Here’s Why Firefighters Wear Suspenders


Many parts of a firefighter’s uniform are immortalized, including the helmet, the reflective stripes, and the suspenders. Are suspenders something that real firefighters wear or is that only in TV and movies? Why do firefighters wear suspenders?

Firefighters wear suspenders to hold their pants up when they’re ascending and descending ladders. Since firefighters are usually carrying equipment or even rescued victims, they can’t exactly pull up their pants, so the suspenders do it for them. 

If you’ve ever had questions about firefighter suspenders, this article will answer them. We have plenty of great info ahead to share, so make sure you keep reading! 

What Is the Purpose of Suspenders as Part of a Firefighter’s Uniform?

Although they’re hidden by a jacket or coat, firefighters do wear suspenders with their uniforms. This is something that real firefighters do, by the way, so it’s not only in television and movies. 

The suspenders serve one critical purpose. They keep a firefighter’s pants up.

Now, this might seem comical on its own, so allow us to explain. A firefighter isn’t wearing a traditional pair of pants when they go in to fight fires. Most firefighting uniforms are made of Kevlar, Aramid, or Nomex.

Kevlar is a heavy synthetic fiber with more strength than steel. Aromatic polyamide or Aramid fibers are also synthetic. Nomex is a third type of fiber. 

All three fibers are flame and heat-resistant. Nomex especially is promoted as being drip-proof and melt-proof, so it’s a great material for firefighting gear. 

None of these materials, despite that they’re fabrics, are lightweight like a pair of jeans or sweatpants are. A Kevlar vest can weigh four to six pounds, so imagine how much a pair of trousers weighs. It would be at least the same weight if not twice that.

Now, it’s not that a firefighter’s pants don’t fit them, per se. Rather, as the firefighter is running to the source of a fire, ascending a ladder, kicking doors in, descending a ladder, and using heavy-duty equipment, their pants can shift or even fall.

On top of that, when firefighters use high-pressure hoses, even though the hoses are directed at the blaze, a firefighter can still get wet. 

After all, synthetic fibers in firefighting uniforms such as Kevlar will absorb water. Once the uniform is weighted down with water, the clothes will get even heavier. That means gravity can do its thing and pull a firefighter’s pants down.  

Besides the above factors, you have to also consider that a firefighter rarely goes into a burning building with just their belt and suspenders on. They’ll wear utility belts around their waists that might have attached to them thermal cameras, radios, axes, and flashlights. 

These items further weigh down a firefighter’s pants whether they’re dry or wet. Now you can see why suspenders are such an integral part of a firefighter’s uniform! 

Do Firefighters Have to Wear Suspenders?

Since the suspenders are obscured by the rest of the uniform, couldn’t a firefighter technically skip wearing their suspenders? 

Sure, they could, but they shouldn’t. Many parts of the United States mandate that firefighters wear suspenders as part of their uniforms. Here are some very convincing reasons why.

Fallen Pants Are a Tripping Hazard

It might seem like a schoolyard prank to pants someone and have them trip over their fallen pants, but in firefighting, the consequences are a lot more serious. 

If a firefighter loses their pants and then trips over them, they could fall several stories down in some cases. At the very least, they’ll take a hard fall on ground level, which is still painful. 

Plus, you have to remember that a firefighter is in a burning building. They could end up severely burned if they take an unintended tumble. 

Adjusting Pants Takes Too Much Effort

A firefighter only has so much energy to allocate. Since they often work 24-hour shifts, they can’t afford to use up all that energy during the first fire of the day or night. 

Due to the weight of a firefighter’s pants, yanking them up takes more effort than pulling up a pair of loose-fitting sweats or jeans.

The more often a firefighter has to adjust their pants, the more energy they’re needlessly burning. 

Pulling Up Pants Takes Away from a Firefighter’s Time and Focus 

Further, it’s rather distracting for a firefighter to keep having to fix their pants. Their hands are also occupied, which is not good. 

Many instances of firefighting are life and death moments. If a firefighter acted just a few seconds later than they did, they could have had a casualty on their hands or even become a casualty themselves.

A firefighter needs to keep focused on their job and maintain free and open hands. 

What Color are Firefighters’ Suspenders?

Firefighter suspenders come in a myriad of colors. Red is a classic hue, as is blue, but today’s firefighting suspenders might be brown or black as leather suspenders have become a popular choice.

It doesn’t matter so much what color the suspenders are, just that they do their job well. 

Are Firefighting Suspenders Flame-Resistant?

You know now that a firefighter’s uniform is flame-resistant, but what about the suspenders themselves? Are they made of materials like Aramid or Kevlar that are heatproof? 

No, they aren’t. Although you might think this is dangerous, it’s not as bad as you would imagine.

First, compared to the rest of a firefighter’s uniform, the suspenders are a very small part of the overall ensemble. Second, as we mentioned earlier, a firefighter will wear a jacket overtop the suspenders.

That jacket will be heat-resistant and flame-resistant, which would make it harder for fire to penetrate down to the suspenders. 

A firefighter’s pants are made of heat-resistant, heavy-duty materials that will absorb water when wet. Further, most firefighters carry equipment around their waists. They need suspenders to keep their trousers up so they don’t have to stop the life-saving work they’re doing to adjust their pants!

Mike Pertz

I’m Mike, I’m a full time firefighter/paramedic/diver for a department just west of Cleveland, Ohio and the founder of FirefighterNOW. I’m also a columnist for FireRescue1. If you’re reading this blog my guess is you are interested in the fire service. There's information on fitness, gear, interviews, tests and more. I hope you find what you're looking for.

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