Suspenders are a simple solution for the age-old problem of keeping one’s pants from slipping down. Somewhere along the line, someone must have figured out that straps with end attachments was a good way to hold up pants, but who? Well, it all started with the French. During the 18th century, someone (probably a tailor) came up with the brilliant idea of attaching strips of ribbon to trousers with buttonholes. The earliest suspenders were undergarments and never intended for public view. They were the undergarment suspenders of their day but less advanced in their construction.
British Braces Become Popular
Along comes the 1820s and a London haberdasher by the name of Albert Thurston begins manufacturing braces, a new and improved way to hold up men’s high-waisted pants. Made of woven wool, these suspenders typically had an H-back design with leather end loops that buttoned onto pants. Back then, buttons were on the outside of bottoms, but it didn’t matter because straps and buttons were hidden by vests and waistcoats. Since belts were impractical for high-waist pants, British braces took off and became a raging success in Europe and North America.
Sam Clemens Files a Patent
As the popularity of braces rose, so did the popularity of author Samuel L. Clemens, a gifted writer who became famous under his pen name, Mark Twain. Known for novels such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, he sure knew how to spin a good tale or two. It seems like Clemens was also a big admirer of the concept of braces but decided he could improve on the idea, which led to the filing of his first patent. In 1871, Clemens received patent number 121,992 for an “Improvement in Adjustable and Detachable Straps for Garments.”
His easy-to-remove invention attached to the back of an undershirt or corset with button fasteners. Comfort was his main goal, since he found the braces of his day rather uncomfortable. And while his invention didn’t replace braces, it may have inspired other designers and manufacturers of suspenders to focus more on comfort. Thank you, Mark Twain!
Why Belts Overtook Suspenders
During World War I, men were issued uniforms that included low-waist pants and belts. Many young men became accustomed to using belts, and this is the era when suspenders started losing their popularity in favor of belts. Still, suspenders remained popular with guys who enjoyed their look throughout the 1920s and ‘30s. Eventually, wearing a belt became the standard way for boys and men to hold up their pants, and this led to a steep drop in suspender wear particularly during and after World War II. One positive change was suspenders were no longer considered undergarments only, and they could be freely worn in public over shirts.
Suspenders Make a Fashion Comeback
Suspenders made a welcome comeback during the late 1970s and
1980s. For the first time, girls and women embraced suspenders in a big way as
a fashion statement. And while there have been subsequent ebbs and flows in
popularity, they have never really gone out of style. Currently, suspenders are
seen as a fashionable way to hold your pants up securely and enhance your
casual and formal style.