For many suspenders' admirers, this fashion accessory offers a comfortable way to keep pants from falling down - with or without a belt. And, while suspenders are often taken for granted, plenty of people wonder where they came from. So, when were suspenders invented? Find out by reading this brief history of suspenders.
It Started with Albert Thurston
The first modern day suspenders were invented by a British fashion designer by the name of Albert Thurston. He based his design off of earlier versions of straps made from strips of ribbon with buttonholes. In Thurston's day, men wore high-waisted pants that required extra support, and his ingenious solution is where suspenders find their origin.
His design featured an "H-back" and straps were made of tightly woven wool fabric, which is known as the boxcloth weave. This design's sturdiness meant that they worked like a charm, and soon, men everywhere were wearing this new fashion accessory called braces (button suspenders).
How Suspenders Became More Comfortable
Albert Thurston designed suspenders to be functional first and foremost, which they were. During their first wave of manufactured popularity, the look and feel of suspenders were similar. However, some men found them to be uncomfortable. Samuel Clemens was one of these men. The man who penned such classic novels as Tom Sawyer under his pen name, Mark Twain, came up with an alternative design for braces. In 1871, Clemens was granted U.S. patents for his "Adjustable and Detachable Straps for Garments."
While his updated designs had more impact on women's undergarments than men's, other innovators took it upon themselves to continue improvements. In 1894, the invention of metal clasps revolutionized suspender attachments, which could now be clipped onto pants, instead of buttoned. The Y-back and X-back designs largely replaced the original H-back.
First Wane in Popularity
Times change, and high-waisted pants went by the wayside, and so did the need for suspenders. However, suspenders continued to be loved by many who admired their look, even though belts were becoming increasingly popular for those needing to hold up pants. During this era, some doctors recommended the wearing of suspenders as a way to improve posture and fitness. Upon the start of WWII, some men rushed to buy suspenders before they became difficult to find.
In fact, suspenders did become less popular among young men due to belts being issued with service uniforms.
Loyal Wearers of Suspenders
Suspenders were still popular with a significant number of men, and even after the war, these men could be seen wearing them with sharp business suits of the day. They also showed up on the movie screen, being worn by various actors who played gangsters or businessmen.
When were suspenders made popular again? It is generally accepted that the wearing of suspenders as a modern fashion statement began in the 1960s. Groups of young, British guys created a working class uniform out of jeans, white tees and suspenders, and it made an impression on others seeking alternative ways to create a unique look. However, since most young people of this era preferred casual looks that even saw them toss away the belt, their popularity grew slowly.
Suspenders and Contemporary Fashion
Suspenders are once again a vital part of the contemporary fashion scene thanks to manufacturers offering lots of design choices. Their growing popularity is also attributed to those who have fallen in love with modern suspenders for their style versatility.
More FAQs About Suspenders
Suspenders are an important part of our fashion history. To satisfy your curiosity about them, we've created this brief FAQ section.
Are suspenders still fashionable?
This is a question that keeps popping up, and it's probably because many people don't wear suspenders or know anyone who wears them, at least not on a daily basis. But the fact is that many people wear suspenders for one occasion or another.
Some people only wear suspenders for formal occasions. For instance, they may be required to wear them as part of a wedding party, or they may decide to wear them to prom. There's another group of people who like wearing novelty suspenders for Halloween or other holidays. And then there are the dedicated suspender fans who wear them to work, school or just about any time. In short, yes, suspenders are still in fashion - they're just worn in different ways by different people.
Why did suspenders go out of style?
See the above answer - they didn't!
Do men still wear suspenders?
Many men do enjoy wearing suspenders; however, their style preferences vary widely. Some men who wear business suits to work like to add dress suspenders for a sophisticated, classy look. Some men regularly wear sturdy work suspenders. Also, keep in mind that many women love wearing suspenders too!
When did men switch from suspenders to belts?
During the era of World War II, belts became more common for everyday wear than suspenders, largely due to the military's preference for belts. When veterans returned home, they gravitated toward belts out of habit, which influenced men's fashion. However, as we've discussed above, suspenders are still prevalent (and more comfortable as well).
In what decades were suspenders popular?
Suspenders were especially popular in the early 20th century, during the 1960s and in the mid-1970s-1980s - and they are also popular today!