Why Braces Matter
By Aleks Cvetkovic
Jul 13, 2022
Aleks Cvetkovic espouses the virtues of a time-tested sartorial staple.
Rather strangely, the humble trouser brace seems to be a rather polarizing sartorial accessory, some love them, some can’t bear to wear them. Their function, of course, is to keep one’s trousers up – an alternative to the belt or side-adjusters – but there’s much more to braces than that and to treat them simply as an alternative to the belt is to overlook the way that they are designed to enhance the proportional balance of one’s outfit, and even make for more comfortable wearing than belted trousers.
But, before all that, let’s begin at the beginning. Braces as we think of them today have been around for donkey’s years (by which I mean around 200) and first appear in a recognisable form in and around 1820, when their overarching design traits were settled upon and then reproduced en masse by one Mr Albert Thurston, who established a brace-making workshop in the midlands. Indeed, Albert Thurston is still operational today and remains the premier option for proper English-made braces; all those braces that Drake’s stocks are special commissions from Thurston.
Initially rather primitive constructions in coarse felted wool or broadcloth, braces were steadily refined under the auspices of the Victorian dandy, whose fall-fronted trouser (designed to sit on the natural waist across the belly-button) was in desperate need of support. Initially thought of as ‘underwear’ to be worn exclusively beneath a waistcoat, by the turn of the twentieth century braces were increasingly becoming an accessory to pay attention to; a statement piece that enhanced one’s tailored look and demonstrated that he knew how to dress, made-up in either boxcloth, silk moiré, barathea or new-fangled elastic.
At times seen as the weapon of choice for the spiv or yuppie, braces have returned to vogue steadily since the noughties as more and more gentlemen have taken an interest in discreet, elegant dressing. From a technical perspective, the great benefit of correctly fitted braces is that they allow you to completely and utterly forget about slouching through the day hitching your trousers up – there is nothing less elegant and more irritating than trousers pulled-tight with a belt which seldom stay where you want them. Braces eradicate that problem, hanging trousers elegantly and immovably from your shoulders, and they offer other practical advantages too.
They allow for your trouser waistband to be looser and therefore a little roomier than if you choose to wear a belt, which is not only comfortable but allows for the trouser to fall through the leg more naturally, for a refined, flowing look. In the same breath, they allow for one to wear trousers with a slightly higher rise that sit atop, rather than across the hips for a classically elegant aesthetic. They come in either button-in or clip-on variants, and button-in are both more traditional and more grown up. Buttons are always supplied with button-in designs.
Braces are not something to be afraid of, nor are they to be thought of as antiquated or overly formal. When dressed appropriately, they offer a comfortable blend of function and form, helping you to stay comfortable in your trousers whilst allowing them to hang properly and drape cleanly throughout the day. They’re also the perfect thing to add the requisite splash of colour and character to a tailored ensemble; try a simple navy pair with grey flannels and a tweed jacket, or else wear a pair with subtle spots or stripes under a navy blazer with a denim shirt and chinos for understated, characterful looks that will surprise you with their modernity and versatility.
Drake’s offer their braces in two different widths, and generally speaking the narrower braces feel less formal so are a good place to start for smart-casual dress. For suiting, try the wider width braces and harmonise them with the colours in your tie or accessories. Whichever style, pattern or composition of braces you choose, they are more than worthy of your attention and of a spot of experimentation this season, they make for the perfect talking point or point of distinction. Embrace them (pardon the pun) and enjoy.