Suspender belts can be traced back to the eighteenth century at which time they were used primarily to hold the pants/ trousers up. They were made as ribbon strips and were attached to the trousers through the buttonholes.
Back then they were worn strictly as undergarments and it was unheard of to spot them, as that was a sign of outright indecency so they had to be concealed underneath other pieces of clothing.
Present day suspenders – also known as braces, first came into existence in the early nineteenth century. They were designed and manufactured by Albert Thurston. They were attached with leather loops. There have been different designs of the male suspenders.
These designs can be classified according to method of attachment to pants or by the shape formed at the back. The earliest design by shape formed at the back was the H-suspenders where the braces joined to form what resembled the letter H at the back. Later designs crisscrossed to form the letter X and the most recent were Y shaped.
When classified according to how they are attached to trousers, the earliest known braces were connected to the trousers via the buttonhole. Later, leather loops were made and attached to the trousers using buttons and finally, suspenders were attached to trousers by use of metal clasps.
Materials used to make them have changed over time. The first manufactured suspenders were made from ribbon strips whilst the next generation was manufactured from woven wool, tightly woven. This material was also known as box cloth. Irrespective of the material used to make them, all suspenders served the same purpose; holding up trousers.
Belts were uncommon because the fashion trend that was there then involved wearing very high waist trousers. The trousers were so high-waist that belts could not be used; only braces were suitable.
When the history of suspenders is raised as a topic, some names cannot be omitted from that discussion. These people are credited with the designing and manufacture of the precursor to the designs we see today.
These early patterns have only undergone a little change since their introduction into the clothing industry. Albert Thurston, he is known as the founding father of modern day braces, credited as the first designer and manufacturer of modern suspenders. In 1736 Benjamin Franklin, a publisher and diplomat, introduced the use of the H-shaped suspenders as part of the Fire Department of Philadelphia’s uniform.
Today, H-shaped suspenders are very rare unless one is a US fire fighter. Samuel Clemens, also known as Mark Twain, received a patent for Adjustable and Detachable Straps for Garments in 1871. This applied in all forms of adjustable and/or detachable straps that were attached to any garment including women’s. David Roth was given a patent for suspenders with metal clasps in 1894. These types of suspenders are most familiar in present day fashion.
Famous people who embraced the suspenders fashion include; actors Humphrey Bogart and Ralph Richardson who wore them frequently in their movies. The latter loved braces so much that when the Second World War broke out, he rushed to buy half a dozen fearing for the possibility of fabric rationing.
In the middle of the twentieth century, the working class youths of Britain sported suspenders as part of their fashion trend – even on tight blue jeans that needed no support. Working class women also adopted the subculture and it gave braces a unisex appeal. In recent times, the best iconic figure who brought out the suspenders’ Fashionist Larry King, the veteran television broadcaster.
The use of suspenders became rare in the late 1990s and early twenty-first century. However, the trend was reintroduced in the fashion circle a few years back. Today, they are not only a fashion accessory but also an item that makes a statement. The young especially wear braces not so much as to hold up their pants but as a stylish accessory.
After being tagged culturally outdated and dead in the fashion industry, the braces are back with a bang. Their evolution has come a long way from ribbon strips to the present day designs. Back then, they were worn by men exclusively, today, even women stand out in their beautifully designed Suspender belts of all types.