Today, if you’re wearing braces with your tailoring, it’s usually for the purpose of making a style statement. A hundred years ago, they were worn for a very different reason.
Trousers in the 1800s and early 1900s were cut very differently than they are today. The waist was much higher, which meant that belts just didn’t work as they do with modern tailoring. Instead, braces were worn to keep trousers firmly in place.
When they first came into common usage, braces were very definitely considered an undergarment. Even middle and upper class gentlemen who often wore beautifully made woolen braces would have made sure they were hidden from sight at all times. This was very easily done as they were usually worn underneath a waistcoat.
The first world war signalled the start of the decline of braces. Soldiers became used to wearing lower cut trousers with military belts, and many stuck to this new style once they returned home. This trend increased as waistcoats become less popular, as few gentleman wanted their braces on show!
Though braces became less common in everyday usage after the 1930s, they have enjoyed a number of style reinventions since then. They are still a very common part of formal and dress wear in many professional circles. Only the very traditional would now consider it gauche for one’s braces to be on show, though we’d still advise you to avoid the faux pas of wearing braces and a belt together!
Braces have also featured in some more alternative fashion trends. They were a big part of skinhead, punk and mod culture. Today they’re very popular with those who favour a vintage or hipster look.
Want to read more about traditional bespoke tailoring? Here are our tips on how to keep cool in summer suits.