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.

Yours in style,

Dan Trepanier

Photography by Alex Crawford

  • http://Batmannananana.com/ Caesar Merlin

    can a normal tailor add side tabs to a pair of trousers?

  • https://www.FrankWilder.com Frank Wilder

    There’s people who influence the masses. And then there’s the people who influence those people – Frank Wilder

  • pongored

    Is it possible to have a tailor remove belt loops and add braces and/or fasteners?

    • TO


  • Liamoliver

    A very interesting and useful article. I am surely going to take the notes and talk to my bespoke tailor soon to try bespoke trousers. I have been a fan of bespoke suits but this gives me a boost to opt for tailored trousers. Manning Company Bespoke Tailor is a great team in crafting bespoke garments, I am sure I will love the pair of trousers too with this idea in to it. Have a look on the site http://www.manningcompany.com

  • Lothar

    I don’t know. I think belts are more interesting to look at than boring waistbands. Also I don’t like the way the waistband fabric overlaps itself where the button fastens. The belt provides a more interesting cover for that overlapping area.

  • BG

    Just an observation — having two settings would make it Digital, not analog — analogue means continuous and not discrete.

    Think of an analogue watch — the hand operates continuously. On digital the LEDs are either on or off.

    • BG

      Ironically I misspelled analog while correcting you. Apologies.

      • pyrokeet

        either spelling is acceptable!

  • http://www.17verses.com Malcolm

    Belts are there to hold up pants? Given the precise nature of pant waist measurements, I’ve always treated a belt as just a necessary accessory, not something functional.

  • Alex Trambitas

    Dan, I wrote this in the other day’s post, but both the ‘captcha’ image on the Contact page and ultimately the ‘shop this look’ features on the style guide do not show up for me anymore.

    Tried on multiple browsers, multiple computers, cleared cache, temp. files, etc. I think it may be a website issue at this point…

    • http://www.TSBmen.com/ Dan Trepanier

      Thanks Alex! Got my guys on it as we speak…

      Please excuse these little glitches over the next month or two, we’re doing some major renovations to the back-end of the site in preparation for the launch of AoS Bespoke (handmade American tailoring with expert digital fittings) launching in the Fall…