Men in Suspenders

Man in suspenders. Source
Never was a fashion accessory so diverse in its application as suspenders. True, ostensibly suspenders were made for the single purpose of holding up a mans pants but over the decades they've been worn as an emblem by such varied cultural groups as Neo-Nazis, the gentle Amish, alternative, hippy types and ferocious stock market players.

When I think Gordon Ghekko, the fictional ruthless financial entrepreneur of  the 80s film, Wall St, who's name is now synonymous with greed - I'm  reminded of wide braces over striped silk shirts and will probably forever associate that particular men's accessory with avaricious opportunism. It's an inescapable connection, particularly since my son's ludicrously paid orthodontist is fond of wearing the same style of suspender.

Yet when I see a skinhead in a pair of bother boots and a swastika tattoo or an Amish farmer riding to town peacefully in his black buggy,  new connections form. As a sub-culture, skinhead's have their own complex rules and regulations regarding clothes, which are more uniform than fashion. The width of the braces is   important, (3/4" and 1" in width, being the standard size), as is colour and height and position. Evidently there is some political significance to the suspenders being worn on the shoulders or down around the waist.

Dark and threatening. Still from Romper Stomper
For the Amish, of course, suspenders are a practical item as well as a symbol of the value of tradition and pre-modernism. They are still a statement however, as much as they are for the skinheads - just a different kind of statement.

 My Suspenders Define Me
King of suspenders, Larry King
Apart from skinheads, farmers and wall street types, suspenders also conjure images of grumpy old men (see Larry King photo) who give the impression they probably came out of the womb in suspenders. For these men, such an accessory is an immutable habit and they carry with them a kind of : "I've always worn suspenders and I always will " attitude.

It was a man called Albert Thurstan who invented the modern version of men's suspenders, in 1822, so they've been around for a while. Over the years they've shifted in and out of popularity, depending  on pants style and whatever happens to be flavour of the month fashion-wise.

In the 1920s they were particularly popular but waned in the 30s due to the abandonment of waistcoats -at that time suspenders were considered more underwear than outer wear. They had a brief return to popularity with the baggier trousers of the 1940s but all in all, in the battle between belt and braces, the belt has won hands down.

Are suspenders and sexiness incompatible..? Not necessarily, though much depends on the style and era. After all, Daniel Craig wore them to effect as James Bond, supposedly one of the sexiest men in fiction and they do look pretty good on 1920s men. The biggest non-no is to be caught wearing suspenders and a belt -that's just trying to have it both ways.

As always, what's important is the man inside the clothes...

Hitler's Hair
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