Going Beltless: A Guide to Trouser Adjusters

August 21st, 2015

A tailored gentleman doesn’t often wear a belt. Firstly, because his trousers are cut (or adjusted) to fit to his waist properly. Secondly, because a belt is just bad design. Squeezing the midsection hard enough to hold up a pair of pants is uncomfortable, and a sign of bad engineering.

With that said, we all fluctuate around the midsection from time to time. That’s why tailors have created trouser adjusters.

Here are some of the adjuster styles from my personal wardrobe, just to get you thinking about how to hold up your pants the sleek and tailored way.

The Metal Side Adjuster


This is the most common version of the trouser side adjuster. The age ol’ pulley system, affixed to the exterior of the waistband above each front pocket. I have a handful of different metals and hardwares used by various bespoke shops (o-rings, d-rings, no-slip rectangles like this one) but the basic principle remains the same. Giving them a tug draws the waistband together (folding over on itself slightly) to make the overall circumference smaller, and thus tighter. There are limits to the range on these things, however. On average they can make your waistband roughly 2″ smaller, max (about 1″ each side).

Side adjusters cannot be not used to make trousers larger at the waist, only smaller. Therefore, the waistband should be cut to fit your waist at its most “fat”, then the adjuster is used between meals and at times when you’re feeling extra slim.

The Button Side Adjuster


The button adjuster is seen more often on formal garments, like tuxedos, because of the sleekness factor. This style has slightly different engineering than the metal adjuster, and frankly doesn’t work as well. First, it’s analog. You’re either on the front button (slim), or the back button (loose)…although you can experiment with adjusting one side and not the other for more variety of sizing. But ultimately it’s sort of like a belt with holes (button adjuster) versus a slide belt buckle than can be fastened at any length (metal adjuster).

The other issue I have with this design is that it usually uses an elastic strip of fabric across the back of the waistband. I’m not a fan of synthetic stretch fabrics (elastane, lycra, spandex, etc.) because over time they always lose their “bounce back”, like an old rubber band. And you know I’m all about investing in longevity.

The Rear Adjuster


With the rear adjuster you get a little less functionality than the metal side adjuster (there’s only one, and it’s more difficult to operate) but you gain some serious old-world craftsmanship points. This detail is rare on tailored garments (taken from vintage workwear, like canvas chore pants from the 1930s), but the old-school aesthetic gives a “cool factor” that most trousers can’t achieve.

Extra points if you’re rocking the rear adjuster on a flannel houndstooth fabric with leather covered buttons (and self elbow patches).

The Clean Waistband


Sometimes your trousers fit so well that you don’t need any “adjustment”. This should be the case on your best-fitting and sleekest garment: your tuxedo.

When you go with a clean waistband (no loops, no adjusters), you can do some cool things with it. This double-breasted midnight blue mohair tuxedo with velvet trim (from my FIT design collection), for example, has a full velvet waistband that extends all the way to the side seam (it fastens in line with the trouser stripe – which is also velvet).

Braces Buttons


And last but not least, the secret to the “plain waistband” is the suspender buttons sewn on the inside of the waistband (the velvet-trimmed tux above is equipped with some as well). Braces are arguably the most comfortable way for a man to hold up his trousers. Rather than squeezing the waist and using pressure to fight gravity, you can leave a little room around the belly and hang your trousers from your shoulders. See our Guide to Wearing Suspenders for more.

Thanks, as always, for reading. If you have any questions about our online custom menswear, feel free to contact us anytime. We look forward to serving as your personal tailor and stylist. 

Yours in style,

Dan Trepanier

Shop Custom Menswear Made in America


Take me to the Shop