You’ve seen them. You’ve been curious. Either in the courthouse or an office somewhere, you have spotted somebody wearing suspenders instead of a belt. You may have thought they looked a little out of place, or wondered how those things are held up. Suspenders can be a great addition to your wardrobe, and make you stand out just a little bit. In a good way. In this week’s installment of Dress for Success, learn why you should wear suspenders, and how to pull them off.

The Benefits

You will learn from my Dress for Success posts that I enjoy mixing traditional approaches to fashion with the modern day. Suspenders easily fit this bill. Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so. In addition to a timeless look, suspenders have several practical benefits. First of all, if you’re overweight you should definitely be wearing suspenders. Overweight lawyers wearing them will not have their stomach hanging over their belt. Instead, the suspenders keep the pants held up at your waist where they belong. As someone who has been there, trust me: nobody looks good with their stomach hanging over their belt.

Are your pants getting a little big on you? Suspenders can help there as well. Instead of cinching the material with a belt (which is very obvious and looks bad) use suspenders. They will hold your pants up even though they are hanging loose around your waist. This keeps your dress shirt from betting bunched up in your bunched pants.

Finally, suspenders will allow your pants to fall much more naturally. Whether your pants are a little snug or a little loose or fit just right, a belt always creates some cinching of the pants. That is the purpose of the belt. This causes the pants to billow out from the belt, instead of falling flat. When wearing pleated pants this is especially noticeable.

How to Wear Suspenders

After reading the first part of this article, you might be ecstatic. Instead of spending money on fancy belts, you can use those clip—on suspenders you know are lying around the house somewhere. Wrong. Clip-on suspenders are not acceptable with your suits. They just won’t look good. More importantly, they will ruin your pants. The clips have little teeth that are used to latch onto your pants. With wear, these teeth pull on the fabric and can cause rips or shreds in your fabric.

Instead of ruining your pants, spend the five or seven bucks your tailor will charge you to add buttons inside your pants. Start with a few pairs to see if you like the look and feel of suspenders. Your tailor will install three sets of buttons. Two in the front and one in the back. Button the suspenders onto these and thank me later.

If you decide you absolutely love your new suspender look, the final step is getting rid of your belt loops. This is an extreme step, and one I haven’t even taken yet. But I’ve seen it on others and it really makes the suspenders look so much better. Especially when you’re wearing a jacket. It keeps anyone from thinking that you forgot a belt that morning.

Don’t Wear Them at an Airport

Despite the practical and fashionable advantages of suspenders, there is one problem with them: they are a pain to take off. They also usually have metal in the clasps. That means when you’re travelling you have to take them off. Unbuttoning and re-buttoning suspenders while trying to get through airport security is no fun task. Take my word for it.