History of men's beltlines

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You no longer have to eye his hairline to determine a man's age. There's a new way to figure out just how old he is: take a look at his beltline....

A survey from department store Debenhams (illustrated below) suggests that a man's waistband rises and falls throughout his life. Trousers bottom out at the age of 16 with below-the-hip styles and peak at 57, just seven inches below the armpit.

Fashion history shows this seesaw isn't such a new thing - waistlines have been bouncing up and down for hundreds of years.

In Henry VIII's time, men wore trousers called "cannons", whose bulkiness around the thigh drew the eye. The first true trousers in Western Europe - pantaloons - were high-waisted and used light-coloured fabric to elongate a man's figure.

The invention of elastic braces in the 1840s meant that trousers continued to be kept hiked up, although waistcoats prevented waistbands from being seen.

But even with the waistbands hidden from prying eyes, this ushered in a problem that continues until today: Men don't know where to wear their trousers.

"Historically, braces are used to keep up trousers and undergarments," says Andrew Groves, course director of fashion design at the University of Westminster. "They hold the trouser so it doesn't really touch the body."

By the turn of the 20th Century, with the advent of baggier lounge-style suits, the waistline dropped, ushering in a century of yo-yoing waistlines.

"As fashion has inevitably speeded up, the waistband has shifted up and down seasonally," says Shaun Cole, the principal lecturer in history and culture at the London College of Fashion.

In particular, Alexander McQueen's "bumsters" (revealingly low-cut trousers) and hip-hop music in the 1980s and 1990s influenced people to wear their trousers on their hips… or even lower....

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