Elements in Style – Spotlight on Suspenders

Suspenders–Suspension in Style

Michael Douglas may have been the star of the hit movie “Wall Street,” and the acting fabulous but who could forget those suspenders?  Although the fashion world has not seen this signature accessory for quite some time, it has made several comebacks in recent decades. Most notable was when Douglas’ character, Gordon Gekko, showed up on screen with a pin striped blue shirt in Wall Street dark blue suspenders. Even before Michael Douglas uttered one line, we knew what he was all about; his clothes spoke for him:  Successful, powerful, and super ambitious. The combed back hair and those suspenders were a fashion moment.
Michael Douglas in Wall Street
Photo: pophistorydig.com

Call it what you want-suspenders or braces (English version),  suspenders and fashion have had an interesting history together. Although suspenders were seen in various forms, it was not until Albert Thurston made it official by creating them in 1820. Initially, suspenders were used more for functionality than a fashion accessory. Back then, high cut pants made wearing a belt difficult so suspenders were an easy alternative.

Notable figures began to wear them thus increasing their popularity. When intellects such as Mark Twain and businessmen donned them, they were soon regarded as the accessory of the educated and successful. Hollywood also aided in their popularity. The Rat Pack often wore them as did Cary Grant and Gregory Peck. When the seventies and eighties came along, however, sales of suspenders decreased as belts took over and jackets and blazers tended to cover them, making suspenders pointless to wear. Suddenly, they were forgotten albeit an occasional sighting on Mick Jagger, James Bond in Skyfall, or Larry King’s trademark look.
Then the movie, Wall Street came along, and Michael Douglas made it the look of the super successful. Suspenders were now associated with power. Since then, suspenders have made a small comeback. They are statement pieces that can change the mood of an outfit and give it character.
Today, men are discovering the versatility of suspenders as they can look great for almost any occasion. Black suspenders make an outfit elegant for a night out or a business meeting while green or brown colored suspenders look great on a date, and can give a man a vintage (Brideshead Revisited), artsy look. While black and brown are the most widely used colors, today suspenders come in a variety of colors and can spice up any outfit. You can wear a blue stripped suspender with a gray dress shirt and a pair of jeans for example.


Although there are no general rules on how to wear suspenders, keep in mind a few things:
  • Thin suspenders may make you look bigger and vice versa. 
  • Second, in general, don’t wear suspenders with belts. 
  • If you are going to wear suspenders without a shirt, just keep in mind, no matter what, people will think Chippendales. 
  • Women look great in them. I used to wear with a Polo shirt.
©Gaya Lynn 2016

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