How to Wear Suspenders (and Why They’re Great for Shorter Men)

What are suspenders? Are they better than belts? Are they a good choice for shorter guys? What kind of suspenders should you buy?

This guide will tell you everything you need to know.

How to wear suspenders

KK and Jay logoThanks to KK&Jay for supporting The Modest Man by sponsoring this post! Like their shirttail garters – which I use to keep my shirt tucked in – KK&Jay makes their suspenders by hand in Brooklyn. Use the code MMTUCKS for a discount!

Okay, let's start by figuring out why and when you'd want to wear suspenders.

If you prefer reading, read on!

Suspenders vs. Belts

Suspenders have been around since the early 1800s. Like any other fashion accessory, they're subject to trends, and I don't think they're going to replace belts anytime soon.

But if you think about it, suspenders make a lot of sense. I'm no physicist, but if the goal is to keep your pants up, and gravity is pulling them down, suspenders are an extremely logical solution (compared to belts).

Oliver Wicks summer blue suit 2

suit | tie | suspenders | sunglasses | shoes | bag

This is especially true if you've ever worn pants that are a little loose around the waist. Extra material bunches up under your belt, which isn't comfortable, and your pants droop throughout the day.

Of course, just because suspenders are a more logical solution than belts doesn't mean you're going to wear them all the time.

In fact, I wear belts more often than suspenders, just because I don't “dress up” very often.

For me it comes down to dress code. If I'm wearing a casual outfit, such as jeans and a t-shirt, I wear a belt because suspenders would look a little weird.

But if I'm dressing up (like if I'm wearing a suit), I try to avoid belts. I much prefer the comfort and aesthetic of side adjusters or suspenders.

Showing suspenders under jacket

Going beltless with suits is especially great for shorter men because it eliminates a horizontal line that cuts you in half visually. This elongates your legs and makes you look a little taller.

So I make sure all of my trousers come with side adjusters and/or suspender buttons.

If you own trousers that have belt loops and don't have suspender buttons, you can add buttons and remove the loops yourself or at the tailor for just a few dollars.

KK&Jay suspenders even come with an extra set of buttons that you (or your tailor) can sew into your pants.

Choosing the Right Suspenders

Okay, we know that suspenders are a great way to keep your pants up, especially for formal outfits. Let's talk about how to wear them.

There are really only two things to consider: the size of your suspenders and the color (or style).

Suspenders Sizes

Suspenders come in different lengths and widths. Most suspenders are around 46″ long, and they're pretty much always adjustable. So most guys don't need to worry about length.

But if you are concerned about suspenders being too short, you should know that KK&Jay will make custom length suspenders by request.

Suspenders without jacket

Huge thanks to Hamilton Distillers – makers of Whiskey Del Bac – for letting us shoot photos at their facility!

The other component of suspenders sizing is the width. The standard width of 1 3/8 inches is just fine for most body types.

Suspenders back

If you're a bigger guy or want a more conservative look, you can definitely rock wider suspenders (up two inches wide).

Similarly, if you're a super thin guy or want a more fashion forward look, you can wear thinner suspenders, but I wouldn't go any thinner than one inch, because that's getting into overly trendy territory (plus you sacrifice comfort and functionality).

But for most guys, the standard length and width is just fine.

Colors, Patterns and Fabrics

Just like pocket squares, suspenders don't need to exactly match your shirt, suit or tie.

In fact, the color or pattern of your suspenders is even less important than that of your pocket square because they're not visible under your jacket.

Oliver Wicks summer blue suit 3

Of course, your jacket will sometimes come off, so let's talk a little bit about choosing colors and patterns for your suspenders.

Just like with ties, darker colors and solid colors are more formal than lighter colors and patterns.

A safe bet is to go with solid color suspenders that are darker than your shirt. So if you're wearing a dark blue suit and light blue shirt, navy blue suspenders are a great choice.

In fact, a pair of solid navy suspenders is an extremely versatile choice for almost any wardrobe.

You get bonus points if your suspenders work well with the rest of your outfit by picking up or complimenting a secondary color.

Pouring Whiskey Del Bac

For example, the gold hardware on my suspenders compliment the gold details in my tie and watch.

Now, there is one part of your suspenders that should match the rest of your outfit: the leather.

Assuming you aren't wearing clip-on suspenders (which is generally frowned upon by the more discerning gentleman), you should pay attention to the ends of your braces.

Quick side note about clip-ons: I personally wouldn't wear them because I think button suspenders are much more elegant and comfortable, and it's so easy to sew in the buttons. But hey, that's just my opinion, and you should do what you want!

Suspender leather end

Just like with belts, you want to try to match your leathers. So if the ends of your suspenders are brown leather, your shoes should also be brown leather.

Oliver Wicks suit and shoes

Some guys draw a “hard line” in the sand about this so called “rule”, but I say just try your best to avoid clashing. It's not the end of the world if your shoes don't match your suspender ends perfectly.

Would YOU wear them?

For me, suspenders are kind of like shirttail garters: I'm not going to wear them everyday, but every now and then, I'm extremely glad that I have a couple of pairs on hand.

Of course, I know some guys who wear them all the time and absolutely love them. Either way, it's probably a good idea to have a pair in your arsenal.

Share your thoughts about suspenders in the comments below!

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Comments

  1. Brandon Dauphinais says:

    In your article about shorter guys who are also stout, you recommended suspenders. I bought a cheaper pair of clip on suspenders to try it out. And now I’m hooked.

    Ironically, I’ve lost nearly 15 pounds over the past few month and the suspenders have become more helpful as I’m in-between pants sizes. Belts are uncomfortable in that situation because I have to crank the belt too tight to hold up my pants. Suspenders? They are perfect.

    Now that you’ve got me hooked, I think I will stick with suspenders even as I become less stout. Thank you so much for the recommendation, Brock. I really appreciate it.

  2. I’ve been wondering about suspenders, particularly since i’ve lost weight – i’m 5″4″ or 5″5″ (depending on the day it seems, LOL) and between 125-140 lbs (health issues, i’ve bounced up and now working my way back to 125-130lbs where I want to be) and with nicer shirts and even jeans and a nice shirt, the belt doesn’t do right for me as Brandon described…. i’ve been experimenting with belt colors and widths for my look and i have a color palette done for me based on my skin/eye/hair/whatever color and coordinate around that and I know when something doesn’t look right on me – (including shapes/sizes of things for me).

    And accessories were recommended for someone like me, and so I kept wondering about suspenders but was simply not sure how to go about them. So this is great – I just don’t know where to go look/try/shop for them – it’s a whole new world for me.

    BTW, that outfit was a great look for you and cool on the distilery for your photo shoot.

    So yes, i’d like to try them out and work them into my wardrobe which i’m slowly working on ($$$ is something i’m not used to spending on clothing, but i’m learning). I’m not often in a situation where I have to dress up so much as dress casual.

  3. Would never wear clip on suspenders. Strong post, great to see another blogger being pro-suspender!

  4. Great article… It was very suspenseful, thanks!!

  5. Great piece. I just flat love the look of suspenders and the fact that they make more sense is a bonus. (NPR did a piece on them & for a variety of reasons they make sense.) I work on Capitol Hill where style is ridiculously important and my suspenders (with buttons, thank you) have only gotten compliments. Never going back to belts.

  6. Shin-hau Khoo says:

    Brock, you are absolutely correct in relating how much better suspenders/braces help with the image of less-tall men and not excluding taller men either.

    The fact that they ensure a consistent placement of the trousers waistband on the waist area of the wearer allows the trouser legs to hang straighter and more consistent above the shoe. With a weight enhanced hem or cuffs men wearing suspenders/braces can achieve a picture perfect look of strong, long legs throughout the day. It works with both tall or short men.

    Belted trousers tend to droop no matter what. It seems to me belts were more intended for securing outdoor gear on the waistband ala military style (with swords and pistols). Otherwise belts seem to work best only with 1940’s Hollywood trousers which do not have waistbands. The excess fabric on top of the belt (unlike current trousers with belt loops at the top of very rigid waistbands) help with generating friction that prevents trousers drooping.

    Unfortunately due to over reliance on fashion (belts on very low rise trousers) and seemingly inability to decide for themselves, most men these days are slowly resembling the following [intended] joke character:

    http://pm1.narvii.com/6364/94ec0cf1cc7459a2a8733022f3dff9a857e9353c_hq.jpg

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