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Saturday January 21st 2012

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Tip-of-the-Day: Brace Yourself Like a Man

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A very underated, and misunderstood, accesorry that I seem to be wearing more than usual lately: braces.

Braces. Not suspenders.

These words are often interchanged and, to many, they can mean the same thing. To some more traditional retailers, however, suspenders clip-on to pants with metal clasps, while braces are equipped with button fasteners.

Braces are also typically more luxurious; made of quality satin, silk, leather or grosgrain with genuine hardware and authentic leather or braided cotton fasteners. They are made by companires like Trafalgar and Bentley Cravats (the only remaining suspender factory in NYC). Suspenders, on the other hand, are often skinny, synthetic, have basic metal clips and can be picked up at trendy stores like American Apparel for $10.

Here, three different looks to help you brace like a man – along with their corresponding “inspirations”.

1. Great-Depression-Era NYC

Thin, genuine leather braces, like these 1″ vintage leather versions, are a great way to channel James Braddock rather than Steve Urkel.

It is sort of interesting that, in a sense, braces can actually make you look tougher. Who would have thought?

Vintage leather braided braces. Jeans by JBrand (Dylan, 34). Grey chambray shirt by MAB (custom made, my own design). Trench by Brooks Brothers Black Fleece (size 2). Tweed Ivy cap by JCrew. Vintage wool glenplaid bow tie. Oxblood lace-up shoes by Scarpe di Bianco.

Bonus tip: when your jeans stretch out in the waist (they all do eventually) to the point that they are buckling between belt loops, rather than washing them to shrink them down (over-washing can rush the organic aging process of denim) sew some suspender buttons on the inside waistband and let them “float”. It costs $3 and takes 15 minutes.

2. Corporate Bad-Ass

A sharp, dark, minimal suit with suspenders of matching color is a great way to channel new-age Gordon Gekko rather than and old-age Larry King.

Consistent metals, a worsted wool tie and black leathers help give the “corporate bad-ass”, “getting-shit-done”, “boss-at-a-youg-age” vibe.

Midnight navy suit, midnight navy braces, pink micro check shirt, and grey wool tie all by MAB (custom made, my own designs). Watch by Montblanc. 2″ tie bar by Tiffany & Co. Leather/suede spectator lace-ups by Barker Black.

Bonus tip: pink shirts, like white jeans, when styled correctly and anchored with darker pieces can make a very suave transition from warm weather to cold.

3. Classic Americana

Although my style is influenced from all over the place, there will always be something about the Americana image that speaks to me. America really is the land of opportunity, I am proud to be a part of it and call myself a New Yorker.

It doesn’t get much more staple American than worn-in khaki chinos, blue bengal stripe shirts, cordovan tassel loafers, leather duffle bags, and rep stripe braces.

Striped grosgrain braces by Trafalgar (one size). Khaki chinos by Ralph Lauren Polo. Bengal stripe shirt by Tommy Hilfiger (size 15.5, tapered). Cashmere topcoat (in hand) by Brooks Brothers Black Fleece (designed by Thom Browne). Cordovan tassel loafers by Johnston & Murphy. Leather duffle bag by Lotuff & Clegg. Wool socks by Calvin Klein.

The beauty of this look, as I’ve said before (here): if this photo were black & white, it would be hard to tell which decade it was taken (based on the outfit). This is an example of  timeless/classic style. Pieces with historical references that have “stood the test of time” provide a necessary foundation for menswear.

Bonus tip: if you’re going for the true Americana look, it’s probably best to do it with brands that are American (and even more preferably, manufacture in America as well).

Side-note: this is my new favorite bag. It’s the perfect size and color, just the right balance between masculinity and luxury, and all hand-crafted in America of the finest leather. It also happens to be a perfect mate for these braces; the tan leathers match, as well as the bronzy/gold hardware. Similar buttons on the topcoat can be a nice touch too. (Post on man bags coming soon).

Thanks for reading.

Yours in style,

SB

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88 Comments

  • Anonymous says:

    Never seen braces look so cool. Going out to buy a couple pairs :)

  • Robert Schiess says:

    Can you help me. I’am looking for braces in cachmir or paisley design. Do you know any adress?

  • Dave says:

    Hi Dan,
    I love your blog. I’m 6’5″ guy and am having trouble finding braces my size. I have a pair of xl braces from Trafalgar, but can’t seem to find anything else out there for tall guys. It seems like anything for tall or bigger guys is just elastic suspenders, which I don’t want. Trafalgar has limited options and most of there tall braces are really plain (4 solid colors) or much more expensive and fancier than I’d like. I teach high school in the Midwest, but like to look professional.
    Thanks
    Dave

  • Callum says:

    Went to my school Prom yesterday. First time I had not worn T shirt and jeans for ages and very good it felt. My Dad rented my dress suit, and the pants had no belt loops, so I had to pinch a pair of braces from my sister’s bf, which was embarrassing as I had ribbed him about them on previos occasions. They garnered a alot of favourable comments at the dance , and a number of guys asked me where they could buy a pair. Perhaps I am starting a trend!

  • Dane says:

    Hi there…I have been searching for an item of clothing that I haven’t been able to find as yet….it is worn by the lead guitarist/keyboards player in the “good charlotte” film clip “like it’s her birthday”….for the life of me I don’t know what he has got coming over his shoulders and under his arms I thought they were suspenders at first…please help to find out what they are and possibly where to get them?…thanx Dane

  • Salvador J. Viesca says:

    We have a men’s clothing consignment store in La Jolla, California. After reading your advice and looking at your photos above, I now understand what so many young men are looking for braces in our store these days. And we are in southern California.

    My son, who is 23, works with me in our store and has been considering wearing bow ties lately. After seeing the photos of the young gentleman in the braces with a bow tie, I am confident he could pull “that look” off himself.

    By-the-way, I personally wear Trafalgar Limited Edition silk braces whenever I wear a tie.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Brad says:

    Sorry to stumble on this blog so late. I have been experimenting with braces for about a year, and love the comfort they provide, but have yet to gain sufficient courage to let anyone else see me in them. Any tips would be most welcome!

    • Gordon says:

      Hi Brad,

      Check out this link it is a very interesting one about guys having the courage to start wearing braces in public.

      http://www.favsky.net/fashion/wear/is-it-odd-for-a-man-to-wear-braces-in-the-us-suspenders-to-hold-their-trousers-up-rather-than-a-belt.html

  • Ray says:

    Hey,

    Love the blog, this post is fantastic. Quick question: I bought a pair of pants from John Varvatos that came with the brace buttons on the outside of the waist, running along the belt loots – is this just an alternate style for wearing braces or are the buttons meant to be transferred inside by my tailor?

    Regards,
    Ray

  • brooks sisters says:

    dan,
    have you had any experience with these?http://www.jpressonline.com/accessories_braces_detail.php?id=AT5L
    If anyone reading this has and would like to comment it would be appreciated. thanks

  • Lenmeister says:

    Hello SB,

    Avid aficionado here, just bought my first pair of braces (Drakes London :-D). I need your advice, in line with your “corporate look” picture above, do you think it’s ideal to wear gold braces with gold tie bar, gold watch etc (and similarly, silver accessories with silver braces?). Many thanks.

    L

  • Ryan says:

    LOVE this post; one of my all time favourites.

    I recently bought a pair of trousers with suspender buttons on them; however, they’re on the outside of the pants, and I see in this post (and on many other wearers of braces) that you have the buttons on the inside of the pants. Really I find this looks cleaner anyway, so I’ll reattach the buttons on the inside at my nearest convenience.

    A quick question though; do you use sew on, or tack in buttons for your pants?
    Also, do the buttons ever cause discomfort when the pants are worn with a belt?

    As always, a great read.

  • Kane says:

    As a frequent braces (and yes, suspenders) wearer, I feel the need to point out one of the most obvious bonuses of wearing them…

    Ladies really like the braces.

  • RP14 says:

    Is it required to get rid of belt loops when using braces?

  • Jason says:

    I have been wearing braces for a couple of years as they are so much more comfortable than belts, but as I am only 19 I have been afraid to let them show in public. Your post has given me the impetus to “come out”.

    Many thanks

  • Jude says:

    I recently tried a pair of braces on my pants and was amazed at the positive reaction I received from the gals compared to the ribald comments from my male buddies. They don’t know what they are missing!

  • lawrenzo says:

    Style and fashion always intertwine, it takes a man with an impeccable eye for both to maintain a healthy balance. You have a great sense of both.You also have an eye for putting clothes together that’s the whole essence of style. Its not what you have or wear,its how you wear it and pull it off with the audacity of a boss man that makes a man of style. You do these things flawlessly. Nice one bro. I’m a fan!

  • Ark says:

    suspenders isnt something i could pull off, so props.

  • PAS says:

    SB, this isn’t relevant to this post at all (even though I feel like this may be your best work yet), but I was curious if you have ever had any experience with having a peacoat tailored? I picked one up on the cheap and it fits well throughout the body, but I could use the arms being slimmed up and shortened. Could this be done or would the material used to construct the coat prevent it?
    Thanks for your time,
    PAS

  • AFH says:

    Love the blog and the uniqueness of your style. I am looking to change the buttons on a suit jacket. Do you know of any websites where I can find appropriate buttons? Thanks-

  • anon says:

    hey sb your featured in this blog,
    dec 7,
    http://fuckyeahmenswear.tumblr.com/

  • Amir says:

    Hey Dan,

    So badass. I read on an earlier comment that your tapered shirt was taken in at the side seams. Just wanted to get some insight on what method is better to get a shirt taken in; darting vs. tapering. pros and cons? Thanks for a great blog.

    Cheers

    • SB says:

      Hey Amir.

      I like my shirts really slim, and in correct proportions, so I usually use a combination of the two to take in the body of my off-the-rack shirts. I often take in the sleeves as well. I do the alterations myself, so I see it as good practice.

      Hope this helps.

      Best,
      Dan

  • Anonymous says:

    When my great grandfather lost his house in the Great Depression, I can assure you he was not wearing Di Bianco shoes.

    • SB says:

      I mean no disrespect toward the hardships faced by your ancestors four generations ago.

      Keep in mind the look is not a costume, it is simply “inspired by”.

      This happens all the time in fashion/style. The kids wearing skinny jeans and combat boots in the lower east side – they aren’t real soldiers. The vast majority of people wearing plaid flannel shirts are not farmers. Those wearing trench coats are not likely British military officers. Etc.

      I will try to be more explanatory in the future to avoid confusion.

      Thanks for reading.

      Best,
      Dan

  • Jay Frais says:

    Love the looks, def inspirational

  • Richard says:

    So, this article was placed under the category of accessories but why no articles about watches? I can’t imagine a more appropriate accessory to discuss. I realize that many people have replaced watches with their cellphones but not classy people.

    • TO says:

      He has organized a category of “watch” posts, which all happen to be on the old version of his site:
      http://mensstyleblog.blogspot.com/search/label/Watches

  • FRESH2DEATH says:

    Surprise nobody commented on the Lotuff and Clegg bag…I think I saw that in another blog (possibly ivy-style??) and was really taken with it. Beautiful bag, probably will be my next purchase. Which color did you get, SB? Also, I’d be interested to see how it wears….

    Stay Fresh,

    F2D

    • I concur says:

      Oh snap…Pauly D’s in the house!!!!!

    • SB says:

      This one is in “chestnut”.

      http://www.lotuffclegg.com/products/Leather-Duffle-Travel-Bag.html

      I’m sure it will get more spins on here.

      Thanks for reading,
      Dan

      • FRESH2DEATH says:

        Yes, the website is beautifully done. I like the chocolate brown travel duffel, the silver-colored hardware appeals to me more than the gold.

        Stay Fresh,

        F2D

  • Trad says:

    Braces are like your undies, show = fail.

  • Ross says:

    Hey Dan,

    What beard trimmer are you using right now?

    Cheers,
    R.

    • SB says:

      I’ve been using the “T-Outliner” by Andis for about a decade now. They were the “balders” that my first baber used. They cut all the way to the skin, so you can get an almost-clean shave in 30 dry seconds.

      Bonus tip: using a comb as a guard, start at the sideburns and fade up your sides to extend the period between hair cuts. Just changed the ankle of the comb as you go up vertically for an even blend.

      http://www.amazon.com/Andis-04521-T-Outliner-Trimmer/dp/B0018X2772

      Hope this helps.
      -Dan

  • Mike says:

    Great looks, as usual. I’m curious why your pants are always too short? Is it proper or is it to show the shoes?
    Love the site!

    • SB says:

      “Too” short is subjective, a matter of preference and taste. I wear most of my dress trousers with little to no break, because on my frame (and with pants this tapered), I consider it most flattering and appropriate for my “image”. An yea, it works great to compliment a well-made shoe as well.

      Thanks for reading.

      Best,
      Dan

    • Shoe Snobby says:

      Let’s make this very clear, under NO circumstances should your shoes ever be seen!!!! I mean no soles, sides or laces nothing! A true gent looks like he is gliding across the floor.

  • Wndsorite says:

    SB your posts always come at a fortuidous time. I just picked up a pair of braces from Brooks Brothers yesterday and am planning to wear them to a christmas party tomorrow. This is an awesome post, and on a side note I also grabbed bass weejuns for 40 bucks, an item I would have no idea existed until I read this blog. Thanks!

  • Anonymous says:

    hey dan!!
    i cant tell the difference between suspenders/ braces..
    could you explain??

  • john says:

    dan!!
    you look amazingly different than other looks..
    love it on you..keep it!!

  • Recent says:

    Hard to tell, but did you design the suit pants with no belt loops?

  • Mr. Sartorial says:

    Great post Dan! Enough to bring braces back to the fore. My only question: How the hell do you afford so many clothes? I consider my wardrobe expansive, but yours takes the cake.

    • SB says:

      Thx for reading. I would assume your wardrobe is fairly expansive, Mr Sartorial. To briefly answer your question: collecting timelless-ish pieces for years, working hard, thrifty shopping, knowing the right people, self promotion…

      Best,
      Dan

  • cam says:

    Awesome as usual. You are my hero. So if I want to have buttons for braces added, I should be specific with my tailor and tell him BRACE buttons not SUSPENDERS buttons? I hate my tailor, but he is s cheap and I have no $ to spend on the younger tailors.

    • SB says:

      Hah, thanks. A tailor will know what you mean whether you say brace buttons or suspender buttons. If you’re talking buttons, than they’re the same thing.

  • kayvaan says:

    i love the idea with jeans. as you mention in your aside – jeans have the problem of stretching out and sagging. i may have to start going with braces. i’ve been yearning for them for ages mainly for the convenience factor (no saggy jeans) but if they can look good too – well then sign me up…

  • Mike says:

    I agree with everyone – the first look is incredible.

    Surprisingly, though, the part of the post that made me so excited was, “Post on man bags coming soon”. I have been trying to figure this out for months. What to look for in one, what kinds of options I have, etc.
    So far my favorite is: http://www.valetmag.com/the-mix/121010.php?index1_top_lead

  • Thatguy says:

    sorry SB, my original comment made no sense, seeing that I looked at the photos before I read the text. But eh, your still channeling Urkel or his suave counterpart stephon.

    are you still selling clothes on ebay? if so, whats your stores name again

    • SB says:

      I have a large duffle bag full of clothes and shoes that I will be selling soon. Rather than eBay, however, I will likely post them to the store section of the website instead. More about this to come. Thx. -Dan

  • Rob says:

    Another killer post…keep killing em Dan!

  • Anonymous says:

    SB!

    Love the post, but after reading Look #1, it appears you left one item out of your description!

    What type of jeans are you wearing?

    Thanks!

  • Joey Dee says:

    I absolutely appreciate the depression era post. Being an aged punk rocker, hanging in the gutters and streets in my earlier days, i can really appreciate this look. When the working class uniform is traded in, this is how it ahould be done, proper. Don’t get me wrong all these looks mean business, but for those of your readers from that lifestyle, its the best one. Thanks for focus on the braces, i have been collecting them for some time now.

  • Jen Smith says:

    I love all your brace looks… I know them as suspenders, I see you tryin to be all fancy….LOL!!! First outfit is my fav but the braces in the last outfit ROCK!!!

    jen
    http://blankwhiteframes.blogspot.com

  • Trent says:

    I love your looks, and this post is definitely no exception. These are just fantastic styles. I’ve wanted to experiment with braces for a little while, so this might just be that little push in the right direction.

    One question though: with pants you plan on wearing with braces, how fitted should they be? Should they be secure enough that you could wear them without them, or should they be a little loose in the waist so you can let the braces do the work?

    • SB says:

      The pants I wear with braces are the same pants I where without braces – with the exception of a few that are too big in the waist, and that I didn’t have taken-in so I could keep the waist “float” with braces.

      Best,
      Dan

  • Ethan says:

    I like the looks, though I have trouble getting behind the too-long tie. Still, any of these looks would get you plenty of “well-dressed” comments anywhere I know.

    • SB says:

      The tie was not tied intentionally “long”. It may be an illusion caused by the braces that are holding the trousers slightly higher than where the side-adjusters usually hold on the hips. Thanks for reading. Best, Dan

  • Thatguy says:

    see your channeling Steve Urkel

  • MondoSwaggerNYC says:

    SB…

    Your swag is relentless. Props due.

    One,
    Mondo

  • Paul says:

    “Bonus tip: when your jeans stretch out in the waist (they all do eventually) to the point that they are buckling between belt loops, rather than washing them to shrink them down (over-washing can rush the organic aging process of denim) sew some suspender buttons on the inside waistband and let them “float”. It costs $3 and takes 15 minutes.”

    This would have made a perfect video blog.

  • Deeya says:

    I truly hate to highlight this,but the first line has “seam” instead of, what I think is, “seem”… I think it’s a pun, but I don’t know!

    I absolutely adore what you’re doing. My greatest inspiration ever!

    What types of spectacles should a man wear?

    Thanks!

    D

  • The Shoe Snob says:

    One of the best posts i have seen yet!! Great pieces. Love the shoes in the first two outfits. That first outfit is killer. Keep up the good work!

    http://the-shoe-snob.blogspot.com/

  • TO says:

    This has to be one of my all-time favourite posts. Last time I saw you mention to remain authentic when it came to this subject, I thought it was a good point- but maybe brushed it off a bit. Given the chance, you showed the undoubtable reasoning behind your belief. It’s a great metaphor for your integrity and perseverance Dan.

    p.s. What do you mean by “tapered” for the bengal-striped shirt? Can you explain the process? And I hope you feature that Black Fleece Topcoat sometime in full view:) Btw, I went to the address of Thom Browne at 100 Hudson Street but couldn’t find his store-?

    • SB says:

      By tapered I meant taking-in at the side seams. The TB store can be hard to find – when they close they shut all the blinds and I don’t think he has a sign.

      Thx as always TO. -Dan

      • TO says:

        You’re welcome Dan- this is something I’ve been wondering about lately because I assumed this was the standard way to take a shirt in, until I realized the guy I’ve gone to has actually darted some if not all of my shirts- I’ll have to inquire about this in the future. — Well now I have (somewhat) of a reason to go back to the city, ha!

  • Sabir P. says:

    Dan,

    As of late braces are something I have been investigating and plan to pick up a pair next week. You speak here of all the great things that braces offer to a variety of outfits, but, are there any cons that you have experienced?

    The leather braided braces are quality. Have most of your dress pants been made brace ready?

    • SB says:

      Hmm. Cons? Potentially they could slide off your shoulder, they take a little more time to put on than a belt, they’re not great for multiple layers, the dry cleaners may press over the button which can leave a mark on the outside of the pants, the buttons can get in the way when re-tucking-in your shirt…

      Most of my trousers – and some of my jeans – have suspender buttons, to give me the option.

      Best,
      Dan

  • RO says:

    My man, killin it

  • Carter says:

    SB,
    Another classic post that educates the masses on the proper way to wear braces! I am looking to invest in a classic, not trendy, pair of braces. Any advice on price point and brands for good braces?
    Followers please advise,
    Carter

    • SB says:

      A safe bet for a quality pair of braces that aren’t terribly over-priced is sticking to a brand that specializes in them. Trafalgar for example. There is no need to splurge on designer pant-holders, the favorites in my collection are vintage. Thx for reading, Dan

  • Anonymous says:

    Love the shoes from Scarpe di Bianco, I’ve been waiting to see a pair of these in action

    Best Wishes,

    Christian Kimber

    http://www.stylesage.co.uk

  • The Man Without Fear says:

    Great post – really love the first look.

  • Adam says:

    O man! Amazing looks!
    My favorite is the first one!
    Love it!