Suspender buttons appear prominently on older jean models and pants designed prior to the 1930s. Along with the back cinch, they were phased out on jeans when belts became the norm.
Back in the day, most jeans featured two buttons on the back of the jean and two on either side on the front, which were used to ‘anchor’ the suspenders to the garment.
With early jeans being incredibly high-waisted and loose-fitting, suspenders made for a practical and affordable way for holding up and taking off pants.
After the First World War, many younger men had grown accustomed to wearing belts as part of their military uniforms and brought this tradition home with them to civilian life.
Many also chose to forgo the traditional men’s outfit, consisting of a waistcoat and a coat, in favour of just a shirt. This meant that suspenders would be left exposed and, considering that in the 20s they were seen as underwear, they were not something that people would want to show the world.
In 1922, Levi’s introduced belt loops on their jeans, which thus featured a back cinch, belt loops and suspender buttons, allowing their customers to choose how they held their jeans up.
Wearers were often fairly polarised in how they wore their jeans: either you were a ‘belt man’ or a ‘suspenders man’ but rarely ever both.
Customers could ask shop clerks to snip off the cinch and even take off the suspender buttons should they want to wear their jeans ‘the new way.’
By 1937, Levi’s had removed suspender buttons as a standard feature of their jeans but still produced ‘press-on’ buttons that could be purchased and hammered on, should the wearer be a die-hard fan of suspenders.
Along with the cinch, jeans featuring suspender buttons have seen a revival with the rise of heritage fashion, and have had some successes in the mainstream, featuring on Lee’s Logger model amongst others.