Men’s braces appear in the history books for the first time in 1736. So, for nearly three centuries, men’s braces have been an accessory that has proven its worth. They are a stylish way to keep your trousers up. Braces are also the only right way to keep the trousers of a tuxedo or jacket in place. Men’s braces have been hidden under suit jackets for a long time, but nowadays they are increasingly visible - coming out from under jackets and taking their place on catwalks and high streets. These developments with be thanks, in part, to fervent men’s braces wearers like Larry King and Humphrey Bogart.
How could it be any other way? The man who stood at the cradle of infinite useful and useless inventions, Benjamin Franklin, is the first in history that we know was wearing men’s braces or Gallowses as they were called in the US at the time. He found the first voluntary fire brigade in Philadelphia and instructed the firefighters to wear red men’s braces as part of their work attire. A tradition that is still maintained today.
Around 1792, during the French Revolution, the lower classes sought for a way to assert themselves. They found their salvation in clothing, with which they could distinguish themselves. The most important revolutionary movement is therefore called the Sans-Culottes. Culotte is a type of shorts, the wearers did not wear these shorts, all wore long trousers with men’s braces. With that, the men’s braces made a considerable advance in fashion. The demand for braces was high, the industry focused on this demand by exploring the possibilities to improve the quality of men’s braces. They not only looked at the use of materials but also at the possibilities to attach the men’s braces to the trousers.
The French elite were also inspired by men’s braces, as shown by Napoleon's braces. Napoleon's preference for fashion is undeniable. It was he who made his soldiers wear scarves that needed to be tied in a special way; the origin of the tie. He wore men’s braces in an elitist way, his braces were made of expensive materials and decorated with a honeybee pattern. Honeybees referred to his Corsican origin.
In the year 1820, the famous Albert Thurston opened his men’s brace shop in London. The fashion of around 1820 prescribed trousers with high waist bands. The waistband came to the waist, making wearing a belt no longer pleasant. Albert Thurston saw an opportunity and started manufacturing braces as we know them today. The traditional British Albert Thurston men’s braces are still loved by the elite and the higher classes. Among their clientele are kings, princes, presidents, and movie stars.
One of the first patents for men’s braces was issued in 1871 to Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. The patent was literally for "Adjustable and detachable straps for clothing". These straps could be attached to anything, to ‘under-trousers’, corsets and regular trousers.
A bleak moment in the history of men’s braces - the hot summer of 1893, London. Many office workers took off their jackets due to the heat. The result: men’s braces became undesirably visible. At the time undesirable because men’s braces were part of their work clothing. En masse, employees left their braces at home, the association between men’s braces and the working class was quickly made.
Metal clips were invented in 1894. From then on it was no longer necessary to attach men’s braces by means of buttons, simply opening and closing the clips would suffice. Often these clips have a serrated edge, which unfortunately causes them to damage the waistband of the trousers with frequent use.
Because trousers with a low waistband became popular at the beginning of the 20th century, the men’s braces were worn less. However, braces did not completely disappear from fashion. Humphrey Bogart famously wore men’s braces in many of his films, as well as British actor Ralph Richardson. The latter loved braces so much that at the outbreak of the Second World War he rushed to quickly purchase another 6 pairs of men’s braces.
British skinheads adopted braces as part of their workers' look. The men’s braces were often attached to light blue jeans. Very inconvenient, because jeans are made of a thick fabric to which men’s braces do not stay attached. Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) is one of the best-known hooligans in pop culture. He was wearing men’s braces in the movie A Clockwork Orange.
Men’s braces celebrated their comeback in the eighties of the last century. The Wall Street yuppies strove to be individual by bringing back the tradition of gentlemen’s braces. Interestingly. also anyone who wanted to have a hip and cool appearance wore men’s braces too. Visible or hidden under a jacket, it didn’t matter. However, it was important that the correct braces were chosen; in luxury materials such as silk, canvas, or tightly woven cotton. In the movie Wall Street (1987) we hardly see Michael Douglas without braces.
In the first broadcast of Larry King we see the presenter with his trademark; men’s braces. Purely for practical reasons the American wore men’s braces, he had to keep his trousers up after he had lost a lot of weight due to serious heart surgery.
In the 90s, braces were worn by few. But, as with many items of clothing and trends, there are peaks and troughs. Hip Hop icon Fonzworth Bentley initiated the comeback of men’s braces in America and far beyond. These days we see braces appearing in fashion magazines and on catwalks. Men’s braces are no longer a functional accessory to hold trousers, but a fashion statement for the fashion-conscious man.