Sleeve Garters – The History and Future of a Classic Men’s Fashion Accessory

Gamblers and cardsharps, gunslingers and knights-errant, traveling jazz musicians and punk rockers, even office clerks have had a hand in shaping the long and colorful story of sleeve garters — one of the classiest underrated accessories in the history of men’s fashion. Although often regarded today as novel anachronisms from a bygone era, arm garters have meant much to the men who have worn them throughout the ages — from practical necessity to the highest symbol of honor and loyalty, the sleeve garter may not be as prevalent today as in centuries past, but it’s looking better than ever.

Garters in the Middle Ages and Camelot

The sleeve garter has been making sporadic appearances in fashion since the Middle Ages, during a time when leg garters were a common accessory for both men and women — in the era before elastic, both sexes used leg garters to hold up their stockings. These garters were often fanciful, highly decorative, and worn to be displayed, a trend that dominated men’s clothing clear through the 18th century.

Great Britain’s ultra-exclusive Most Noble Order of the Garter, in fact, was a product of this period, having been established by King Edward the III sometime in the mid-14th century as a fellowship of chivalrous knights bound by the symbol of the garter. The organization, still in existence today, is limited to royalty and foreign sovereigns and is regarded as one of the most elite societies in the world.

The reason Edward III chose to use the garter as a symbol of his fraternity is shrouded in legend and has been the subject of a great deal of controversy and debate. Some trace Edward’s inspiration to the Crusades, where knights were said to have tied garters around their legs as talismans that would assure them of victory. Others say the source can be traced to the leather straps that knights of the period wore around their arms to bind pieces of their armor. The inspiration of the garter has also been attached to none other than legendary Camelot, where many members of King Arthur’s Round Table, most notably Sir Gawain, wore garters as a sign of solidarity, loyalty, purity, and brotherhood.

By the end of Elizabethan England, arm and sleeve garters had largely faded from fashion but were destined to make a big comeback during the 19th century. With the Industrial Revolution came the introduction of mass produced textiles, making clothing like basic pants and shirts more affordable to the average person. But mass produced clothing, which couldn’t be pre-fitted to the wearer, tended to come in only standard sizes while most men’s shirts were produced with sleeves in only one length, extra long. Arm garters were a convenient and, for those who couldn’t afford their own tailor, necessary way to adjust the length of one’s sleeves by keeping excess material bunched above the elbow near the shoulder.

Sleeve Garters in the 19th Century and the Wild West

Though production techniques improved over time, leading to the variety of shirt sizes available today and eliminating the need for arm garters, there were numerous other practical considerations that helped keep the sleeve garter popular among certain circles. Among news printers, office clerks, and other professionals who worked near ink (in an era where most documents were still produced by hand), arm garters were a way to keep one’s sleeves clean and smudge-free.

No less practical were the considerations for card players around the Old West and elsewhere, who commonly wore arm garters because it made hiding cards up one’s sleeves difficult. A card player wearing sleeve garters was essentially announcing that he was both honest and good enough that he didn’t need to cheat. Arm garters are often worn by card dealers at casinos even today for these reasons, though presently they are regarded more as a decorative part of a traditional uniform than as a safeguard against cheating.

There is also the notion, popularized by depictions in television and film, that gunslingers of the Old West wore sleeve garters to help keep their hands free in the event of a shootout. However, the notorious inaccuracy of pistols and handguns from the period, added to the fact that the American frontier was typically far less violent than its depiction in pop culture, makes this rationale unlikely. However, there is no question that the sleeve garter is now, as it was then, regarded as a dashing accessory for any well-dressed gunslinger from that era.

There is also a belief that keeping one’s hands free made arm garters popular among guitarists and early jazz musicians. While there is likely some validity to this opinion, sleeve garters were also popular among singers and other non-instrument playing performers of the time, lending strong evidence to the idea that arm garters were as fashionable as they were practical.

Retro Fashion and the Return of the Sleeve Garter

The end of the Old West, combined with technological advancements and huge changes in fashion during the 20th century, has turned arm garters into a relic of the past, one that’s now little more than part of a costume limited to a few highly nostalgic professions. There is, however, evidence that arm garters may be making something of second comeback.

The aesthetic known as steampunk, which combines and blends the energy of punk music, the advances of modern technology, and the look and style of Victorian fashion, has recently begun to influence fictional literature, art, music, film, and especially clothing. Fans of this new and often whimsical style are known to incorporate dated accessories like sleeve garters into their dress — the internet fairly abounds with how-to guides and instructions that show fans how to sew sleeve garters of their own.

Whether fads like steampunk will restore the sleeve garter to a premier place in men’s fashion remains to be seen, but the movement is proof that the particular look of this truly old school accessory is still popular for some, and is far from finished. Whether for chivalrous brotherhood, practical need, or retro fashion, it seems the sleeve garter will still be seen on men’s arms for at least a little while longer.

Men’s Suit Buying Guide

Consider your budget:

How much are you willing to spend for your first suit? Be reasonable, and don’t go too low. It is recommended to have at least $150 budgeted for buying a suit. If you are willing to spend up to $300 you will have a very wide selection of quality fabrics, fashionable designs, and a custom fitting available to you.

The right fabric:

Knowing about different type of fabrics is the first and most important step when buying a suit. Even if you are on a tight budget, try finding a suit that is made mostly of wool. Ideally suits should be made from 100% wool. Cheaper man-made fabrics such as polyester, microfiber, or Teflon should be avoided. Those fabrics do not breathe, and will be quite uncomfortable to wear – especially on warmer days. Linen suits should also be avoided for your first suit. Typically linen suits are made in lighter colors. They appear less formal, and are on top of it about 4 times more expensive to dry-clean than a wool suit.

Now, looking at different wool suits, you might notice numbers like “super 100s”, “super 120s”, “super 160s”, and so on. What does this number stand for? You might notice that the higher the number, the more expensive the suit usually is. The number simply rates how fine the wool is. When sheep are sheared, the wool of each sheep gets examined and rated. What matters here is the thickness of one individual fiber. The finer the wool is, the higher the rating. The highest rating you will find is most likely super 200s wool. Most recommended are super 100s and super 120s. The higher numbers are less suited for a daily business suit as they wrinkle much easier, and are less durable.

Choose the right style:

There are many different styles of suits available to you. Don’t panic about all the endless options. If you are buying your fist suit, or are looking for a classic business suit, then the suit jacket should be:

  1. Dark blue, or charcoal gray in color (the latter one is preferred here)
  2. Be Solid Color (no pin-stripes, checks, or plaids)
  3. Be Single-Breasted (the jacket simply buttons, and does not overlap to the other side)
  4. Have a Two or Three-button jacket

If you keep the above in mind, you will be on the right track. You already narrowed down your selection to couple of different suits. When buying suits, you usually pick the jacket separately from the pants. As far as jackets are concerned find the cut that is best suited for your body type:

  1. Average body type: Pick the so-called “American Cut”. It is a classic cut that is typically the best choice for your first suit.
  2. Full-figured men: The so-called “Full Cut” might be the best choice here. The “Full Cut” is not tapered at the waist and hangs straight down. It is perfect for men with a wider waistline.
  3. Fit & Athletic men: The “European Cut” might be the best choice here. This type of cut is more tapered at the waist and will compliment you if you are in good shape. Before buying this type of suit make certain that you are keeping your weight, and stay in shape.

The right fit:

Make sure that the suit fits right on your shoulders. Put on the jacket and reach out with both arms to the front. The fabric on your back should be tight, but shouldn’t limit your movement too much. Secondly, make sure that the sleeves have the right length. To find the perfect length, put on the jacket, and stand straight. Let your arms hang down. The sleeves of your suit should end where your hand meets your wrist. Finally make sure that the collar fits properly. About a ½ inch of your dress shirt should show, and there mustn’t be any wrinkles near your collar of the jacket when wearing it.

Finding the right pants is much easier. The most important thing is the right match to your jacket. The colors and fabric type should be an identical match. Also important is the right fit on your waist. When buying a new suit, pants will always be tailored to fit to the right length. Once tailored, the pants must never drag on the floor near your heels. Ideally you socks are covered completely, and the pants should rest slightly on your shoes when standing up straight.

Shirt and Ties:

Shirt and ties are essential accessories for the suit. If you are new to wearing suit and tie, make sure to have at least 4 or 5 dress shirts available. The best colors are white and light blue. For beginners, and men with limited budget, solid color shirts are best. If you are looking to have a new look everyday, the easiest and most cost effective way of doing this, is by changing your neckties. Fine silk ties can cost less than $40 and will give your attire a fresh new look every time. With this in mind, it is recommended to have at least 5 different ties in your wardrobe.

Men’s Guide on How to Match Ascot With Suit

Typical and average ties never seem to be out of style especially for business people. However, if you would like to skip looking standard, you can spice things up with the help of ascot ties. In an event where you are required to wear your best formal wear, ascots can give your attire an interesting stylish twist. The reason as to why there are more men that choose to wear regular neckties is because it takes poise and self confidence to be able to pull the look off. What you need to know here is how you can match ascot with suit so that you, as the wearer, will be able to get the look of elegance and sophistication in a snap.

Ascot ties have been worn especially during the 19th century when this was a huge hit for the fellows. A great alternative to bows and ties, you can have a distinctive style when you dress in an ascot that easily matches the suit that you are wearing. There are a few things that you should learn about when you want to match ascot with suit. First is that you should first look at the fabric. If you have decided that you will be using a lightweight suit for that particular day, you will need a silk ascot to go well with it. On the other hand, if it is a heavy suit, go for a cashmere ascot so that you can easily pull the look off.

Next are the colors. It is always best when you do not match the color of the ascot with the outfit that you have chosen. That would be rally boring. You can always tidy the ensemble up with a multicolored ascot tie. Thus, this means that you need to go for contrasting colors as they will make you stand out. As an example, if you will be wearing a white suit for a certain occasion, you can go for an ascot bearing a bright and bold color. For dark suits, white or cream ties will do well for the matter. Then, a dull suit would be a great match for a bright neck wear.

Aside from being able to match ascot with suit, you will also need to learn how you should tie your ascot. You can have different ways such as the straight tie, simple knot and the traditional knot. If you are having trouble with learning how to tie this one, you can opt to purchase an ascot that is pre-tied. There are also some that are presented with Velcro closures. You can also buy a pin that will help you hold your ascot tie in place. This way, you even add zing to your attire. However, you should not overdo things by buying a tie pin that is too flashy. Instead of making yourself look elegant here, you will look ridiculous. Knowing how you can match ascot with suit is a good representation of you can style yourself up and that you really have the skill to dress formally with modishness.