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Brace Yourself

Jack Bettridge
From the Print Edition:
Andy Garcia, Mar/April 2004

When the Gordon Gekko character needed a look that shouted “power” in the costuming of the movie Wall Street, the fashion consultant Alan Flusser thought of one outmoded accessory in particular to match the brash suits he dressed Michael Douglas in: suspenders. He felt that they framed the chest, lending the appearance of strength and furthering the natural movement of the eye to the head that a well chosen collar and necktie knot fosters.

Suspenders, or braces as the Brits call them, haven’t been standard issue for men since the beginning of the twentieth century, when military fashion, the slow disappearance of vests and the relentless decline of trousers to somewhere on the hip ushered in the belt; for periods braces became all but novelty wear except to the most traditional dressers. The shame is that, as Flusser points out, beyond the statement they make, suspenders are the best for holding up trousers unless you’re wearing hip-huggers. They keep them at your true waist—at the navel—and encourage pleats to remain closed. Belts can allow your pants to ride down and don’t adjust when you sit and stand.

The suspenders Flusser chose for Wall Street were from Albert Thurston, the English maker of accessories since 1820, and those are what he sells in his Manhattan custom shop. Thurston braces are also sold under private label by Paul Stuart, J. Press, Bergdorf Goodman and Robert Talbott, as well as others. The best are the silk and Flusser adds that white catgut attachments won’t rub off dye on your shirt. Cloth braces should be between 1 1/4 and 1 1/2 inches wide. Thinner ones bind. Overwide coarse suspenders or those worn with clips instead of buttons scream Mork from planet Ork. Braces should relate to but not match your shirt and tie. It’s also an accessory of fun, so feel free to go wild with conversational patterns. Plain red suspenders mark you as a firefighter wannabe.

Leather braces, such as these from Martin Dingman, are also a coming style, although Dingman points out there is a fashion precedence for them from the early twentieth century. They are generally narrower than cloth. Match them with the other leather you are wearing, but never, ever, wear a belt with suspenders.

Visit www.albertthurston.com and www.martindingman.com. Call Alan Flusser Custom Shop at 212-888-4500.

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