it or not, you might be choosing the wrong option of the two.
You see, some guys think it’s all about what feels more comfortable or what’s more familiar to them. Everyone wears belts, so that must be right and that must be comfortable because who would, in their right mind, choose to be uncomfortable, right?
Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!
In reality, comfort and familiarity are not exactly what it is all about.
So what is it about then?
Elegance. Pure and simple elegance. Yes, it’s all about elegance.
Despite what we’ve been led to believe, there are two very distinct levels of elegance when it comes to belts and suspenders and how they compare to each other.
And I know, man. It sucks to feel like you are starting to overthink the most minimal concepts about style.
I feel, however, that this is one of those men’s style concepts that are worth knowing a little bit more about. So bear with me and let’s take a deeper look at both options and what occasions are better suited for each of the two.
When To Wear A Belt
In general, belts are better suited for more casual ensembles, even if a suit is part of the equation. I’ll give you a few examples to give you a clearer idea:
- A modern fit suit without a tie. The casualness of this look makes a belt a valid choice. Key here is “modern fit“. Speaking about going tieless with a suit, some purists will say you should never even think about wearing a suit without a tie, but that’s borderline pedantic when the subtleties of style are disregarded. I’ll cover this topic in more detail in a separate blog post.
- Dress pants and tie without a jacket. If you are skipping the jacket and you’re just wearing your shirt and tie (ideally with a sweater or cardigan on top to tie it altogether), wearing a belt will be perfectly acceptable. For some reason I added “sweater or cardigan” as an afterthought, but feel free to take it more as a guideline. Something seems to be missing in just a shirt and tie with nothing on top.
- Dress pants, dress shirt, no tie, no jacket. So you’re going all casual, eh?. Go ahead and wear that belt, because at this point who really cares? You’ll look fine.
I’d also like to mention that the type of belt you’ll be wearing is of great importance even with your semi-casual and casual looks. You want your belts to be dressy and stylish.
That means, of course, no big buckles, no obvious brand logos, no flashy stuff, etc. You know the drill.
Casual doesn’t mean you can get away with wearing tacky crap.
Let’s proceed, shall we?
When To Wear Suspenders Instead
Plain and simple, suspenders are much more appropriate for elegant and classy looks. This means you’re better off ditching the belt if you’ll be wearing a formal ensemble:
- Full suit and tie. Despite the fact that some men will wear a belt with a formal suit, and that’s not necessarily a thing you should be sacrified for, suspenders are just a much better companion to your full suit and tie ensemble. Why settle for OK when you can be spectacular?
- Anything more formal than a simple suit. Many of us don’t have many opportunities to assist special events, awards ceremonies or galas where either black tie or white tie is required, but it’s good to know that, should the occasion arise, you should never wear a belt with this level of formality. Now that would be a terrible thing to do, if you ask me (I’ll spare the sacrifice ’cause I like you).
In short, suspenders are the more sophisticated choice and should be worn in all situations where class and elegance matter.
By the way, now that the affinity between elegance and suspenders has been mentioned, please, I beg you to avoid wearing clip-on suspenders and wear the most classy option: button suspenders. Your pants will thank you for it and as a plus, you will simply look stunning.
The Gist Of It All
Honestly, it shouldn’t be such a big problem deciding what garment will keep your pants in place. The key takeaway is that you should pay attention to the fact that there are two different degrees of formality.
Belts on the casual end of the spectrum, suspenders on the formal end.
Not too complicated.
Is it acceptable to break this “rule”? Sure, most people won’t even care, but if you have authentic interest in improving your style – why not make a genuine effort and give the rules a try? Nothing wrong with letting out the dapper gent inside. Just be prepared for the “why so dressed up today?” questions coming your way. 🙂
Now, before wrapping it up let me tell you some crazy stuff… what if I dared to mention that both suspenders and belts might as well be (almost) useless and you can perfectly live a dapper life without them? Crazy sh*t, you’ll probably say.
Well, sir, I’m not a liar, but I’ll leave you in suspense for now as that topic will be covered in a different blog post (let’s add another one to the list because why not) coming soon, so stay tuned.
So there you have it, gents. Time to put the newly acquired knowledge into practice and break out the suspenders for a change.
Question: if you have switched belts for suspenders, why was the main reason behind this decision? Was it comfort, looks, a new job as a stripper, or what? Let me know in the comments!