"Back waist straps" on trad trousers - what happened?

Discussion in 'Andy's Trad Forum' started by Arnold Gingrich fan, Dec 13, 2008.

  1. Arnold Gingrich fan

    Arnold Gingrich fan Well-Known Member


    Consider the 1955 ad below. It mentions a once-common "ivy" detail that has inexplicably disappeared from today's trad suit trousers: the back waist strap and buckle.

    My husband has a 1930s Brooks Brothers suit with a back waist strap. I put it to you experts: When did trad clothiers do away with the strap...and why?

  2. Jim In Sunny So Calif

    Jim In Sunny So Calif Well-Known Member

    That back strap was found on casual trousers in the 1950's. It was on every pair of polished cotton trousers that I had and on a few pair of odd wool trousers. I don't think I ever saw a suit with that detail although my experience is limited to So Calif.

    The ad that you posted is interesting. I wonder in which city Irv Lewis Men's Shop was located. I did not start buying suits until I got out of the Army in 1956 but that is close enough to the 1955 ad for me to say that the prices seem rather low. I don't remember too much about prices back then, but I know that I bought some nice suits in the late 50s for under $100. Some were by Southwick and I don't recall the other makers; I might not have even known.

    Sorry that I can't be more help with your questions, Jim.
  3. outrigger

    outrigger Well-Known Member

    Are the trousers cut for braces? the reason I ask is I've only seen back straps on trousers cut for braces; and I'd always considered Ivy League trousers to be cut for belts.
  4. AldenPyle

    AldenPyle Well-Known Member

  5. mack11211

    mack11211 Well-Known Member

    The store seems to have been in Ithaca, NY, according to the interview with its ad man:


    The back waist buckle has two things going against it.

    One, it draws the pants close at only one point. Even side tabs do it at two points.

    Two, to make it you need to buy the hardware, an additional expense.

    Three, I think even then most men were accustomed to wearing belts, especially with casual or odd trousers.

    The fashion for side tabs or rear tabs/buckles lasted into the early or mid 60s, I believe.
  6. Bradford

    Bradford Well-Known Member

    I had always heard that men got used to wearing belts while serving in the military during WWII, but this is later than that so perhaps that is wrong or it just took a while for the more traditional manufacturers to change their styles.
  7. Jim In Sunny So Calif

    Jim In Sunny So Calif Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the info on the locatation of the shop.

    I failed to mention in my prior post that none of the trousers with 'a belt in the back' (that is what we called it back then) that I owned or that I ever saw were cut for braces. They all had belt loops, people always wore belts with them, and while the belt in the back could have been used to tighten the fit, I never saw it done. I don't think it would have looked attractive.

    Before that styling detail had run it's course, I remember seeing a few, but only a few thanfully, caps and jackets with belts in the back. Someone joked the next step was a belt with a belt in the back.

    Mack suggested that we buried that fad in the early to mid 60's and that sounds right to me. As far as I know, that style has never made a comeback which I think is just dandy.

    Cheers, Jim.
  8. Arnold Gingrich fan

    Arnold Gingrich fan Well-Known Member


    The 1930s Brooks Brothers suit trousers have brace buttons and belt loops.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
  9. Arnold Gingrich fan

    Arnold Gingrich fan Well-Known Member

    No, the hardware (the buckle) came with the trousers.
  10. Arnold Gingrich fan

    Arnold Gingrich fan Well-Known Member

    I'm not sure the word "fad" best describes it. After all, back buckles on trouser waists were first used in the 1800s. A 100 year-long style is hardly a passing fad.
  11. Arnold Gingrich fan

    Arnold Gingrich fan Well-Known Member

    Never mind the quote above. My mistake. I now understand what mack11211 meant.
  12. Jim In Sunny So Calif

    Jim In Sunny So Calif Well-Known Member

    Perhaps 'fad' is not the most appropriate term, but it seemed like a fad to me because that feature was popular with college age people, in my area at least, during the mid to late 50's to the extent that it was even put on articles of clothing other than trousers. Also, because it was something I had not seen prior to the mid 50's.

    Your husband's suit (nice suit btw) shows us that it was around in the 30's, but I wonder how popular it was at that time. I don't remember seeing it during the 30's or 40's although during the first part of that time period I did not pay much attention to such things.

    I have read that cuffs on trousers were prohibited during the first half of the 40's due to The War. That might be the case for vests too and also for belt in the back on trousers.

    One reason that I don't care for that feature is, as your second photo shows, that with back pockets, belt loops, and one can imagine a belt, that adding that rear belt makes the area look very busy, especially with a nice patterned cloth.

    Another reason is that if that belt was actually tightened up for a better fit, it would only be done if the trousers needed some help from a tailor and would not look good at all.

    One might say it is just a stylistic detail that does not need to be functional as is the case with many of the details of current men's tailored clothing and I could not debate that view except as I noted above, that it adds busyness where none is needed.

    It would be interesting to know which current details of men's clothing will be around in 50 years only on vintage suits.

    It is an interesting bit of tailoring history that you brought up that I had completely forgotten about.

    Cheers, Jim.
  13. rip

    rip Well-Known Member

    I well remember the back belt; my first pair of real "Ivy League" trousers, bought at Nieman Marcus in Dallas in the early '50s, were charcoal brown (a particularly lovely color), clearly cut for a belt, plus had the aforementioned back belt, which no one I knew ever used to adjust their trousers. It sits too low on the back to effectively adjust the waist plus, since these trousers were all flat-front, one certainly wouldn't want to add a pleat in the center of the back. I just assumed it was a vestigial fashion detail with no true function, rather like cuff buttons on a suit.
  14. jackmccullough

    jackmccullough Well-Known Member

    I remember them. I remember one day some of us sitting in my father's room as he used a razor blade to remove the back belts from a bunch of his pants. It was probably the very early 1960's.

    At that time he still had some t-shirts and jackets from the Marines, and he had served in WWII, so he was definitely one to hold onto clothes.
  15. AldenPyle

    AldenPyle Well-Known Member

    Penn State Daily Collegian, September 1958

    Not to add insult to injury, but I guess that State College was not necessarily the most up to date in fashion, but this probably gives some idea.
  16. Toad

    Toad Well-Known Member

    I remember the back belt always getting caught on chairs or scratching the leather upholstry
  17. bd79cc

    bd79cc Well-Known Member

    I like the back belt - anything to break up that w i d e expanse between the hips.
  18. TDI GUY

    TDI GUY Well-Known Member

    Return of the back belt?

    Another interesting exchange in the Ivy-Style interview with Cambridge J.Press manager Denis Black (http://www.ivy-style.com/) was the mention of the possible return of the back-belted trouser. An intriguing development, particularly given that many (in this thread at least) were all too happy to see it disappear from the Ivy repertoire the first time 'round.
  19. Jovan

    Jovan Honors Member

    Side adjusters I see the use for, but the back belt on non-high back trousers seems a little useless.
  20. Thom Browne's Schooldays

    Thom Browne's Schooldays Well-Known Member

    ^ agree with Javon. I tried on a pair of trousers with one a while back (PRL?) and the rise wasn't high enough doe the adjuster to do much.

    I notice in the ad the first poster posted one on the ivy details mentioned is "button stance", what exactly is this referring to? I only ask because I've come to think that a high button stance is a distinguishing trad/ivy/sack feature.

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