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Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0
Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

10 Historical Figures Who Loved Suspenders

Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0
Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

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

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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

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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

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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.”

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TBT
The Unkindest Cut: A Short History of the Mullet
Peter Parks, AFP/Getty Images
Peter Parks, AFP/Getty Images

Jerry Seinfeld wore it on primetime television for nine years. Brad Pitt thinks his career got off the ground because he wore one to his Thelma & Louise audition. Peter Dinklage’s high school photo went viral as a direct result of the bold choice.

For all of these men and millions of others, the mullet has had profound and lasting effects on their lives. Famously described as being “business in the front, party in the back” and sometimes referred to as a “squirrel pelt” or the “ape drape,” the short-front, long-backed hairstyle might be the most controversial cut in the history of grooming. What started it? And can anything kill it?

A man shows off his mullet
Peter Parks, AFP/Getty Images

Although it doesn’t have quite the same archaeological provenance as hieroglyphs or dinosaur bones, mullet historians believe there’s ample evidence to suggest that the hairstyle has been with mankind for centuries. Neanderthals may have favored it to keep hair out of their eyes and protect their necks from wind and rain. Greek statues dating back to the 6th century BCE sport the cut. Ancient civilizations in Mesopotamia and Syria rocked it.

Most of these populations embraced the cut for practical purposes: protection from the elements and visibility. But the direct lineage of the mullet to the modern day might be traceable from Native Americans, who often wore their hair short in front and kept it long in the back as a sign of their spiritual strength. The style was eventually appropriated by Western culture and made its way to settlements; colonial wigs, particularly George Washington’s, look a little mullet-esque.

The mullet remained dormant for much of the 20th century. Conformity led to sharp, practical cuts for men and traditional styles for women. That began to change in the 1960s, when counterculture movements expressed their anti-establishment leanings in their mode of dress. Long hair on guys became commonplace. In the 1970s, entertainers looking to appear even more audacious pushed their stage presence to extremes. For David Bowie, that meant a distinctive hairstyle that was cropped over the eyes and ears and left hanging in the back.

 David Bowie performs his final concert as Ziggy Stardust at the Hammersmith Odeon, London on July 3, 1973
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Bowie’s popularity drew fresh attention to the mullet, although it didn’t yet have a name. The arrival of MTV led to even more exposure, which soon migrated to other mediums. Richard Marx’s blow-dried variant led to George Clooney’s The Facts of Life sculpt. Patrick Swayze’s ‘do in 1989’s Road House deserved equal screen billing. Mel Gibson raced through three Lethal Weapon movies with a well-insulated neck. John Stamos consoled his widowed brother-in-law on Full House with an epic mullet. Richard Dean Anderson diffused bombs on MacGyver for years with the “Arkansas waterfall.” Some fads last months. The mullet seemed to be hanging on for the long term.

But public derision was brewing. The style began to be appropriated by a demographic fond of trucker hats and sandals. The death blow came when the Beastie Boys mocked the cut on their 1994 track “Mullet Head,” a song the Oxford English Dictionary credits with naming the fad. (A “mullet head” had long been an insult used to label someone lacking in common sense: Mark Twain used it in 1884’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.) Suddenly, mullet-wearers were objects of ridicule and scorn, their locks outdated. For 1998’s Lethal Weapon 4, Gibson lost his trademark cut. It was the end of an era.

A man shows off his mullet
Peter Parks, AFP/Getty Images

Like most things in fashion, that would not be the end of the mullet. The cut has made periodic resurgences over the years, with people adopting ironic takeoffs or making legitimate attempts to return the coonskin cap-like look to its former glory. In Moscow, young men suddenly began sporting the look in 2005, which became ground zero for a follicular virus. Some less flexible countries even became proactively anti-mullet: Iran banned it, among other Western styles, in 2010.

Hairstylists generally avoid the waves of attention the mullet can sometimes provoke. “It's for people who are slightly confused, who believe they like long hair but don't want the image that they associate with long hair," celebrity hairstylist Jose Eber told the Los Angeles Times in 2001. He declared it “nonsense.”

For others, the appeal is enduring. Kurri Kurri, a small mining town in Australia, just hosted its first “mullet festival,” a celebration of all things badly shorn. “We have so many mullets in town,” said co-organizer Sarah Bedford. “My father-in-law had one for 60 years.”

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Invicta, Sideshow Collectibles
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Pop Culture
Invicta's Star Wars Watch Collection Gives Geek Chic a High-End Makeover
Invicta, Sideshow Collectibles
Invicta, Sideshow Collectibles

Whether you identify more as a bounty hunter, stormtrooper, or droid from the Star Wars universe, now you can express yourself in style. As Nerdist reports, Invicta and Sideshow Collectibles have teamed up to produce a line of watches that reimagine characters from the sci-fi franchise as high-fashion accessories.

Boba Fett, C-3PO, R2-D2, Darth Vader, and a stormtrooper are all available as stainless steel wrist watches. Each product borrows design elements from its namesake character: The Boba Fett models, for example, match the red-and-green color scheme of the bounty hunter's suit, while the faces of the Darth Vader watches mimic the antagonist's iconic mask. The back of each watch is branded with the character's name, face, and the Star Wars logo.

You can get the watches with stainless steel and silicone bands for $299 apiece or spring for the full steel band for $379. And because the Star Wars franchise is far from finished, the watches won't go out of style anytime soon.

Looking for a cheaper way to express your love for the movies? There's plenty of affordable Star Wars-branded swag to choose from.

Star Wars watch.

Star Wars watch.

Star Wars watch.

Star Wars watch.

Star Wars watch.

[h/t Nerdist]

All images courtesy of Invicta and Sideshow Collectibles.

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