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Belt Alternatives: Side Tabs & Suspender Buttons

Q: “Ever since discovering custom tailored suits, I’ve warmed up to the idea of forgoing the belt. Still, I feel a little awkward wearing suit pants with empty belt loops just hanging there. What are your thoughts on not wearing a belt on suit pants with belt loops?” – George M.

A: As Glenn O’Brien once aptly put it, “empty loops look so lonely and useless.” And he’s right, empty loops can look as if a vestigial organ of your wardrobe has just been removed. A part of this has to do with the fact that most of us have been taught that belts are the “anchor” of the wardrobe, a necessary element to a suited outfit. In reality, a belt should be thought of more of as an accessory rather than a necessity. Now before you yell “blasphemy!” in disagreement, let us quickly explain: suit pants (or all pants for that matter) should sit on your waist without the need for a belt and therefore, a belt should never be a band aid for wearing baggy or ill-fitting pants.

As for the lonely belt loops, one way to remedy this is by having them removed by a tailor and having side tabs added. Side tabs are essentially mini-belts made of the same suit fabric, attached on each side (see the diagram above). Side tabs can be easily adjusted on the go and help you stay comfortable after a meal. Just make sure he has the matching fabric to add the tabs (you may have to provide the fabric). The easier option is to have your pants made with them in the first place in lieu of belt loops when you order one of our custom suits. Just don’t try to be too ambitious (or indecisive) and get both belt loops and side tabs. This just defeats the whole purpose of having side tabs.

Another option, for those who feel inclined to channel some Gordon Gekko or Oscar Wilde, is to go for suspender buttons and pick yourself up some suspenders (also called “braces” by our friends across the pond). Why suspenders? According to the venerated tailor Alan Flusser, properly worn suspenders allow the pants to be hung from the shoulders rather than the hips, creating a completely different drape and fluidity to the look. So if you’re looking for a little more support from above, opt for the suspender buttons. The great thing about suspender buttons is that they’re on the inside so they’re discrete and you don’t feel them. Opt for the button-type suspenders as clip-on versions can snap off and cause needless embarrassment. Suspender buttons will double with your side tabs for a pair of functional and stylish alternatives to wearing belts.  Suspender buttons and side tabs are available as an advanced customization option in all of our suit pants (no additional charge as always)!

Hope this helps! Got any further questions on side tabs or suspender buttons? Leave a comment below! 

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11 thoughts on “Belt Alternatives: Side Tabs & Suspender Buttons”

  1. Fred says:

    This is great! A lot of times I wear my trouser around the house without the belt and find it so much more comfortable. I want to wear them like that all the time but need a way to make them just a little snugger/looser at times. This seems like a good way to go. Can you tell us how much “adjustment” is available through these tabs? Are there any issues with bunching of the waist?

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Since Black Lapel pants are custom made to your waist, the exact amount of adjustment a side tab gives you is relative to your waist, Fred. That said, you can count on about a half-inch to an inch of difference between the snug and normal tab setting.

      As for bunching at the waist, the pants are constructed to let you adjust the tabs without pulling the fabric. The tabs slide in and out of the back of your pants (like a pocket door) so you don’t get the kind of bunching you see when you cinch up a belt on a waist that’s too big. Give it a try, but we’ll warn you, you may never go back to wearing a belt again.

  2. Kevin says:

    Can I add (sew on) buttons to my existing suit pants that don’t have them?

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Yes, Kevin. In fact, some suspenders come with a set of buttons for you to sew in to your pants. This is a quick and easy job for a tailor and the buttons will earn you some street cred (on streets like Fifth Avenue) from men of style.

  3. Phil says:

    This is great, but I don’t see the option to have side tabs in place of belt loops on your site. Any help?

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Hi Phil! Side tabs in place of belt loops not on the site, but available by special request through email. Just email us at concierge@blacklapel.com and we’ll be sure to take care of you! 🙂

  4. Brad says:

    I attend a senior military college in the south, and for all of our dressy uniforms, we have suspenders. The button kind thankfully. Unfortunately, we wear wool tops on days when it really should be cotton or even linen. I guess there’s no accounting for poor judgement. But, There is a good reason we wear suspenders. One, since it is a college, many of the cadets are changing in body size and it allow the pant to be tailored more liberally, and still “fit”. Two, as you said in the article, they do look rather good when done right. That’s just the humble opinion of a cadet though.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      That’s quite interesting! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Jovan says:

    Agree completely here. 🙂 Side tabs and braces are the best option, especially if wearing a three piece.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Cool, glad you concur! 🙂

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