Braces do more than simply keep your trousers from sliding down. They are also a style-piece and for that reason, should be coordinated with the rest of your outfit. In this post, we’ll be looking at how to include braces in an outfit, giving particular consideration to colour and pattern.
An interesting outfit always includes one piece that stands out. It’s the centre-piece around which the rest of the outfit is built. Since braces aren’t everyone’s choice, they inevitably make a style-statement and will often end up being the centre-piece, regardless of how fancy or plain their design. That’s why it’s best to start with your braces and combine your other pieces with the pair you intend on wearing.
Serving as the background behind your braces, your shirt is the first element to coordinate with your braces. Neutral colours, white especially, are the easiest to pair with. Consider no other colours when putting together a formal outfit, opting for minimalist braces in black, white, or your suit’s colour.
However, for a more casual look, one could opt for an unusual shirt colour keeping the braces and trousers in a different colour for contrast, preferably a neutral colour. The same can apply if going for trousers that are either patterned or in an unusual colour. In that case, the shirt should ideally be in a neutral colour, acting as a buffer between the two interesting pieces of the outfit (braces and trousers).
If the shirt is in a solid colour, contrast can also be achieved with patterned braces. In this case, choose one of the least dominant colours in the pattern and coordinate your shirt accordingly. Generally, braces and shirts in identical colours make a rather dull combination.
If your outfit also includes neckwear, braces in a solid colour can be combined with a tie or bow tie that are also in a solid colour, which is identical to the braces’. This is often the preferred combination for very formal outfits but will only work if worn on a white shirt. For a more interesting look, go for neckwear that is either in a shade similar but not identical to your braces’, or if in a different colour altogether, keep the braces in the same colour as your suit’s or trousers’ (if not wearing a suit).
When coordinating different pieces, it is generally best to stick to a maximum of four different colours, of which one can be a bright or unusual colour, the rest being classical/neutral. Also, if wearing leather braces, these should be in the same colour as your shoes – just like belts and shoes.
Patterns add a playful tone to an outfit, making them more appropriate for smart casual or casual outfits, unless very subtle.
When wearing patterned braces on a patterned shirt, the only way to avoid a chaotic look is by aiming for contrast – just as with solid colours. Whilst the colours should always tie in, the patterns should vary considerably in intensity. If your shirt’s pattern is on the denser side, go for braces in a looser pattern, or the other way round. Again, to keep the two pieces visually distinct, opt for a shirt in a background colour that also features in the braces’ pattern but not prominently.
When coordinating patterned braces with patterned neckwear, going for the same pattern throughout will result in a too coordinated look, of the matching curtains and quilt kind. Ideally, opt for different patterns and again, in varying intensities. This will keep each piece visually distinct and balanced enough to keep the focus on only one piece.
Generally, unless it’s black or navy, going for neckwear and braces in different colours, even if just slightly will add texture and depth to an outfit, also making it visually more exciting.
Of course these tips are not rules set in stone but are intended to make it easier to wear braces as a style-piece, as opposed to merely functional. That said, they should still serve their main purpose, that of keeping your trousers in place. Therefore, wearing braces and a belt together is the equivalent of wearing white socks on formal shoes.
Also, although the absence of belt loops makes a trouser waistband look neater (when worn without a belt), it is not unusual for men to wear braces on trousers with belt loops. On the other hand, if you only wear braces, it’s worth going for trousers that are intended to be worn with braces, as opposed to belts.
despite traditionalists wincing at the thought of wearing braces on trousers with belt loops, unless your aim is to impress one, no one will reproach you for doing so.