Dress for Success: The Case for Suspenders

a businessman with suspenders sitting in a desk in the office

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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.


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  • Here’s a great example of how awesome suspenders look once belt loops are removed: http://bit.ly/mIooYS

    I also recommend ditching the old school specs and moving up to night vision goggles. They’re Seal Team 6 chic.

    • Ryan Cork

      So you where being a sarcastic asshole? Braces can be awesome and very sophisticated! Albert Thurston of London makes some of the finest braces the world.

  • Nena Street

    Great post, Josh.

    Need another reason to give suspenders a try?
    Women dig men in suspenders.

  • All true, although if you wear suspenders, you’ve really got to wear a tie as well. Otherwise, you look like you haven’t finished getting dressed yet. In the summer, my suspenders get a lot of time off because I want the option of the jacket-and-no-tie look and I want to be able to take off my jacket and not look undressed.

    Nice suspenders will set you back about as much as a good tie and one pair is not likely to go with every outfit you own. It’s definitely something to grow into over time.

    • I agree completely. I was just telling a friend recently that I think a lot of men don’t wear suspenders because they are definitely an investment. In fact just this morning I realized I don’t have a plain brown pair to go with my brown shoes. This is one of the reasons I haven’t gone all-in yet and removed my belt loops.

  • john troll

    I disagree. Suspenders had their moment in the Gordon Gekko 1980″s. They are irrelevant to how contemporary suits are tailored no matter how heavy the man.

    Invariably, they look stuck on to pants that can obviously stay put without suspenders. So they call attention to themselves and the lawyer in a foppish, mildly unflattering way.
    Whenever I see a lawyer in suspenders, that same lawyer is wearing loafers and a button down shirt, the one notch above dress casual for which suspenders were never intended.

  • Wear suspenders or a judge might order you too. (speaking from an experience you don’t want to share).

  • All the virtues of suspenders without a belt are true! If you are going to buy suspenders, buy good ones! The best ones are “ribbon” type suspenders or “braces” which come in many kinds of looks, but the heavy weaves of silk or cotton with buttons are the best. The best brand I know is Trafalgar (google same), and I probably have perfectly wearable and beautiful braces in my closet older than many of you. They NEVER go out of style, but something to remember if you choose to avoid the redundancy of the belt, keep a spare pair handy AND a good large safety pin. If one of the double button comes off or the leather tab breaks (both of which I’ve had happen in 30+ years of wearing them), and if you have a critical failure and none of the above, you will not be able to focus on keeping up your argument in court! There was a time then that your tailor naturally asked what you wanted and perfectly lined them up inside the waistband, but that was when we had tailors. (If one is doomed to be a dinosaur at the courthouse, at least let me be an elegant dinosaur!)

  • @BillsLawOffice

    I usually save my best suits for court appearances. Those suits have suspenders. Recently, courthouse security at Washington County, MN made me remove the suspenders. What a pain!

    I usually dump any metal into my briefcase before going through courthouse security. I hate being re-screened – it delays me and the people behind me. The suspenders incident has me rethinking the whole thing. However, during the suspenders incident, courthouse security did inform me that my dress shoes have metal arch supports in them. I now don’t wear those shoes to court.

  • Wheatley Davis

    Soo basically suspenders are for fatties?

    • Not just the overweight. They’re for anyone who wants their pants to hang more naturally.