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Can I share my suspenders with the world?

The question

How can a man who uses suspenders to hold up his trousers avoid the American Gothic look when he takes his jacket or sweater off? And how would you react to embroidered Tyrolean ones?

The answer

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This is one of those areas in which fashion and style are in conflict. (A reminder about the difference: Fashion is what is out there for you to choose from; style is what you choose.)

Suspenders (braces in the U.K. and in conservative North American tailor shops) are not in current fashion. The new suits are so well fitted and the hip rise so low that suspenders would be visible either through the jacket fabric or at the waist. What's more, trousers are not being made with suspender buttons. That makes life tricky, for suspenders are a comfort that's hard to give up.

Aside from the private pleasure of every secret dandyism – like knowing, for example, that one has bright orange microfibre underwear on – they also offer great practicality: They keep your trousers at perfect height without the belly-pinching restraint of a belt.

However – and this is the nub of suspenderology – they are, just like your microfibre underwear, private. They are not – ever – meant to be seen in public. That means that when you are wearing them and you get hot you just stay hot. It doesn't matter how proud you are of the Tyrolean embroidery (sounds garish to me, but, hey, they're your undergarments, meant for you alone) or how certain you are about the perfect leather buttonholes and appropriate 3.5-centimetre width (that's what mine are – the thinner ones are usually stretchy and stretchy is nasty and unnecessary). Keep all of those little perfections to yourself. Taking off your jacket to display your complicated underpinnings is like taking off your pants.

Russell Smith is a novelist. His recent memoir, Blindsided , is available as a Kobo e-book. Have a fashion question? E-mail style@globeandmail.com.

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