Trouser Adjusters

Anthony Sinclair’s Side Adjusters in Dr. No

Though the go-to method of supporting trousers these days is the belt, English suits weren’t traditionally worn with belts. The Duke of Windsor famously went to an American tailor to have his suit trousers with belt loops made because his London tailored refused to. And there are many reasons not to wear a belt with a suit:

  1. A belt breaks the visual flow from the coat to the trousers, especially on a lighter suit. A suit should be one.
  2. A belt buckle disrupts the line of a fitted suit coat.
  3. A belt buckle creates a lump under a waistcoat on a 3-piece suit.
  4. Trousers will sag during the day with a belt and need to be pulled up.

Only braces can solve problem 4, but the other three problems can be solved with side adjusters. By the 1950s it was common for English tailors to make trousers with an adjustable waistband system to take the place of braces, and there are a number of different types of waistband adjusters.

Cyril Castle’s Side Adjusters in Live and Let Die

Sean Connery’s Anthony Sinclair suits all featured “DAKS tops,” originally made by Simpson’s of Piccadilly. The name is a portmanteau of “Dad” and “slacks.” The style has buttoning tabs on the sides, connected with hidden elastic across the back. One drawback to this is that the adjusters can only be tightened to where the buttons are placed, though the elastic helps for a snug fit. There are usually two or three buttons—often of mother of pearl—on each side, and Connery used one of the buttons on the left to secure his shoulder holster. Roger Moore also wore this style on his Cyril Castle suit trousers in Live and Let Die.

Tom Ford’s Side Adjusters in Quantum of Solace

Daniel Craig introduced another classic trouser adjuster style to the Bond series with his Tom Ford suits in Quantum of Solace. The Tom Ford side adjusters are two strips of cloth brought together with a slide buckle, though a more casual variation can be found that uses D-rings. As opposed to button-tabs, this style allows for an exact adjustment. Other styles of side adjusters exist, such as a waistband that expands and contracts with a locking zip fastener. There are also adjusters that look like DAKS tops but don’t have elastic across the back, and thus they do not function as well.

12 thoughts on “Trouser Adjusters

  1. I’ve decided that the next suit I buy must come with side adjusters, but most off-the-peg stores in the US come with belt loops ,(although I’m sure you can name some retailers that buck that trend). At least in my part of the world, belts are thought to be a necessity of fashion if not always function. When I where a shirt, sweater, and trousers without a belt, I get disapproving looks.

    I’ve been thinking about buying a made-to-measure suit through Indochino. A friend used them recently and was very pleased. I know that their advanced settings allow for side adjusters (not sure which type) and things like functional buttons on the cuff.

    Matt (and others), what is your opinion of Indochino? Can you recommend them or other, similarly priced “bespoke” online tailors?

    I’ve come to think that they are my best option because even if I buy a suit at Brooks Brothers or one of my local upscale stores, I would still need to get the suit adjusted by my tailor. Seems like Indochino and the like would be much cheaper ($300-400 instead of $800-$1000) and would also cut out the tailor.

    What do you think?

    • I’ve heard many more negative experiences with Indochino than positive. It also doesn’t help my confidence that most of their models wear poorly-fitting suits. If you’re going to have a suit made for you, the tailor making the suit needs to measure you. Having someone else measure you is the biggest problem because of the many subtleties in tailoring a jacket. There are some less expensive Hong Kong tailors that travel the world and could make you a less expensive suit. Another option could be to buy a suit off the rack, have the belt loops removed and use the extra fabric cut off from the trousers to construct side adjusters.

      • Thank you, Matt!

        I’ve heard of some other services like the ones in Hong Kong you mentioned that will come to your house or office and measure you. Have you ever used one you can recommend?

        If not, I do trust my local tailor. She can’t make me a suit, but maybe I can pick up one locally and, if she is willing, try your suggestion with the belt loops.

        Is there a retailer you like best for their fit? I have Brooks Brothers, Men’s Warehouse, and Jos. A. Bank locally (although my Bank store only sells suit pants with pleats and I kind of hate MW). At least here, the BB people are the only ones that seem to know what they are talking about.

        I do have a couple other, locally owned men’s stores as well. They have an annual summer sale, so maybe I could catch on of those.

        Thanks!

        • I have never used any tailors from Hong Kong. Most don’t visit homes and offices but usually work out of a hotel. MyTailor.com is one of the better ones, but they do cost more than places like Indochino. Good suits will start around $700-800.

          Out of the retailers you mentioned, only Brooks Brothers sells anything worthy of the cost of adding side adjusters. Their Regent suit is the most attractive model (the others are too American), though the trousers on all their suits have a low rise. Low-rise trousers don’t look good with suits because it breaks up the jacket and trousers. Their trousers only fit well if you are very short. They used to sell trousers with English-style forward pleats, which is a great style for side adjusters, but that was years ago. See if some of the other retailers in your area sell something better. The only American clothing companies I like are Polo Ralph Lauren and Paul Stuart. They have the best fit for me. Polo Ralph Lauren suits can be found on sale, though they normally cost almost twice that of Brooks Brothers. Ralph Lauren Black Label is around the same price but has a more athletic fit. Purple Label costs significantly more than that. Black and Purple Label suits almost always have side adjusters.

          • Thanks very much. That was a very detailed response, Matt. Much appreciated.

  2. A great Honk Kong tailor is WW Chan. The suits (without the fabric) starts at 1000USD. But I would go for a RTW suit, remove the loops and use the material from the unhemmed trousers to create the adjusters by your tailor. I have never seen Tom Ford suits without adjusters. But Tom Ford is another price range (3k plus for RTW). You can also check ebay or http://www.costumelimite.com for Tom Ford suits with discount (between 30% – 80% off).

  3. “Daks” adjusters isn’t a portmanteau – it comes from the tailoring company Daks, which pioneered the said waistband style.

  4. Matt, does removing belt loops and making side adjusters from the excess fabric actually work, and does it look good? Have you ever done that to your trousers? What type of adjusters would you recommend?

    • I’ve never tried it, but I’ve considered it. I can’t see any reason why it shouldn’t work, as long as your tailor knows how to do them properly. The kind Tom Ford uses would probably be best. The button type obviously can’t be done since the trouser waistband would need to be reconstructed. Us the type of slide buckle seen on the Tom Ford trousers here, and it’s the kind most Savile Row tailors use. Do not use D-rings because they really don’t work. I’m wearing a pair of trousers with D-rings today and I often have to adjust them. On another pair I’ve sewn the D-ring tabs together.

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