Garters are articles of clothing: narrow bands of fabric fastened about the leg, used to keep up stockings, and sometimes socks. Normally just a few inches in width, they are usually made of leather or heavy cloth, and adorned with small bells and/or ribbons. In the eighteenth to twentieth centuries, they were tied just below the knee, where the leg was slenderest, to keep the stocking from slipping. The advent of elastic has made them less necessary from this functional standpoint, although they are still often worn for fashion. Garters are worn by men and women.
Garters in fashion 
There is a European wedding tradition for a bride to wear a garter to her wedding. As part of this European tradition, towards the end of the reception, the groom will remove his new wife's garter, which he tosses to the unmarried male guests. The symbolism to deflowering is unambiguous. Historically, this tradition relates to the belief that taking an article of the bride's clothing would bring good luck. In the Middle Ages, the groom's men would rush at the new bride to take her garters off her as a prize. As this often resulted in the destruction of the bride's dress, the tradition arose for the bride to surrender articles of her clothing, which were tossed to the guests, including the garter. Nowadays, the privilege of removing the bride's garter is reserved to the groom, while the bride will toss her bouquet.
Another superstition that has circulated is the male equivalent of the bride throwing her bouquet to the unmarried ladies. According to this superstition, the unmarried male wedding guest who successfully catches the garter will be the next man to be headed to the altar from the group of single men at that wedding. Traditionally, the man who caught the garter and the lady who caught the bouquet would share the next dance.
Garters were popular in the 1930s and 40s, and were a convenient way for ladies to carry small valuables, in place of a small purse.
In male fashion, a type of garter for holding up socks has continued as a part of male dress up to the present, although its use may be considered somewhat stodgy.
Order of the Garter 
A famous "garter" in English is the Order of the Garter, which traces its history to the Middle English poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. In the poem, Gawain accepts a girdle (very similar in function and connotation to a garter) from the wife of his host (while resisting her carnal temptations) to save his life and then wears it as a mark of shame for his moral failure and cowardice. King Arthur and his men proclaim it no shame and begin, themselves, to wear the girdle to indicate their shared fate. At that point, however, the garter was a larger garment that was used as a foundation.
The Order, which is the oldest and highest British Order of Chivalry, was founded in 1348 by Edward III. The Order consists of Her Majesty The Queen who is Sovereign of the Order, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and 24 Knights Companions.
The origin of the symbol of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, a blue 'garter' with the motto Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense will probably never be known for certain as the earliest records of the order were destroyed by fire, however the story goes that at a ball possibly held at Calais, Joan Countess of Salisbury dropped her garter and King Edward, seeing her embarrassment, picked it up and bound it about his own leg saying in French, "Evil [or shamed] be he that thinks evil of it." This story is almost certainly a later fiction. This fable appears to have originated in France and was, perhaps, invented to discredit the Order. There is a natural unwillingness to believe that the world's foremost Order of Chivalry had so frivolous a beginning.
It is thought more likely that as the garter was a small strap used as a device to attach pieces of armour, it might have been thought appropriate to use the garter as a symbol of binding together in common brotherhood. Whilst the motto probably refers to the leading political topic of the 1340s, Edward's claim to the throne of France. The patron saint of the Order of the Garter is St. George and as he is the patron saint of soldiers and also of England, the spiritual home of the order has therefore always been St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle.
Suspenders or garter belts 
Suspenders or garter belts are a woman's undergarment consisting of a reinforced material strip usually at least 2 to 3 inches wide which is worn around the waist, to which 2 or 3 elastic suspenders are attached on each side. The suspenders are typically clipped to the stockings by metal hourglass clips with rubber circles, allowing for adjustment and a locking mechanism. Such clips are best attached to stockings with a simple welt that does not have lace or silicon lining.
It is best to wear garter belts on the waist line or just slightly below. If worn too low on the hips, there is a chance of garter belts sliding down as they are being pulled on by the stockings.
Nowadays, pantyhose or tights, are more favored than stockings[by whom?], and hold-ups are an alternative way for holding up stockings. Nevertheless, suspenders continue to be worn. They are considered a reflection of their enduring role in erotic fantasy.
19th century 
During the world's first long distance journey by automobile in 1888 Bertha Benz, the wife of the inventor of the automobile Dr Carl Benz, used a garter to insulate a broken wire of the Benz Patent-Motorwagen Nr. 3. In remembrance of this historic road trip today's official German scenic byway Bertha Benz Memorial Route follows the tracks of Bertha Benz from Mannheim via Heidelberg to Pforzheim (Black Forest) and back.
20th century 
In the 1940s to 60s, suspenders became a common, popular alternative to the girdle, especially among teens and young women. Suspenders are simpler and more practical than the girdle when used only to hold up stockings. It was considered more comfortable than the larger girdle. Some men's magazines, such as the Spick and Span magazine, featured models in suspenders and stockings, sometimes with slips or petticoats. Waafs were issued low-grade suspenders.
For everyday wear, many women wore stockings without suspenders by simply rolling the top of the stocking, because it was more practical, and thus creating a kind of ancestor of the modern hold ups.
Present-day use 
Suspenders continue to be worn for their original purpose of holding up stockings. Suspenders today are available in a variety of styles, with red or black satin made from a mixture of nylon and spandex being the most popular.
Since the early 1960s, when men's magazines featured images of women in underwear, they have acquired an erotic element and are often presented as fetish clothing and in pornography. Variations of the garter include panties with suspender attachments reminiscent of images of the 1960s, and corsets with small loops inside the bottom edge for attaching suspenders.
Knickers, if worn, may be underneath or on top of the suspenders. Wearing knickers over the suspenders makes it easier to remove them to use the bathroom.
In ice hockey 
Ice hockey players use Suspenders for holding up hockey socks. As these socks are essentially woollen tubes, they need to be kept from rolling onto the ankles. The socks can be held up by either hockey tape or hockey Suspenders, which function like stocking suspenders.
See also 
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Garter belts|
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- "The Tale of the Tossing of the Garter and other customs". WedAlert.com. Retrieved 2006-10-14.
- Friedman, Albert B., and Richard H. Osberg. "Gawain's Girdle as Traditional Symbol." The Journal of American Folklore 90.357 (1977): 301-15.
- Order of the Garter information
Fantasy Stockings Blog, "Almost lost my garter belt" article, http://fantasystockings.com/?p=391