10 Historical Figures Who Loved Suspenders
Even in a belt-dominated fashion landscape, many still prefer these uplifting pant-hoisters. Among celebrity fans, the best known is—without question—award-winning journalist Larry King, who estimates that he owns around 150 pairs. No doubt he would have had a lot to talk about with these 10 historical figures.
1. FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT
After FDR raved about Harry Woodring's vibrant red, white, and blue suspenders, the Secretary of War gifted a matching pair to the Commander-in-Chief. Roosevelt’s esteem for suspenders was well-known to the American public, and his championing of these particular suspenders had a big impact on their popularity: In 1938, fashion designer Elizabeth Hawes told Life magazine that after the Democrat started wearing them on a regular basis, suspender sales went through the roof.
2. DAVID OGILVY
Known as the “Father of Advertising,” Ogilvy worked on such brands as Sears, Shell, and American Express. Later in life, he developed a signature look that delighted the public. Along with a Holmes-esque pipe, it included red suspenders—which he called braces, the British term for the garments. In 1989, his wildly-successful advertising agency, the Ogilvy Group, was bought up by the WPP Group P.L.C. At the very last board meeting, several members saluted their leader by donning crimson suspenders in his honor.
3. COUNT JOHANN HEINRICH VON BERNSTORFF
From 1908 to 1917, this politician served as Germany’s ambassador to the United States. Like all effective diplomats, he generally tried to avoid offending anyone, but the man’s loud outfits weren’t always easy on the eyes. Included in his personal wardrobe was every garish garment from yellow shoes to black-and-white checkered suits. Once, while golfing with President William Howard Taft, he donned a pink shirt with eye-catching red suspenders. According to eyewitnesses, “Big Bill” was horrified by the getup.
4. SIR RALPH DAVID RICHARDSON
Knighted in 1947, this acclaimed British actor wowed theatergoers for decades and appeared in the classic 1965 film Doctor Zhivago. He was also a diehard braces partisan. After World War II began, he worried that fabric rations would be enforced and promptly bought six new pairs.
5. CALVIN COOLIDGE
The press had a field day when Silent Cal wore his loudest outfit on a golf course in autumn 1923. When he showed up in cream-colored waist-high pants, white sneakers, a navy blue dinner jacket, and—last but not least—canary-yellow suspenders, Coolidge’s fellow players had to stifle their snickers. Coolidge incorporated suspenders into the White House dress code that was enforced upon his sons: at dinnertime, tuxedoes with tasteful suspenders were considered mandatory attire.
6. BUTLER DERRICK
A long-serving U.S. Congressman, Derrick represented South Carolina’s third district on Capitol Hill for 20 years. During that time, he worked as a ranking member on the Rules Committee and became the Democrats’ chief deputy whip. In recognition of his eco-friendly voting record, the National Wildlife Federation named him Conservationist of the Year in 1977. Inside the House chamber, Derrick was easily recognized by his trademark bowties and suspenders.
7. NAPOLEON BONAPARTE
The ruler’s former valet Louis Constant Wairy published a three-part memoir titled Recollections of the Private Life of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1830. Partway through volume one, he discusses the political leader’s taste in clothing. “All of his Majesty’s linen was of extremely high quality, marked with an ‘N’ in the coronet,” Wairy wrote, “at first, he wore no suspenders, but at last began using them and found them very comfortable.” On the battlefield, Bonaparte usually sported tailor-made braces. At least a few of these were decorated with little bees, his attempt to show a connection to the Merovingians.
8. EUGENE TALMADGE
This controversial Georgia governor used suspenders as a political statement. During an event during his 1934 reelection race, he was given a pair of scarlet suspenders. Before long, he started wearing these at virtually every public appearance and turned them into an ideological prop. Talmadge often said that his new favorite accessories were “the insignia of a red heart and hard work.” Georgia voters ate it right up: A few weeks after receiving the suspenders, Governor Talmadge made a show of removing his jacket and exposing them at a rally. Upon seeing his already-famous suspenders, the crowd cheered uproariously.
9. JOHN WESLEY HARDIN
A notorious Old West outlaw, Hardin killed for the first time as a teenager and may have done in as many as 39 more men before being shot by a Texas policeman in 1895. Back then, men in this part of the country usually wore suspenders rather than those big-buckled belts you see in the movies. Hardin was no exception.
Once, his suspenders landed him in prison. On August 23, 1877, he was tracked to a train car in Florida by lawman John Armstrong. The second police confronted him, Hardin went for his gun—which got caught on his suspenders. Pressing his advantage, Armstrong used his own gun to club Hardin over the head. Hardin was then shipped off to Texas, where he spent 15 years at the state prison in Huntsville.
10. CLARENCE DARROW
At the Scopes “Monkey” Trial of 1925, Darrow volunteered to defend a Tennessee teacher who had included evolution in his curriculum, thus defying a state law that prohibited teaching the subject at public high schools. As an attorney, Darrow was noted for having a theatrical aura about him.
For dramatic effect, he liked fiddling with the suspenders that he customarily wore on the job. “The old man used to crack his suspenders like the explosion of a .45,” one reporter said. “I used to think he’d break a rib.”