Suspenders of Disbelief: A Wearer’s Guide To Suspenders
Like bloodsports, swearing in public and gambling, men’s suspenders are something that the aristocracy has in common with the lower orders.
Originally a French invention, ‘bretelles’ were strips of silk attached to breeches by way of buttons. Worn by Napoleon and popularised in England by Beau Brummel’s lot. They were originally something to be hidden, generally under a vest, but in subsequent years have become an item of peacock display.
At the top end, suspenders have been made in silk, showing old School or Regimental stripes.
Photo Credit: Pinterest
The elasticated, clip-on suspenders with jeans were trademark suspension for Skinheads and given bovver-boy associations by Malcom MacDowell’s violent ‘Droogs’ in A Clockwork Orange.
As far as we know, men’s suspenders were first formalised by English Manufacturer, Albert Thurston in 1820. Manufactured and sold from his premises at 27 Panton St, Haymarket, London W1.
They were made in boxcloth, thick Yorkshire wool, which is boiled and shrunk to tighten the cloth. Traditionally attached to leather tabs with buttonhole fixings.
Suspenders really caught on due to the extravagant Victorian fashion for very high-waisted pants, which made a belt impractical. They were seen as a luxury, in more straitened times, with fabric being rationed. On the outbreak of war, actor Sir Ralph Richardon rushed to Thurston’s shop to secure five pairs in case there was a shortage.
Photo Credit: The Telegraph: Gordon Gekko, Wall Street
Scroll forward somewhat to the 1980s and Gordon Gekko’s striped silk suspenders were seen as an outward representation of his power and greed. A man ‘driving a big desk’.
In more recent years, suspenders have seen a huge resurgence with the nostalgic, retro-looking movements of Chap-ism and Steampunk.
Whatever the climate, trousers held up by suspenders make a man feel secure; he can put his thumbs behind the straps and have a sense of ownership of all he surveys.
They are one item of clothing his wife can not borrow, given natural, impractical impediments and…on no account, should a gentleman’s suspenders ever, ever be ‘pinged’.