At least from the turn of this century suspenders have been identified with business wear while belts were considered an accoutrement of sports clothing. There are several practical reasons why suspenders are still the proper choice to be worn with the business suit, especially one with pleated trousers.
Suspenders permit the trousers to hang best, supporting the front of the pants as well as the rear. They allow the pleat to establish its proper line and make the crease of the trousers more apparent. Additionally, suspenders are more comfortable than belts, which must be drawn tight around the waist in order to hold up the trousers. With suspenders, trousers can be worn loosely around the body, the only contact one feels coming at the point where the suspenders cross the shoulders. One might also note that during the summer months the wearing of suspenders actually promotes a certain coolness, as the roominess of the trousers around the waist area makes for improved air circulation.
Suspenders also have the added advantage of allowing the length of the trousers to remain constant. Normally, a man’s trousers stretch at waistband during the course of a day.
Suspenders eliminate the need to pull them up two, three, four, or more times a day. For all these reasons and more, suspenders will always remain preferable to belts in dress wear.
Frankly, there is a simply no place for belts in the realm of tailored clothing. They cut a man’s body in half, interrupting the smooth transition of the suit from shoulders to trouser cuffs. And they are particularly disruptive when one is wearing a vested suit. Either the belt creates a bulge under the vest or else it sticks out beneath it, completely destroying the line.
Today the finest suspenders are made of rayon, replacing yesteryear’s silk. Produced only in England but available in American, they come with leather fittings and adjustable brass levers. (Elasticized suspenders are not a substitute; not only do they lack style, but they function poorly and are less comfortable.) The straps of most fine suspenders are cut in 4 cm strips. Any smaller and they will bind; wider, they feel unnatural.
Trousers to be worn with suspenders should have two buttons in the back that are equidistant from the center of the fork of the suspenders. In front, there are four buttons: one over each of the main pleats, the other two just forward of the side seam. They may be sewn inside or outside the waistband, depending upon personal preferences. Trousers should always be worn larger at the waist so that they are actually “suspended” from the shoulders.
Needless to say, belts should never be worn in conjunction with suspenders. It is considered in poor taste. Therefore, if the trousers you’re wearing are to be worn with suspenders, make sure your tailor removes the belt loops.
Perhaps the only person who might encounter some difficulty wearing suspenders is someone with sharply sloped shoulders. In such a case, the back fork of the suspenders can be raised to compensate. This may be accomplished simply by using the excess material from the hem of the trousers to make tabs that can be sewn to the back, thereby effectively raising the fork higher on the back, which in turn will keep the suspenders from sliding.
While almost all aspects of businesswear are designed to enhance the impression of seriousness of purpose on the part of the wearer, suspenders offer perhaps a singular opportunity to lighten up an austere image. There are no limits to the colors and patterns that are deemed acceptable.
There are successful, serious men in the financial community who wear embroidered dollar-sign suspenders, and others who wear those embroidered with golf clubs or naked ladies. Against all vagaries of fashion, they have been doing it for years. No doubt they will continue to do so.
When the opportunity is there, fine dressers make the most of it.
In terms of the belts, once again, it must be emphasized that they are properly worn only with sport clothes.
However, if one does choose to wear a belt with a business suit, it should be simple, with a small buckle that does not call attention to itself. The buckle can be made in either gold or silver color, generally matching the color of the jewelry one wears. If there are initial embossed on it, make sure they are your own and not some “designer’s”.
The belt itself should be between 2,5 and 3,5 cm in width. Its color can relate either to the color of your suit or the shoes you are wearing. It should never be so long that the belt’s extra piece overlaps more than a few cm past the first loop after it’s buckled, nor should it be so short that it just barely makes it through the buckle.
Simplicity and understatement should be the keys to dress belts. Perhaps the most elegant belts are those of black or brown pin seal, lizard, or the ultimate in luxury, crocodile. All take a simple nonornamented gold or brass buckle.