The Suspender / Cummerbund Conundrum

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Black Tie Guide visitors occasionally ask me if it’s okay to wear suspenders with cummerbunds. My first thought is “why don’t these people bother reading the Guide before writing?”  My second thought is “why do so many people assume these two articles are mutually exclusive?”

I suspect that a general unfamiliarity with the cummerbund leads many to equate it with a belt because of the manner in which it is worn.  In that regard, it would indeed seem redundant to use two types of trouser holders at once.  It is also possible that most people today assume that braces are no more than a decorative novelty.

Therefore, I typically respond to this question by explaining the role of each item.  Suspenders are a practical accessory designed to hold the trousers in place like a belt while the cummerbund is an aesthetic  accessory intended to conceal the trouser waistband and the undecorated shirt waist like a waistcoat.

Asking if it’s acceptable to wear the two articles together is like asking if shoelaces and socks can be worn together.  Not only is it acceptable, it is essential.

I will also often use the opportunity to remind the writer that there is no need to worry about the two articles matching because, unlike shoelaces or belts, braces are never meant to see the light of day (or night.)

4 Comments

  1. Hans Servando

    Suspenders are the more efficient way to keep the trousers in place because are set against gravity.

    Reply
  2. wdwright77

    Wow! I wondered when you might get around to this topic, Peter. I also feel that reading the BTG will tell a man exactly what has to be in place when he wears a tuxedo.
    I have owned and worn tuxedos since I was 13. I belonged to a Masonic Youth Group that required we wear tuxedos to our meetings, plus I was involved in several choirs where it was the uniform and as I have stated other posts concerning the blog topics, made a few fashion mistakes along the way. But the one area in which I never failed to follow the proper dressing and wearing of formalwear has been the braces and waist area.
    I have always worn a cummerbund or waistcoat (vest) as well as braces underneath and usually these are white rather than black, so they blend into the tuxedo shirt. In addition, I have my tuxedo trousers tailored so as to allow me to ‘hike’ the braces up a bit-not so as to show my socks,-but so as to allow a firmness to be apparent. It also allows the shirt front to be straighter (as it should be). The cummerbund finishes off the waist area by hiding a not so neat area that should be covered anyway. If thou wear a waistcoat it is hidden, but even wearing braces with a waistcoat makes you so much better dressed than you appear otherwise. One thing as you point out in the Guide: Braces are to be buttoned on rather than clamped. In other words, leather ends above all. While I might not follow that totally in my day wear (I have one suit where I failed to have brace buttons sewn in, but I will correct that at some point soon), I consciously always have brace buttons sewn into my tuxedo trousers if they don’t already have them and buy new braces for the tux. This way I never have to ask if I’ve put on a set of braces when dressing, I just pull the braces up and over, adjust them and I’m ready to put my tux jacket on.
    I think the ‘issue’ has arisen because rental shops don’t see many young men at prom time asking for cummerbunds and bow ties, but the dreaded long tie and matchy-matchy vest so they can say their girlfriend has dressed them. Now, while I can see a business suit being worn for prom, I fully believe a tuxedo needs to be worn properly and that means bow tie with waistcoat or cummerbund and a set of braces underneath, regardless of how well tailored the trouser is. After all, nothing would be so embarrassing for a date to a formal affair like prom for the gentleman’s trousers to drop down unexpectedly. Hence the reason above all else for the set of braces. It also means the idea of matching the date’s dress has to go away. There’s nothing wrong with black and white being worn by a gentleman and in fact, it makes a man look exceedingly classy whereas color would lessen a truly formal look.
    I alo believe that rental shops need to quit playing to the idea of color being the key ingredient in the look for the tuxedos they rent. But as long as the fashion magazines and the bridal magazines promote the ideas of color and the other things that seem so wrong with formal wear these days, the truly simple but powerful idea of a tuxedo in black and white will never fully come back as a primary look and yes, that includes being properly worn with a bow tie, a cummerbund or waistcoat and a set of braces that hold the trousers of the tuxedo at the proper level. Getting away from the idea of low riding pants is not such a bad idea and would make most men look o so much better than they do in the daytime. Low riding tux trousers have no business being worn anyway and would make the whole tuxedo look absolutely ridiculous. I guess the best way to promote the use of braces and cummerbund is to be sure that men are aware of them when renting and that they are not optional, but required. It’s kind of like in the area of the tux shirt; it should be a French Cuff instead of barrel or convertible and should be worn with studs and cufflinks and not buttons and preferably should be cotton and not polyester/cotton mixed for a better look overall. Braces and cummerbund can only complete this important look and in the end, that is what you’re striving for anyhow. So, I say braces for every tuxedo and cover that waist with a proper waist covering please. your look will be so much nicer.
    {I copied my comment from another spot that didn’t post it properly}

    Reply
  3. Cajetan

    An interesting cummerbund. It appears to have no pleats, a characteristic that I have not seen very often.

    Reply
    1. Peter Marshall

      It actually does have pleats – they’re just not distinguishable due to the photo’s poor contrast.

      Reply

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