Peter Christian- A guide to Braces

Brace Yourself:
Economy and confidence, a wearer’s guide to Braces

Like bloodsports, swearing in public and gambling, men’s braces 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 waistcoat, but in subsequent years have become an item of peacock display.

At the top end, braces have been made in silk, showing old School or Regimental stripes.

Skinheads Braces

Photo Credit: Pinterest

The elasticated, clip-on braces 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 braces were first formalised by English Manufacturer, Albert Thurston in 1820. Manufactured and sold from his premises at 27 Panton St, Haymarket, London W1.

Boxcloth Thurston Braces

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.

Braces really caught on due to the extravagant Victorian fashion for very high-waisted trousers, 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.

Gordon Gekko Suit Braces

Photo Credit: The Telegraph: Gordon Gekko, Wall Street

Scroll forward somewhat to the 1980s and Gordon Gekko’s striped silk braces were seen as an outward representation of his power and greed. A man ‘driving a big desk’.

In more recent years, braces have seen a huge resurgence with the nostalgic, retro-looking movements of Chap-ism and Steampunk.

Whatever the climate, trousers held up by braces 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 braces ever, ever be ‘pinged’.