When are trousers better than a belt?

If the pants slip, it has something to do with the Poincaré conjecture. But what can you do about it?

The geometric properties of convex bodies have a direct bearing on the daily lives of millions of people. To take an example from the author's life, tightening the belt in sagging trousers below a man's equator will only result in another slipping. This fact can be generalized to higher dimensions and was known as the Poincaré conjecture until proof of its correctness was provided a few years ago. In three-dimensional space, it intuitively shines through to anyone who has ever tried to grab a wet, oval bar of soap.

I've been looking into this problem a little lately. First there is the question of the convex shape as such: should we advise against it or welcome it? Western aesthetics, based on the classical models of Greek and Roman statues, require a flat stomach. Apollo would not have had any belt problems, but you rarely see Greek gods in pants. Life expectancy was so short in ancient times that nobody had to worry about a potbelly. The Chinese, on the other hand, who revere old age and its presumed wisdom, appreciate the round belly and consider it the seat of the soul.

So if you want to live long without constricting your soul, you have to find other solutions. One can do it like Obelix and wear the belt on the geographical latitude of Casablanca. Unfortunately, that doesn't go well with current shirt and jacket fashion. The truth is, you'd like to get rid of your belt forever. Belts are sad objects in and of themselves, from their narrow unit width to the depressing shoe colors to the dreary metal buckles.

The alternative would be to revive the cummerbund for everyday life. As anyone who has ever worn one can confirm, the even pressure on the waist creates a comforting feeling of saturation and sublimity that everyone can use from time to time. The cummerbund, however, requires a decided sense of style, for which very few of us are ready.

You will long have guessed that there is only one solution left: braces. As circus clowns prove, you can elegantly fix trousers of any diameter with it. But the advantages of suspenders are not only functional, but also moral and aesthetic. If you pull them over your shoulders in the morning and position them correctly, you will be overwhelmed by a small fit of complacency, as if the wearer with the pants also lifts your self-esteem. It is no coincidence that the most conceited people on earth, who earn a fortune by simply making phone calls in the financial centers, wear suspenders.

But don't let this unfortunate connection put you off. Braces can also be a sign of humor, intelligence, and culture. They aren't necessarily associated with pomade, a heart of stone, and colored shirt collars. Websites for suspenders deal with varieties that belt wearers and bond dealers can only dream of: There are patriotic ones (with flags), job-specific ones (with measuring tape or keyboard), and even those in camouflage colors and glitter. Suspenders are the emoticons of men's fashion, they tell the world how you feel. The braces clearly make the race.

This article comes from the NZZ Folio magazine from August 2014 on the subject of "In the forest". You can order this issue or subscribe to the NZZ Folio.