The Rules of Suspenders and Belts

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Kanye West creates a look by pairing suspenders with a button-up shirt and eyeglasses.
Kanye West creates a look by pairing suspenders with a button-up shirt and eyeglasses. (Image: Amy Sussman/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images)

Belts and suspenders are two little accessories that can add a big style statement to your wardrobe if done correctly. Both belts and suspenders are meant to keep your pants up -- so the fashion rule is to wear either or. Choosing which one depends on the style direction of your outfit -- from banker professional to hipster cool.

Suspender and Suit Suggestions

The most natural place for a pair of suspenders is under a suit. Try this look with a double-breasted navy blue suit, a white button-down shirt, a pale yellow geometric-patterned tie, navy blue suspenders and a dark shoe -- either black or mahogany brown. The beauty of navy is you can opt for either black or brown leather accessories. The essential element is to match your tie with your suspenders or if you are opting for a belt, the belt with the shoes. Coordinating is key to creating an uber-stylish office attire.

Coloful Suspender Style

Suspender fashion has really come into its own. No longer limited to the neutrals -- black, gray and brown -- designers have created suspender styles that can steal the show. Made with intricate patterns in vivid colors of woven silk with brass findings and leather ends, these are not your grandfather's suspenders. If you wear suspenders with bright colors or bold patterns, keep the rest of your outfit neutral and classic. A pair of navy blue with teal graph-patterned suspenders with dark brown leather ends are perfectly suited to a pair of navy blue chinos and dark brown lace-up Oxfords.

Statement Style Rules

For a punk, mod or rockabilly style, wear thin black suspenders -- 3 inches or less -- or a skinny black belt and black tapered pants with a white short-sleeve button-down shirt. This hipster-type trend is not meant for creating a subtle or classic look, but one to try if you're after a true style statement. A tie wider than 4 inches makes another style reference -- the zoot-suit era and flamboyant 40s. This look is better beltless, which means you'll need to have your belt loops removed and buttons added to most pants. It's a commitment, but suspenders that button behind the hemline on pants without belt loops is a very cool look.

A runway model in a style statement outfit created with suspenders, belt and bow-tie.
A runway model in a style statement outfit created with suspenders, belt and bow-tie. (Image: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images)

Buttons vs. Clip-On

For the perfect fit, suspenders should attach to your trousers with buttons. Any tailor can add buttons to the waistline of a pair of pants. If you're wearing a belt, this will keep a more seamless appearance as the suspenders will fasten behind the belt. Keep in mind that clip-on suspenders have sharp teeth that may damage fine fabrics and attach to the same area of your pants as a belt. The look is more likely to get awkward with so many accessories sharing such a small space on your outfit.

Rules for Belts

A great belt on a tailored suit is the ultimate for creating a classic, professional polished look. Belt rules are pretty simple: Match your belt and your shoes. Even if you're wearing a bow tie, a patterned neck tie, a chalk-stripe suit or any other combination you can pull out of your closet, your belt and shoes should complement one another. Wear a black belt with black shoes, or a brown belt with any shade of brown shoes. It's style-appropriate to wear a brown suit with black shoes and belt; but shoes and belts must match even if nothing else in your outfit does.

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