December 29, 2009

Brace Yourself

I cannot find out whether or not this is apocryphal, but I have long believed Oscar Wilde to have said that clothes should hang from the shoulder, and not from the waist. Whether he did or not, the aphorism rings true. The male trouser is in a sorry state these days. Amid all the medicated bluster about being well-hung, the trouser is a crumpled mess upon the ill-chosen shoe. The nonsense should be suspended. If you want to look well-hung, buy braces.

Can any man recall being complemented on his trousers? Why do we spend such fortunes on every accoutrement of the manly toilet and yet force ourselves into ill-fitting garments of the leg, with complete lack of care and wanton abandon about the location of the male waist? I propose we aspire to the sartorial mastery of Surtees’ Mr. Sponge, whose ‘nether man’ was thusly described:

Mr. Sponge’s trousers… were easy without being tight, or rather they looked tight without being so; there wasn’t a bag, wrinkle, or a crease that there shouldn’t be, and strong and storm-defying as they seemed, they were yet as soft and as supple as a lady’s glove. They looked more as if his legs had been blown in them than as if such irreproachable garments were the work of man’s hands. Many were the nudges, and many the ‘look at that chap’s trousers’, that were given by ambitious men emulous of his appearance as he passed along, and many were the turnings round to examine their faultless fall upon his radiant boot. (Robert Surtees, Mr. Sponge’s Sporting Tour).
Let all those who assert that braces, or suspenders as the North Americans confusingly call them – please let no Englishman hear that I ever suggested a man should wear such frilly feminine fancies – are mere ostentation, give them a try. I would not go out of my way to put them on display. After all, if you are properly dressed, the mechanics of your trousers ought to be concealed. That’s not to say that particularly fine examples might not be afforded a show, but the principal reason for donning them is functional. Trousers look better when suspended from the shoulder, and are more comfortable to boot.


  1. Sir, how pleasing it was, when drifting through the vacuousness of the web to land upon a site where Soapy Sponge is put forward as a role model. More of it I say. Let us gloss over his ungentlemanly habit of being the houseguest who neither waited to be invited, nor failed to outstay his welcome.
    I shall visit again in the hope that some of the many words of wisdom of John Jorrocks may grace your pages.
    Unseated of Sheen

  2. Ah, indeed, Sponge lacked a few graces; but his knowledge of timetables went a long way towards compensation. Jorrocks is perhaps the finest grocer England has ever known (although there is some close competition). We shall see what the future brings in this blog, but I admit I find much to muse upon in the pages of Surtees, and, for that matter, Nimrod too.

    Thank you for stopping by (and for staying only for a polite amount of time).


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