How to Wear Suspenders - Style Guide
Suspenders have made a comeback.
They're affordable, easy-to-wear and a fun addition to your wardrobe. Whether you want to look sharp at an upcoming wedding, stand out at a formal event, add some flair to your work attire or spice up your casual clothing, suspenders provide you with a colorful and versatile solution for almost any occasion life chooses to send your way.
But confusion still reigns, notably: Which types of suspenders are appropriate for which occasions? Which colors go with which? Is there a particular width that is correct? Should I choose the clip-on kind or button-on? Can I wear a belt with my suspenders? How do I wear colored suspenders without looking like a clown?
This guide will answer all those questions. Plus some you perhaps didn't know you had.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT TYPE OF SUSPENDERS
Suspenders come in two basic types:
1) the type that attach to your trousers (or shorts) with clips
2) the kind you button onto your trousers
Clip-ons can be attached to almost any trouser or pant, so they are the more versatile of the two. Plus, they are considered a tad more casual and look especially snazzy with city-shorts, funky jeans and fashion-forward attire. To attach them to whatever you're wearing on your bottom half, start in the back by clipping them in the middle of the waistband. Then pull them over your shoulders to the front to attach the remaining clips to the front-waistband.
Suspenders that button on are considered a tad more formal than clip-ons. They also require trousers or jeans that have six buttons hidden along the inside of the waistband for the suspender's loops to button onto. If your pants don't come with suspender buttons, you can always add them, either yourself if you're handy, or have your tailor take care of it. They should be placed so that on the backside of the waistband, they are located about 1" either side of the center-back seam - meaning they're 2" apart - and 1" or so below the top of the waistband. In front, hide them inside the waistband about 1" down from the top and 2" apart. When you have them on, your suspenders should fall in a straight line down from your shoulder to your waist. To put button-on suspenders on your trousers, start in the back. Once you've buttoned them on, put your trousers on, pull the suspenders over your shoulders and button them in place in the front.
For such a relatively slim piece of fabric, suspenders sure encourage some strong opinions, in particular issues to do with the “right” width. While subtle changes can dramatically impact your entire look, the easiest rule-of -thumb to remember that suspender style happens on a scale: the skinnier the suspender, the more casual the look, while at the wider end of the spectrum, they become classic and even formal.
If you want to go beyond that, here’s a detailed article about how to choose the perfect suspender width >
Y-BACK VS. X-BACK
When suspenders cross in back like the letter "X", they are known as X-back. If, instead, they join around the mid-back and become a single strap, like a "Y", then they are called Y-back. Of the two, Y-back are considered the more up-to-date and on-trend. While X-back do have two straps that attach to the back-waistband - compared to a Y-back's single strap - unless you face unusual issues with keeping your pants up or have severely sloping shoulders, the Y-back is the top choice of suspender aficionados.
One of the truly cool things about suspenders is how easy it is to customize the fit to your particular proportions. If the suspenders are leather, the front strap can be loosened or tightened just like a belt: via a buckle and holes. All other suspenders have a metal clip on the front straps that you simply slide up and down until you hit the exact right length for your frame.
FIVE DIFFERENT WAYS TO WEAR SUSPENDERS
FIRST THINGS FIRST—NEVER WEAR SUSPENDERS WITH A BELT
Before World War II, the waistline of your typical men's trousers was much higher than is common today, hitting right at the wearer's actual waist. To keep their pants up, guys wore suspenders. However, due to wartime rations, manufacturers found they could save fabric (and therefore money) by lowering pant waistlines. At the same time, belts began replacing suspenders as a way of keeping one's pants from falling down - which is why it's considered quite the style faux-pas to wear a belt and a suspender at the same time. As they both do the same thing, it's kind of a function overload, plus it doesn't look right.
So remember the cardinal rule of savvy suspender-wearing: regardless of the type of suspender, don't wear a belt at the same time. Not convinced? Here are some more reasons why you should never wear suspenders with a belt >
SUSPENDERS FOR BUSINESS
Wearing suspenders to work can be as formal as Michael Douglas’s Gordon Gekko Master of the Financial Universe look in the movie Wall Street, as we discuss here. Or oozing more mid-century modern panache a la Don Draper (here). If you want to wear a suspender with work attire, but are not sure how to proceed, start with a pair in a more classic hue (navy, black, taupe) that coordinates with the color of your shoes. This combination adds easy authority to any work look, whether you’re mastering the actual world - or a virtual one located in The Cloud. Read here for more on how to pair suspenders for business >
FOR WEDDINGS & FORMAL EVENTS
Suspenders have long been a staple of a groom’s wedding day attire, which has been undergoing a welcome change, from less “stuffy” to more playful and personal. And, often, the only item a groom will purchase new to take his regular go-to suit from go-to to walk-down - as in: the aisle. For more wedding suspender tips for grooms, be sure you *go* here. And what’s good for the groom is good for the groomsmen! Don’t miss our top tips for outfitting your side of the wedding party in high suspender style (here & here). For more ideas, here are 50 groomsmen in suspenders to inspire you.
For formal events in general, be sure to pair your suspenders with a quality shirt - French cuffs are always a great choice because they are perennially stylish, and you also get to add some eyecatching cufflinks to your look. For more ideas of ways to pair your suspenders with accessories, including natty pocket squares and bowties, click here. Of course, the quintessential formal ensemble is the tuxedo. We’ve got you covered (of course) right here.
ON THE TOWN
Most any self-respecting list of the world’s “most stylish men” includes Cary Grant. Especially his iconic gray-suit look in the Hitchcock classic North by Northwest (which we discuss here). Like any style icon, Grant found the “uniform” that best suited his frame and stuck with it, adding on-trend flair with accessories. Like suspenders. As a rule of thumb, non-work suspenders tend to be a bit skinnier, but if you’re rocking head-to-toe denim, a wider suspender might be just the choice (for more on thin vs. wide, click here). Finally, here are 10 suspender looks by “suspender type” to inspire your own off-duty adventures in stylish suspenders.
Since suspenders snuck out of the corridors of power and headed for hipster hangouts and fashionable bars the world over, this trend continues to gather momentum. And for good reason: suspenders are an easy (and easy on the budget) way to make a personalized style statement. From denim-on-denim outfits, to plaid to preppy - we discuss the most helpful how-tos of casual suspenders right here >
The world’s most stylish women like to “borrow” (okay, steal) from menswear to give their own look some extra edge and oomph. And what could be sexier than a sexy woman rocking suspenders? Here are 50 women looking amazing in suspenders. Also be sure to check out our expertly edited mini style guide for women in suspenders, plus see if you agree with our thoughts on suspenders for men vs. women and the difference between them (hint: not much).
TIPS FROM A FASHION EDITOR: More Suspender Inspiration
Suspenders that come with clips allow most any pants or shorts in your closet to be suspender-friendly. For the most stylish look, choose a pair with a looser fit. If you want to wear a button-on pair, you (or the tailor at your dry cleaners) can always sew buttons inside your pant waistband for you. Alternatively, you can buy trousers (or shorts) that already come with suspender buttons. Here are some of our picks for stylish suspender-ready pants and accessories:
- Suspender pants & accessories
- Suspender-pants that inspired Cary Grant in North by Northwest
- Ties to go with your suspenders
How to Wear Any Color Suspenders
From vibrant fuchsia to not-so-mellow yellow to army green, here are our most helpful how-tos and cool outfit pairings that will have you wearing any color of suspender like a style pro:
INSPIRATION: Suspenders on Celebs & in Film
Celebrities look so stylish because they have some of the most talented fashion experts and stylists on their payroll. Which is why they are a wonderful source of style inspiration, as are the movies. For some of our favorite film moments in suspenders, plus a plethora of ideas to inspire you, check these out: