A surprising thing about the photo of the late Richard Merkin is the number of braces hanging on his closet door. Braces being underwear and not for public display, there can be several reasons a man chooses to acquire such a collection.
Of course, this presupposes that a man wears braces with his suits. English influenced dressers do. Men who prefer a continental style wear belts. The latter may choose to stop reading here and find something else to learn from a study of the impeccably dressed Mr. Merkin.
When it comes to reasons for collecting braces, the first is seasonality. The usual winter braces are wool boxcloth in solid colors. Boxcloth is comfortable on the shoulders but can be a little warm in hot weather, when barathea braces can be a lighter weight alternative. So weather is a rationale for at least a pair of each type.
The shoe matching challenge can require some variety in a collection of braces but is also the easiest to solve. Rather than braces with brown ends to wear with brown shoes and black ended braces to wear with black shoes, a single inventory of straps with white ends complements either shoe color.
Another consideration can be differences in trouser heights. Trousers from one tailor may be an inch or more longer than those from another. It being considerably easier to set the length of one's braces correctly one time and leave them alone thereafter, different braces are often asigned to different trousers. The most extreme version of this practice is found in the closets of men who permanently attach a pair of (usually red) braces to each pair of suit.
Finally, a man's personal aesthetics may dictate braces that complement the day's ensemble. Others may not know whether one's braces complement or clash, but the wearer does. And at the end of that road is inevitably a closet filled with braces.
Photo: Eddie Hausner/The New York Times