Thursday, December 11, 2014

I Wear Suspenders

I wear suspenders. Not every day, but often. There are two reasons: one very practical and one rather vain. I think they do the job of holding my pants up better and more comfortably than a belt, and I like the distinctive look. To be very honest, I think the latter is probably more important, but I contrived the first in order to assuage my reproach for such vainglorious thought.

I think suspenders, or braces if you are from the U.K., are more comfortable than a belt. By the way, men should wear a belt or suspenders, not both. The job of either is to hold your pants up, so I prefer suspenders because rather than pinching my waist, they operate on simple gravity and I can wear my waist band as loose as I like without risk of ending up on America’s Funniest Home Videos.

But as I say, I probably like the look more than the comfort. They add a little flair to the otherwise conformist ensemble of my male colleagues. Not many men wear suspenders anymore, so they add a little distinction. I like that. In fact, I am the only one that wears them in my workplace and they are kind of my trademark. Another man wore some one day, and he was teased with comments such as: “Oh excuse me, I thought you were Joseph for a moment.” I almost felt bad for him, but at the same time I was gratified; I am special.

One day I was away from the office for lunch and I happened to cross paths with stranger who was also wearing suspenders. Our eyes met and he offered one of those subtle head nods, and I returned the gesture. We might have sort of grunted at each other too; the point is, there was clearly a bond established between two members of the exclusive men who wear suspenders club.

And this, like so many other insignificant events, set me to pondering. In the little world of my workplace I am gratified to be special, but in the wide world I am happy to find someone like myself. I want to be unique, but not too unique. (I know unique should not have a qualifier; the "error" was intentional.)

We all want to be unique. Society places great value on individuality. Individualism is extolled and honored. We celebrate non-conformity, take pride in our individuality and resist anything that categorizes us too narrowly.

And yet, we want to belong. There seems to be an innate desire to be identified with some group bigger than ourselves. In spite of the aforementioned exaltation of individuality, we all want to fit in. Perhaps not all, there is the rare recluse who shuns human association, but I wonder if they truly desire solitude, or if they merely despair of fitting in. I cannot say. I have only observed that most people want to belong.

I am of the opinion that we don’t value individuality quite as much as we pretend. We pay lip service; we think it sounds wise, or new age, or enlightened, but in the end I think most of us want to belong more than we want to stand out. I realize the two are not mutually exclusive, as the suspender club illustrates. But I believe the desire to belong is actually stronger and more natural than the desire to be unique.

No real point to any of this, I just wanted to point out that I wear suspenders as an excuse to brag about my grandson. He recently took notice of my suspenders and his mother got him a set of his own, and he loves to wear them and tell you he has suspenders like Grandpa.

I love that boy!

But if he is trying to belong, it is unnecessary. He already belongs to the small group of people I love more than life.

© 2014 Joseph E. Fountain


  1. You're unique (but not too unique) not at all dependent on your trouser-holder choice. I like unique you.

  2. What a great post! I'd never thought about it before but suspenders are much more practical (and probably healthier) than belts. I love your comments about individuality too. Very astute.

    Very cute grandson, too! :-)

  3. You're right, about the tendency to belong to something rather than to be unique. But maybe I am for both...I like to belong to a small group which stands out of the majority. How about that? ;)

  4. I agree that when it comes right down to it individuality only gets lip service (most of the time). Great post!

    1. Thanks for the feedback! (and thanks for adding me to your blogroll, I've returned the favor.)


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