Monday 25 November 2013

Brace yourselves to suspend[er] disbelief... (2)

Part Two of "Braces with Bruce" (the first of which can be found here) starts on the slightly less contentious notes of colours and style.  Colours are still a point of discussion but again are largely a personal preference and while I wouldn't touch gaudy or heavily novelty-patterned braces with a barge pole if you've got the nerve and personality to pull it off then more power to your elbow (although be warned that wearing matching braces and [bow] tie is generally considered "naff").  Remember, of course, that braces were originally designed to be worn under waistcoats, pullovers and the like - i.e. never to be seen in public.  That's less of a factor these days, it must be admitted, but there's still something inherently "right" about a well-tailored three-piece suit with the trousers suspended by braces.  That's another thing in favour of braces by the way, in that trousers supported in this fashion always hang better than with a belt.  Again as something of a traditionalist I prefer muted colours like browns and greens, usually striped, or occasionally solid colours like red, blue or gold.  Once again Darcy Clothing and Tom Sawyer I find best for such hues, in both clip- and button-on styles.

Be aware that if you do plump for brightly-coloured or novelty braces you will almost certainly be labelled "eccentric".  In fact, let's face it, if you choose to wear braces at all you're likely to be called "eccentric" - or worse.  Even plain colours are not immune from notice by others - any shade of red in particular will tend to draw comparison with bankers (and yes, in both senses of the word).  But I say this - Gordon Gekko may have eventually been caught with his metaphorical trousers down but I bet he never once had to adjust his actual trousers.  Anyway, to judge a chap by the colour of his braces is just ridiculous and should be ignored along with all the other negativity we have to put up with from time to time.  I myself have a pair of wine red jobs and I'm about as far removed from a city financier as it's possible to get.

A final word on fixings - it is also possible
to get braces that have/accept both types
On the subject of style there are two aspects - size (width) and layout.  Although I wrote yesterday that "skinny" braces - that is, ones no more than 2½cm wide - are usually the preserve of the hipster or the younger generations who have adopted them as the fashion (and what's with wearing them off the shoulders, just hanging by the sides of the trousers?!), they should not be discounted.  You may prefer them for comfort, or other reasons.  They do the job as well as their wider counterpart, although they tend to come in fewer colours and almost always as clip-ons only.  The more traditional 3½cm width is better suited to the vintage look, however, spreads the load a little more and is available in a whole host of patterns, most with leather ends.  In my experience they also tend to be a little harder-wearing than the narrower variety.

Braces can also come in two main designs - the X-back and the Y-back.  These refer to the rear fixing strap(s).  As the names imply X-back braces have two rear straps, thereby giving the braces an X shape at the back.  This style seems to be more commonly found in the narrower clip-ons (right) - two fastenings giving a securer purchase, should one fail.  The Y-back, again considered the more traditional, is usually reserved for the wider, button-on braces.  It is better at ensuring the straps remain in place on your shoulders and, especially with high-waisted trews, gives a better holding effect.  That's not to say you can't get 3½cm X-backs or skinny Y-backs, but such variations are rarer.

It can only end in tears...
Attitudes that one encounters as a braces wearer are largely as follows.  Some people - children mainly although sometimes even fully-grown, otherwise respectable adults - will want to twang your braces as if you're a walking double bass.  This is more of a risk with clip-ons, although still annoying regardless of the type of braces you're wearing.  Best to just grin and bear it (it quickly loses its appeal, it seems); if they get a face-full of clasp/button it's their own fault.

We've touched upon the "eccentric" moniker already but I have also heard opinions ranging from "clownish" and "unnatural"(!) to "I didn't know you could still buy them".  (I knew my last job was doomed when a female co-worker made the "clownish" remark and another, when I tried to point out how preferable braced trousers are to a belt with rolls of fat spilling out over the top, was heard to say "yes, but that [the latter] is more natural, isn't it?".  By that logic, surely we should do away with clothes altogether?!  The muffin top/beer belly "more natural"?!  Has the world finally gone mad, I ask?)

Thanks to the success of a certain Time Lord we also have to put up with comparisons to [the outgoing] Doctor Who.  This is a small price to pay, however, for the successful reintroduction into the public consciousness of braces (albeit clip-ons), not to mention bow ties, tweed jackets and the fez!  If the best/worst comment people can think to throw at me is "Oi, Doctor Who!" then I consider I've got off lightly.

Some final words now on a couple of different forms of braces.  One I like the idea of, the other I don't; neither of them have I had any experience of, however.  The first is the sock suspender, an almost extinct form of brace these days and subject to even more ridicule than normal braces but still with a very real, useful purpose.  Many's the time I've pulled my socks up while yearning for a pair of these.  Like trouser braces they should really never be seen (and much of the comedy surrounding them is from their sudden appearance) but just go about doing their job of holding your socks up quietly and without fuss.  I've earmarked a pair of these to try one day; again not as difficult to get hold of as one might think with most of the online shops mentioned on the left stocking examples.

The other type I'm less sure about - the shirt stay.  Seemingly becoming more talked-about in recent years, I just don't get them.  What happens if you need to sit/crouch/bend down?  Won't it produce an odd angular effect at the knees?  God forbid the lower clasps should snap off, eh chaps?  Unlike with trouser braces or sock suspenders, I've never thought to myself "blasted shirt keeps getting untucked, I wish there was something I could do to stop it".  On the rare occasions my shirt tails make a bid for freedom it is the work of a moment to tuck them back in again.  Shirt stays?  Not for me.

Ladies need not feel left out, either.  Girls can  look just as good, if not better, in braces as the chaps.  Much, much better in the other type of suspender too, ahem!  With high-waisted trousers, particularly in the 1930s style so often beloved of the vintage gal, braces are a jolly nice addition especially if you want to channel some Marlene Dietrich/Katherine Hepburn style.  You ladies also have another alternative not open to us gentlemen - suspender skirts, almost a sine qua non for that Forties/Fifties look.  Some lovely suspender skirts are out there that I've seen and a splendid look it is too.

There we have it then.  Practically everything you wanted to know (or didn't want to know, perhaps) about braces, suspenders etc.  I do hope you've enjoyed my whimsical (windy!) take on those accessories. 

1 comment:

  1. Dear, God, I can't believe anyone was so rude to you! And what an utterly idiotic remark to make, I despair of people these days, I really do. I see nothing odd at all about wearing braces, my husband does, but even if not, I still wouldn't think it an odd choice.


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