As anyone with a major midsection malady knows, a belt looped tightly around the waist feels more like a constricting noose. So I resolved to stop wearing a belt. But I still had to wear pants in public (I hate these imposed societal restrictions!) One clever strategy was to walk with both hands in my pockets, making it harder for trousers to fall down to my ankles. As long as handshaking remains off-limits during COVID protocols, I had thought my scheme might have worked. However, my plan quickly fell apart once I encountered that first shopping cart or needed two hands to lift a garbage can.
I then considered a second strategy: surely some pants are designed to fit snugly over hips without even requiring a belt. I soon learned that works only if one has hips. Literally, I know I do have hips (I can feel them under my skin.) What I am saying is that I lack hips which protrude outward to support my pants. Statistically speaking, my hip measurements are the same size as my waist. When I lovingly tried to hold our babies on my hip as their mother did, they slid precipitously down a leg.
I rediscovered suspenders. I say “rediscovered” because I used to wear them as a very young lad. Except that we called them “braces.” My mother attached them with clips or affixed them to designated buttons on my breeches. I just realized I really am getting elderly. Breeches? This was straight from the bygone era of “Anne of Green Gables.” Does anyone else recall wearing breeches?
But I was not the first person to wear suspenders.
I learned from Wikipedia that the American writer, Mark Twain, actually owned a patent in 1871 for his design of that practical item of clothing. In the first decades of the Twentieth Century, fashion styles dictated that pants were to be worn high-waisted. Suspenders, not belts, were better -suited to keep them up.
Check out any old black and white, Fred Astaire film. Proper etiquette also deemed that suspenders were considered an undergarment, like ladies’ garters, to be worn under a gentleman’s jacket or vest. Think of tuxedoes. By the 1950s, sartorial trends were changing. Pants were becoming lower-cut and belts were replacing suspenders.
When I rediscovered suspenders, I had no intention of acting like a “gentleman.” Instead, I pictured John Wayne as a cowboy astride his horse, a red bandana around his neck, a dusty, wide-brimmed hat on his head and wide suspenders over his flannel shirt. I could dress like that (except for the horse part.)
Of course, Wayne had impressive shoulders on which to hang his suspender straps. My immediate problem was that I lacked shoulders. I do own shoulders but as with my aforementioned hips, they lack breadth. In fact, my shoulders, hips and waist are all the same width. One might describe me as being a very straight male.
The suspender straps take turns sliding off my shoulders to hang precipitously in limbo. My trousers immediately sag on the starboard or leeward side. I have now learned a new appreciation of those many brides and bridesmaids whose thin shoulder straps resolutely stayed in place during the ceremonies I officiated.
Once I had practiced the fine art of wearing suspenders with my pants in public, I next attached another pair of braces to heavy duty, winter-weight track pants, my customary choice of apparel when at home. I barely passed grade 11 physics. The mystery of pulleys and opposing forces has always eluded me. Both suspender straps on each side of the body and at the back need to be adjusted according to the height of the wearer. I spent many long frustrating minutes in front of a mirror, pulling one strap up then the other down, struggling to achieve symmetry. When the baggy track pants were mistakenly pulled up to my armpits, I managed to look like Bozo the clown.
Perhaps I should revert to tying that noose around my middle and stop complaining. But will I now hear judgmental voices telling me that one does not wear a belt with track pants? If it were not November, I might consider joining a nudist colony.