Sepia Saturday has suggested that we talk about braces.
In the 1920s and 1930s the defence of Australia was entrusted to indivudals like this lovable bunch seen here under the supervision of the elegant Lieutenant Charles Fricke. From the props I’m thinking it might be a washing up detail. And of course you couldn’t wash up properly if your trousers kept falling down around your ankles, hence the braces as visible on the chap on the left, high-waisted trousers with the braces attached to buttons sewn on the trousers. This photo is of men who were part of the Australian 7th Battalion. which at the time was centred on Castlemaine in Central Victoria . The photo was taken at Sorrento on Port Phillip Bay in 1928.
The Australian Citizen Military Force, known as the Militia, was established after World War I and gradually evolved into a part-time voluntary service. It could only be used within the boundaries of Australia and it’s strength and quality varied with the changing economic conditions in the country. The training included an annual six day camp but this was not always possible for some workmen. Lt. Fricke’s wife referred to the Militia as ‘playing soldiers’.
The braces were also used for holding up a man’s underpants. Underpants had small loops sewn onto the waistband. First the shirt was tucked into the underpants, then the loops went over the bottom of the braces before they were buttoned onto the trousers.
This structural work was then usually hidden by a coat, waistcoat or knitted vest.
But braces weren’t the only hold-uppers that a man needed Sox also had a habit of falling down so if you were aiming to look a bit more presentable and didn’t want your sox bunched up around your ankles you held them up with sock suspenders.
I remember when I was about 9 years old holidaying with a childless aunt and uncle at Hastings on the coast of Westernport Bay. They lived in a four room cottage on an orchard. The weekly trip into town was always an occasion to put on some decent clothes. Once when I was ready I walked up the hall to my aunt’s bedroom in that very silent way that children have and announced at the door “I’m ready Auntie”. The picture is vivid in my mind of my uncle in shirt, voluminous knee-length boxer shorts, sox and sock suspenders, prancing to a hidden corner of the room as though he was on hot coals saying words that probably meant Get that Child out of Here ! I wish I had a photo of the image in my mind. Perhaps one day in the future we’ll be able to transfer an image from brain to computer. Wouldn’t that be loverly ……. well sometimes.
Apart from trousers and sox there is one more item of men’s clothing that needs a bit of help – shirt sleeves. If the sleeves were too long they would hang down over the hands, or if working in an office with pen and ink they were in danger of being spotted with ink. Hence the sleeve garter, an elastic band in fabric or metal to wear on the upper arm so that the sleeve length could be adjusted.
And so the unseen braces, sock suspenders and sleeve garters help produce the well-dressed Capt Fricke at home in Castlemaine in the 1930s.
And for more stories about braces go to the links on Sepia Saturday.