Belt and Suspenders Insurance

Men wearing shorts with suspenders
Anime Expo 2011 – suspenders are in this year (or “out”) via Wikimedia Commons

We don’t see suspenders holding up pants much these days, except on some business attire, at Pride parades, and in wedding parties. And, it is one of the quirks of the language that in the U.S. braces are the wire restraints on teeth, and in the UK suspenders are used to hold up stockings. In any case, you only need a belt to hold up your pants, but if you want to be doubly sure that they won’t fall down you can also wear suspenders (a.k.a. braces or bracers).

My dad used to talk about people who made doubly sure of things as being belt-and-braces people. The example in the Cambridge Dictionary is “I wrote to them and phoned as well – belt and braces, I admit.”  So, it’s an indication of someone being cautious, but when it comes to actually holding up pants it seems a little over-the-top. Either device will accomplish the goal, so doing both strikes me as being decidedly pessimistic.

Man wearing suspenders
Man wearing suspenders via Pixabay (CC0)

There are times, though, when it is wise to make sure of something, even if that means duplicating your effort. For example, if you are applying for a job it seems reasonable to both send an email and phone, or if you haven’t heard from someone for a while you might call and text.

If something is really important, we cannot allow ourselves to trust in a single action to be successful, so we take out insurance in the form of an additional effort.

Boy with a big smile, holding his suspenders
Boy with a big smile, holding his suspenders via Wikimedia Commons

In Canada recently the Prime Minister announced that, in spite of his campaign promise, there will not be an effort to examine and revise the voting system. Many people, myself included, would have liked to see a kind of belt-and-suspenders voting system such as the Single Transferable Vote. In that, my vote would go to my preferred candidate unless he or she is eliminated from the race. In that case, my vote would be transferred to my second-choice candidate.

It seems, though, that most people are satisfied with the single non-transferable vote system currently in place. So, we’ll go into the next election with only a belt. That’s ok. My pants will stay up, but it would really have felt more at ease if I had suspenders, too. I’m pessimistic when it comes to elections these days.





  1. Great Blog Anne! It would be great if we added that term to today’s language. “Belt and braces”…I would totally use that to describe covering all bases, plan and a back up plan, and as you said…call, then text just to be sure your message was recieved. Love it!

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