While braces have been in and out of fashion over the last century (alternating with belts in general preference), there has been a brief resurgence in interest due to the styles seen in films like Wall Street and period dramas such as the 2008 re-make of Brideshead Revisited.
Show business wearers include actor Daniel Craig — particularly as James Bond 007. Many business people, newscasters and professionals such as lawyers also wear braces. Louis Tomlinson from the band One Direction often wears braces.
Narrow, clip-on style braces are also a typical part of skinhead, and to a lesser extent, punk fashion. In skinhead and punk fashion braces are typically between 3⁄4 and 1 inch (1.9 and 2.5 cm) in width. To some skinheads the colour and placement of braces (either up around the shoulders or hanging down from the waist around their buttocks) may have political significance.
Materials used for making braces have also changed over time, with newer additions such as rayon, a hard-wearing synthetic fibre, now offered as well as the traditional Woolen box cloth (which is exclusive to Albert Thurston) remain available but are very costly, a style often worn by senior lawyers in London. Silks webbing, but generally a high quality rayon and elastic webbing are most common, and occasionally tubed suiting cloths from mills such as Dugdale Bros of England. So, it can be said that braces are very much a fixture of the London establishment(s).
Never under any circumstances should you wear both bet and braces. As Henry Ford once said “How can you trust a man that wears both a belt and suspenders? The man can’t even trust his own pants.”
Good quality smart braces were traditionally considered white collar, or upper or upper middle class wear. They were made to be attached to trousers by buttons sewn onto the waistband. Another noted manufacturer is Leicester based Albert Thurston who have a reputation as a high-end manufacturer and have supplied costume designers for films such as Casino Royale, Skyfall and Wall Street. There are relatively few other manufacturers in the UK, but the classic button-on ‘reform’ end is also quite widely available in the USA, where surprisingly enough it is being given a ´prep school´ upgrade thanks to Tommy Hilfiger.
In traditional or formal settings, it is considered a faux pas to wear both belt and braces at the same time, though this has not always been the case among all classes in the past. Further, braces were traditionally considered as an undergarment and, as such, considered inappropriate for them to be seen. From their invention until World War II, the waistcoat, or a jumper or cardigan for coolness in summer, covered braces for the sake of dignity. Similarly, jumpers and jackets kept the shirt sleeves hidden. In the inter-war period, however, men began removing jackets in public, and so this sensibility was being eroded over time. It is perhaps only in Britain that a few ‘die-hards’ still consider it “gauche” to wear (for example) brightly coloured braces or suspenders without jacket. Generally, it is now considered acceptable fashion, on both sides of the Atlantic, for men’s braces to be seen, and pretty much all of today´s fashion houses nod in agreement to this.