Both the belt and suspenders were designed for the exact same purpose: to keep pants in place around the waist. However, these two items weren’t designed to work with each other. These items were designed independently at different times independently. And if you ask lots of style experts, they will tell you that you have to pick one or the other. You just can’t have both. Is this true or is this one of those fashion rules that are actually made to be broken? Can you wear a belt with suspenders? To get the answer to the question, we consulted with men’s style experts and took a deep look at suspenders, bets and how to wear these accessories well.
Wearing Suspenders and a Belt
According to Real Men Real Style, wearing a belt and suspenders at the same time is “an obvious fashion error.” As their style experts explained it, “it creates three sides of a square around the middle of your body. Your overall image has become a rectangle. Rectangles are not a shape we like to see people in.”
“But even if you think rectangles are pretty, understand that wearing both suspenders and a belt is always a faux pas. People will notice, and they will think less of you.”
He Spoke Style also weighed in on this weighty issue and didn’t mince words. “Wearing a belt with suspenders…is patently wrong with a capital ‘W.'”
Yeah. The belt and suspenders combination is a pretty big no-no in the fashion world.
All About Suspenders
Suspenders, called braces in British English, are pieces of fabric that attach to the pants and go over your shoulders. They are connected to your pants on both sides and keep your pants in place. Suspenders are attached with buttons on the pants or with clips secured to the pants.
Types of Suspenders
Suspenders are made in one of three main styles: X, Y and H. The X style suspenders criss cross at the middle to lower back area, which literally makes an X shape. The Y suspender style has a single long strip of fabric in the back that branches to create two pieces, which then come up and over the shoulders to complete the classic suspender look. Because of the unique branching design at the back of the suspenders, they’re called Y suspenders.
As you might have guessed, H suspenders are shaped like the letter H in the back. In this design, the two long strips that attach to your pants are attached to each other with a single long strip of fabric that runs horizontally between the two to secure them.
How They Work
Suspenders are secured to the pants in one of two ways: buttons or clips. Suspenders that are secured to the pants with buttons have a sleeker, more streamlined look. This is what you’ll wear if you’re wearing suspenders for more formal events. Clips are much more casual, a little less sophisticated. Clips can cause damage to our pants, the waistband in particular if you use them all the time. Many suit pants are still made with the interior buttons used to secure suspenders to the waistband of your pants, though clip on suspenders have become more and more popular. Next time you have a nice pair of pants from your closet out, check for the suspender buttons and you’ll probably find them.
Many style experts hate suspenders, with Ties going far enough to say “clip-on suspenders are a faux pas and they’ll make you look silly.”
Clip suspenders are seen as often as button suspenders, except for in formal wear.
The Long, Long History of Belts
Weirdly, belts are actually even older than pants. Humans created belts first. The first wraps used as clothing, which were fashioned from animal skins, were secured to the body with belts. Belts appeared in fashion all through history. They were used to hold Greek tunics in place. They adorned the finest gowns worn by queens. It wasn’t until the 1800s that belts took on the more familiar form that we recognize today.
It was in the 1820s that trousers, modern pants, started to become widely worn. Before this, the popular look in menswear was to suffer inside breeches and tight-fitting hose. Belts started to become an essential item even before this. In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, belts were a handy way to attach little items to the body and keep essentials close by. The belt loop wasn’t a thing until later.
Suspenseful Suspenders History
It was also in the 1820s that suspenders were first invented by a British designer. Albert Thurston created suspenders that attached to pants with leather loops. His company still makes a style of suspenders with this feature. The suspenders were invented to fulfill a particular fashion niche. At the time, it was fashionable to wear very high-waisted pants. The pants were so high-waisted, in fact, that you couldn’t use a belt to hold them up. Suspenders were a perfect solution.
The early design created by Thurston had an H back. The X back suspenders design followed and soon, the Y suspenders design was born. The newer X and Y back suspenders styles quickly replaced the H. Today, it’s not easy to find suspenders made in the classic H style.
One of the earliest patents for suspenders issued in the U.S. went to a man named Samuel Clemens in 1871. You probably know him better as Mark Twain, the dude who wrote such classics as “Huckleberry Finn” and “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” His patent was for “adjustable and detachable straps for garments.”
Suspenders were seen in formal wear, casual wear and all fashion of the day.
Men started wearing their pants around their waists again, keeping the pants at a lower rise, in the early 1900s. Suspenders largely fell out of fashion at this time. However, some notable personalities continued to wear them and kept the look fashionable. Actor Humphrey Bogart wore them, as did a popular British actor named Ralph Richardson.
Suspenders became pop fashion in the 1960s when they became popular among British youths, who attached the suspenders to jeans that needed no help staying on. Suspenders had gone from a practical item to one that was just in place for style. The fashion world would never be the same.
The accessories rose to fame in the 1970s, when it became popular to wear suspenders but not to wear them. They were taken off the shoulders and left hanging down instead. The look was popular with youth culture at the time. Hanging suspender straps somehow became a look that caught on. It was the 1970s and fashion was super weird.
In the 1980s, suspenders became associated with power suits and boardrooms when they were born by Michael Douglas in “Wall Street.” Here, suspenders were a striking accessory associated with wealth and power. They became a popular accessory with wth business suits. High-end designs, like leather suspenders, added a new twist. But even in this decade of famously bad fashion, the suspender belt combination was known to be just plain wrong.
Later in the decade, suspenders became associated with all things geeky and nerdy thanks to TV icon Jaleel White, who memorably placed Steve Urkel on “Family Matters.” His suspenders, paired with a bow tie, were part of a look that was designed to not be sexy.
Holding Up Your Pants
The truth is, you don’t need either a belt or suspenders to complete an outfit. While these accessories can add a little extra to any outfit, they’re actually super unnecessary. If you’re wearing pants that are made well and made to fit, you won’t need a belt or suspenders to keep them in place because they will stay in place all on their own. But a belt or suspenders can add a lot of style to your overall look and make any outfit more complete, whether you’re dressing for a formal occasion or a casual event.
So, how should you be wearing suspenders if you absolutely shouldn’t ever be wearing them with a belt? There are many ways to style suspenders so they look classic and cool. However, there are just as many ways to style them so they look dated and just so not trendy. Be careful how you wear your suspenders, and what you wear them with, if you want to look fashionable…and not lame.
The traditional suspenders look is, of course, suspenders with a bow tie. This look can actually be pretty hot if it’s done the right way. If it’s not, then you can forget about being chic and realize that you’re just going to look geeky. So what’s the “right way” to do this? First, make sure your bow tie and your suspenders do not match. It may seem like fashion 101 to pair these two items. When actually, that’s going to look bad. You want each of these items to stand alone and apart, so don’t match them to each other. Contrast and even clash will make the outfit much more interesting.
Choose pants that fit well and that aren’t too baggy. Fitted pants will give you more a trendy hipster look. Baggy, saggy pants are going to make you look sloppy, which doesn’t match the vibe you’re trying to create with the suspenders and the bow tie. Roll up the sleeves of your shirt instead to introduce a more casual, cool vibe to the look. And of course, you should be wearing a button-up dress shirt. Leave the jacket at home because the whole point of suspenders is allowing them to be seen. Finish it off with loafers and your geek chic look is complete. You can style this look with classic denim jean pants or any other pants style you like.
If you want to tap into your inner ’80s child or just remember those days when you were full of teenage angst, a throwback to a style that was popular in the waning years of the 1900s. Slip into a V-neck T shirt or Henley shirt with short sleeves and no collar to design a great casual outfit. Attach suspenders to your jeans and now you’ve got a casual look that was hot with youth culture a few decades ago. This look is now retro and it’s definitely one of the better 1980s-era looks you could recreate. Unless you want to get out a pair of high-waisted jeans that you can taper around the legs, stick to the suspenders. If you can get your hands on a pair, a classic H style suspender works very well with a casual look like this.
Want to inject a little international style into your look? Go super retro with a look that’s sophisticated and classic but kind of hard to pull off. The key to this look, as with any other, is confidence. This is a very sexy look when you know that it’s a sexy look, so go ahead and lean in.
Slip into a button-up dress shirt with a collar and button it all the way up, but leave the tie in the closet. Roll up the sleeves for that working man vibe, put on your suspenders and slide into a pair of trousers. Don’t try this look with jeans. A nice-fitting pair of slacks is really the key to the whole thing. Top it off with a cap and you will truly capture a classic, European look that will very much make you look like a man about town. A newsboy cap really makes this outfit great. Classic black suspenders are what you want to really sell this look.
Suspenders have been associated with geekdom, with board rooms, with power suits and even with high fashion. But suspenders can be part of a pretty sexy rugged look, too. Put on a pair of blue jeans and a button-up work shirt. This might be your standard denim shirt, a flannel shirt or just a classic blue work shirt. Add suspenders and work boots and you’re ready to take on any tough task or outdoor activity that might be on the agenda. The work suspenders look is definitely hot. After all, this is often seen as a style that lumberjacks and other super rugged working men wear. Add a tool belt and it’s really going to drive potential love interests wild.
Suspenders have been associated with the likes of Larry King and Robin Williams as the goofy alien Mork, personas that were hardly considered to be big sex symbols. But suspenders have been associated with Daniel Craig as James Bond, Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack Dawson and just about every sexy 1930s-era gangster to ever be featured on film. So when you want to get sexy and make suspenders look really good, it’s no problem. You just need the right shirt and all the swagger you can muster.
You want a white button-down shirt and you want to leave those top two buttons, or even three, undone. Add any pants you like, from skinny plaid pants to hip hugging blue jeans to a nice pair of slacks to something in leather. Once you add the suspenders in basic black, brown or red, your sexy style is going to look great. add a pair of sneakers or flats and you will definitely be rocking a hot look.
Wearing a Belt
The belt is a beloved piece of fashion because it is so versatile. There are so many ways to style a belt, so many different belt styles to choose from. Belts are made in all different widths out of all different materials. Leather is the classic belt material, but belts are made in fabric, plastic and metal, too. There are many ways to wear a belt to make it the focal point of your outfit, whether you choose a leather belt or something a little less typical.
The classic way to wear a belt is, of course, with a pair of pants and a tucked-in shirt (or a shirt that’s short enough that you can’t tuck it in and your belt shows anyway). This look works with any pair of pants that have belt loops and any shirt. The belt is visible and that means it’s a part of the outfit. Because the belt is right in the middle of your body and it’s the transition between your upper and lower half, it’s always going to be a focal point. It will get noticed. That’s why the belt you choose is important.
Add a suit jacket or a button-up shirt to your outfit. The belt will still show, but not so much. This is another classic belt look. And though the belt shows only a little, your outfit will look incomplete if you leave the belt at home. This is a look you’ll see all the time, from the most formal event to daily office wear.
Evoke a really classic and pretty old school look by daring it all with that piece of fashion that makes even the most stylish, the most attractive, the most wealthy people squirm: the white belt. Have you got the guts to pull it off with a retro look? You’ll want to save this outfit only for a very specific occasion when you want a very specific look. But when it works, it really works.
Wear a pair of high-waisted black or gray slacks, a short-sleeve button-up shirt in a colorful pinstripe pattern…and yes, you guessed it. Finish it off with that white belt. A pair of loafers complete this very retro look. Wear it with a lot of swagger and it will turn heads. Avoid a fashion faux pas by not wearing white shoes, unless they’re sneakers. There are some weird fashion rules about white shoes and even though it may seem natural to match your shoes and your belt, it’s not what you want to do in this case.
When you really want to give them the old razzle dazzle, make the belt the star of your outfit. Dress from head to toe in one color. A navy blue suit with a navy blue shirt, for example. Add a belt in a different color to play against the outfit. Be bold and choose a color that’s going to stand out, such as black on white or white on navy. Now, the belt will truly shine. You can add another pop of color that matches the belt with a pocket square, if you really want to add some fine detail to this outfit design.
As Part of the Outfit
Women’s fashion allows for all sorts of different belt looks. One way women wear belts is by truly making them an important part of their outfit. Wear a shirt that is at least as long as hip-length or a dress. Add a belt at the smallest part of the waist and the outfit is now complete. It will show off your curves and it will display the belt as an essential element of your look.
Picking One or the Other
Belts are truly amazing, especially when you get into different buckles and whatnot. Suspenders can be a heck of a lot of fun as well. But never the twain should meet, as they say. Don’t ever wear suspenders and a belt at the same time because it really doesn’t look good. Both the belt and the suspenders serve the same purpose: holding up your pants. They don’t look good together and all style experts say that this is simply a bad look.
Pick one. Choose a specific look and don’t try to mix it up too much. Wearing too many accessories at once is going to make any outfit look too busy and too overdone. Once you’ve made the choice, commit to it. Style your outfit to complement your accessories and use your accessories to complement your outfit. Put together whole looks that are simple and classic and you will always be in style and always turn heads for the right reason.
No, you can’t wear a belt with suspenders. But you can style either one of them so successfully that no outfit will ever look like it’s lacking a thing.
Business Insider – The 2 men’s style accessories you should never wear together
He Spoke Style –Suspenders History
Love to Know – Belts and Buckles
Real Men Real Style – Top 5 Style Mistakes To Avoid | Men’s Fashion Faux Pas