So you want to add a little something extra to your outfit? Something classy, trendy, or useful. Something to sharpen your look for an important meeting. Something to impress the guests at your friend’s wedding. Or something to simply improve your performance during a laborious job. What you need is a pair of braces. Since 1820, this timeless accessory has been a feature of a variety of styles in men’s fashion: a unique and elegant touch to any outfit.
But what kind of braces do you need? Which kinds are appropriate for which occasion, how should they be styled, taken care of, and how do you fasten them correctly? The logic of braces can feel like a minefield. But not to worry - that’s where we come in. Below, we share our knowledge and expertise, providing the handy tips you need to get to grips with the different features of this classic accessory.
The first thing to consider when choosing your braces is the way to attach them, since most brands separate their styles according to the different kinds of attachments available – the two most common solutions are for you to either clip or button your braces to your trousers. One solution is not better than the other, and the main differences are mostly linked to practicalities, style but also the comfort you’ll enjoy while wearing your braces.
The clips are designed for ease of use, these modern attachments first appeared in the 1890s. They provide a casual look and can be easily attached to any type of trousers. If you prefer to button your braces, you will need to have buttons fixed on each pair of trousers you want to wear your braces with (see below for our little trick with the “clip-buttons” to button your braces with no button pre-fixed to your trousers).
If you want a traditional or heritage look, you will favour the button approach (at Bertelles, we call them the “Superior” and “Selvedge” styles). Most of the time the straps are made of leather to ensure durability but you can also find them made of cord, especially in vintage braces.
As you probably know, braces are reputed to be more comfortable than a belt, and if you already think that the clip braces are comfortable then you should try the buttoned version - it’s even better!
There are no rules when it comes to the style of your braces, but if you want them to look good and last a while then we’ll let you in on our best kept style secret: never underestimate the width of your braces.
The thinner they are, the more casual your outfit will be; the wider they are, the more comfortable. And, most importantly, if you pick the wrong size they’re more likely to wear down faster. Here are our tips on getting the width just right for you.
Pick the thin version, 2,5cm or less, for a stylish, trendy look – for example extra-thin braces are excellent for creating a punk or alternative appearance. Thin braces also fit best on people with skinny, slender frames and look great on both short and tall folks. It's also worth noting that thin braces are a less functional choice if keeping your trousers up is your first goal and style comes second.
The wide version, between 3 and 5cm, are a classic choice for a business environment or formal event, adding a sharp touch to a shirt and a tie or a suit and a boot. But there are also plenty of casual and relaxed styles available in this width, which are for example a perfect match with your favourite selvedge jeans.
This width is also very well suited to people who have a larger, stockier build, but are in general a good fit for almost everyone. Wide braces also give great, steady support to ensure your trousers stay where they belong.
The extra-wide models, 5cm or more, are perfect for real workwear and physical, heavy-duty labour. Think Construction Boss or Firefighter.This is where utility meets style. Of course, if you want to make a fashion statement, this width can be a great match with a contemporary outfit.
One of the best features of braces is that they are a ‘one-size-fits-all' accessory. Most braces – not all, but definitely all of ours – come with a metal adjuster which allows you to alter the length to fit perfectly according to your height, body type and the length of your torso. The photo below is a great example of how the adjuster is placed at different height on each guy, depending on their body type. The position of the adjuster also depends, of course, on the type of attachment on your braces, the height of your trousers’ waist and kind of material the braces are made of.
Note that when changing the attachments from clips to button-hole straps (see our “Superior” and “Selvedge” styles), it is likely that the braces will need to be shortened with the metal adjusters as the straps will add length to your braces.
Braces can be made from a number of materials and all give a different edge to your outfit. You can check out the elastic and leather styles we have available, or read on to find out more about the varying materials braces can come in.
The elastic versions are durable and comfortable; this is the perfect choice when you’re going to be wearing your braces for long periods of time. Depending on the colour, texture and pattern you choose, you can create a casual, rugged look, or something more sophisticated, formal and elegant – we have a wide range available for you to choose from. The possibilities are endless.
The ribbon braces are perfect for a formal setting; you can find these in many materials, but most commonly in polyester, cotton and silk. Most styles have an elastic back to add comfort and a better fit and are usually grosgrain-weaved for durability. They can also come in jacquard-weave if you’re looking for a luxurious touch – you can still find vintage pieces that are considered to be exceptional craftsmanship.
Woven fabric is a classic material for braces; it is also often used to make ties and pocket squares. There are a greater variety of patterns and prints available with this option and most styles have an elastic back to add comfort and a better fit.
Finally, there are leather braces, probably the most durable of all braces. When properly looked after, these accessories can last for a lifetime. They are available in a variety of colours, widths and designs like leather goods in general. The length can be adjusted with a buckle just like with a belt and most styles have an elastic back for greater comfort. See our braided style for a more special and unique touch.
The shape of braces has evolved over time as fashion and utility has altered demand. There are a few options you can choose from, though we, as a young and fresh brand, currently only stock ‘Y’ shape, as it is the most common and modern shape. However, we feel it is important to acknowledge and celebrate the heritage of more traditional shapes of braces too, such as the ‘H’ and the ‘X’. Read on to learn more details of the different shapes.
The “Y-back” are joined around the mid-back to become a single strap. They are considered to be the most modern and contemporary shape of braces. Comfortable and good-looking, you simply can’t go wrong with a classic ‘Y’.
The “X-back” braces form the shape of a ‘X’ on the back with two straps that attach to the back of the waistband. Nowadays, unless you have sloping shoulders or trouble keeping your trousers from falling down, they are a relatively uncommon manufacturing style, but can often be found on vintage or vintage-inspired braces. Perfect if you want to add a classic flair to your outfit, reminiscent of old-school dandy looks inspired by vintage French workwear - or you simply need better support for your trousers.
The “H-back” has straps that continue straight from shoulder to back and are joined from the centre with a horizontal strap. These were one of the original shapes of braces, eventually evolving to ‘X’ and ‘Y’ with time.
Historically, this style was intended for formal wear but, these days, ‘H’ braces are rare and difficult to find for a formal setting and rather used more commonly for heavy-duty and physical workwear professions. There are other shapes of braces, but they are usually adapted to very specific needs and are really niche and unusual to find.
If you have decided to go for the buttoned version, you will also have to decide on the kind of buttons you want on your trousers. There are three main categories of buttons: classic buttons, rivet buttons and clip-buttons.
The classic buttons are the most traditional option to attach the buttonhole straps to the waistband of your trousers. You may also find that many vintage, formal and tailored trousers already have buttons sewn across the inside or outside of the waistband. If not, they’re simple to add by yourself or with your tailor – see our guide video and article on how to do this. Note that if you’re going for classic and chic look, you’ll want to have them stitched on the inside of the waistband.
The rivet-buttons give an authentic and casual look, perfect for workwear and jeans. There is no stitching needed as they are attached with a regular hammer or industrial pressing machine, which presses the buttons onto the waistband of the trousers. In some vintage or vintage inspired jeans you may have these buttons already attached.
The clip-buttons are not to be confused with clips (as above). These buttons are easy, modern and uncomplicated. They slide over the edge of the trousers and require no tailoring to fix them, this way they can be easily worn on multiple different pairs of trousers without having buttons pre-attached to them.
Finally, another original solution is the trigger-hooks. These modern attachments give a rugged look to your outfit. They are especially comfortable and easy when attached to the belt loops of your trousers, which will need to be equipped with a middle loop on the back (this is the case on most pairs of jeans).
So there you have it: the how, what, where and why of braces. We hope we’ve covered everything, but if there’s anything else on your mind related to the different features of this amazing product, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. We’re always happy to engage with our community and to help you find the best braces to meet your personal style and needs!
For any questions:
+32 (0)486 76 17
27 rue Pletinckx, 1000 Brussels