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Firearm calls for fashion adjustment

Question: As a federal law enforcement officer, I'm required to wear a suit and a firearm carried in a holster attached to my belt. The weapon pulls down the right side of my trousers and throughout the day causes me to have to readjust my clothing. I'm wondering if there is any fashion protocol that would allow the wearing of braces along with my belt in light of this somewhat unique situation.

Answer: There is an old saying that wearing braces (suspenders) along with a belt is like wearing two belts. In other words, it implies an overly cautious personality.

Nevertheless, in your situation, it seems to make a lot of sense. When a particular way of dressing is logical, I see little reason not to do it. But since the style is generally considered out of the norm, I think it's best to minimize the fact by choosing a belt and braces that are not attention-grabbers. A simply designed belt and quietly colored pair of braces without any fanciful patterns are the perfect answer.

Of course, I always recommend choosing true "braces" that button on to your trousers, not the unsophisticated version of "suspenders" that clip on.

Pondering patch pockets

Question: When I went shopping for a suit recently, the salesman said that patch pockets are the latest style in men's suits. He recommended buying one with patch pockets. I always thought that patch pockets were off-limits on a suit and only acceptable on a sports coat. What do you think?

Answer: Your salesman was not totally misleading you. Though you are right that patch pockets are typically part of casual jackets, such as tweed sports coats and camel hair blazers, this year we are seeing a lot of open patch pockets on matched suits, and even a patch breast pocket.

By way of explanation, a patch pocket is a separate piece of fabric that is sewn on top of the jacket material. It is quite different from a "set-in" pocket.

In the past, matched suits _ always dressier than sports coats and blazers _ have usually been tailored with besom (pronounced bee-zum) pockets, built into the jacket, rather than patch pockets. Besom pockets have a dressy stitched fold on the upper and lower edge of the pocket. (These stitched edges may sometimes be partially obscured by the addition of a flap over the pocket. But if the flap is worn tucked inside the pocket, the flap disappears and only the besom edging shows.) Besom pockets make for a sleek, dressy effect.

I have no scientific data to back up this assumption, but perhaps the introduction of patch pockets on suits has to do with today's all-pervasive casualization of men's clothing.

Still, I should report to you a note in regard to choosing a suit with patch pockets rather than besom pockets: No sooner had I been informed by those in the industry that patch pockets on suit jackets were now in and besom pockets were out than I noticed at the recent New York Fashion Week for Spring 2001 quite a few suits with the "old" besom pockets prominently featured. So, don't count on seeing any one specific cut or silhouette.

If you particularly like open patch pockets and you don't mind that suits with patch pockets are slightly trendy and may be out of fashion in a few years, then you can make your purchase with these factors in mind. But watch the price.

These variables help to make fashion so interesting, or frustrating, depending upon your point of view.

Write to Lois Fenton/Style for Men in care of Floridian, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Send e-mail to Fenton welcomes questions about men's fashion and grooming for use in the column but cannot answer mail personally.