Garters can be worn by either men or women, but nowadays they are mostly used by women, and only older men wear them to keep up their socks.
Garters are sometimes used to push up a shirt sleeve on men's shirts. Garters are usually narrow bands of cloth that is sometimes decorated with lace, ribbons or even bells.
Garters were worn during the 18th or 19th centuries to hold up lady's stocking or men's socks and were usually tied at the knee. They were just seen as a necessary item to keep the stockings or socks from falling down, while later on they became more decorative and fancy. Men also wore garters with hose and they were colourful garters like the ones portrayed in Shakespeare's plays.
Later on, stockings were made of elasticised material so garters were not needed as much for practical reasons. Garters are now more of a fashion accessory. Brides usually have special decorated garters that the groom gets to take off their legs and throw to the men at the wedding. This is like when the bride throws her flowers to awaiting women, and so the man who catches the garter is said to be married within the next year. Usually the man who catches the garter and the woman who catches the bride's bouquet are supposed to dance together at the first dance of the reception.
Garters were somewhat replaced by garter belts later on, which held up the stocking better than garters. This is another reason why garters today are mostly just a fashion symbol that the brides show off at the wedding reception. Often-times these garters are blue or have little blue ribbons on them so they fit with the wedding tradition of something borrowed and something blue.
This has left the garter with really only one function, the ceremonial wearing of the garter by brides on their wedding days. Usually the garter worn is a lacy, stretchy affair in colours like white or ivory. Some feature a blue bow so the bride can wear her traditional something blue on the wedding day.
Garters are also known as suspenders in some countries such as the UK and Australia. Garters are usually made of silk, lace, or satin material nowadays, but in the past they were made of leather or some other types of heavy material.