The Long and Short of It: Braces

For those of you who are inclined to the three piece suit (and there are a lot of them out there from which to choose even in the ready-to-wear market), please be aware of the need to wear braces. Now, this is old hat for some of you, but for a newer generation raised wearing jeans and other lower rise trousers meant to rest on the hips, it may come as something of a surprise.

“Braces?” you will snort. “How ‘old man,’ how ‘not cool.’ ”


I realize that not many of us will have the chance to wear full fig — white tie and tails — but should the opportunity arise, we are bound to uphold the highest standards of elegant dress. We should be concerned with clean, unbroken lines, a harmony of colour and perfect balance. “Perfect pitch” is the aim of this sartorial oldie but goodie. (Needless to say, the same holds true of black tie and the dinner jacket. But for the purposes of illustration…..)

Exhibit A.


“Not bad,” you mutter?

Ms. Bruni is delectable channeling Audrey Hepburn. But she is a former model and very image conscious. Mr. Sarkozy, on the other hand…. Trousers a bit too long? Yes. Sleeves hiding knuckles instead of showing a bit of linen? Yes. Vest/waistcoat poking out from under the points of the tailcoat? Yeah, afraid so…. . And is that…?

Exhibit B.


A belt?

Exhibit C.


Contrast those photos with yesterday’s photo of Nick Foulkes and this of a beautifully tailored King Juan Carlos, from the same reception.


The belt not only allows the trouser to slip onto the hips, instead of floating at the waist, when it does so it exposes a billowing expanse of shirt front under the vest/waistcoat and a belt buckle under the mother-of-pearl buttons, it also pops open the trouser pleats for the full “middle management wearing khakis on casual Friday” look.

When we wear three piece suits, of any description, it is essential that we wear braces/suspenders to keep an unbroken line from trouser to waistcoat/vest. In fact, the line should remain unbroken by buckle or shirt front whenever you wear a coat and trousers. See the dust jacket photo of Van Day Truex for a perfect illustration.

This is especially tricky with the lower rise of today’s slimmer trouser. I can see why the current look is to leave your belt at home, although this does not solve the shirt issue. The solution is to cut a longer vest/waistcoat, but the proportions will be put off even further that way.

(Editor’s Note: The photos are all from “Hola” magazine, No. 3.379, May 6, 2009. I would also like to add my sincerest hope that the search for the Air France jet that went missing off Brazil yesterday finds the passengers and crew unharmed.)

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