A Waistcoat is an easy way to add depth to an outfit and another level of formality to a suit but with that territory comes its pitfalls too. There’s a fine line between looking like Frank Sinatra and looking like Ronnie O Sullivan. There are different cuts, patterns and materials and each has its own place in men’s fashion.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to incorporate a vest into your wardrobe and make sure you feel as good as you look whether it’s going to the office, grabbing a drink or saying “ I Do”.

How Do I Wear A Waistcoat?

Often we emphasise the importance of fit when it comes to Suiting and waistcoats are no different. It should hug your silhouette and cover your waistband and be coherent with the rest of your outfit.

Waistcoats are most commonly available as Double Breasted, Single Breasted, Lapelled and Scooped and in a wider range of patterns and materials than most other garments but each has its own role to play.

If you’re a slimmer build then a Single Breasted Pinstripe and Check Patterns suit your shape best as they elongate the profile and add structure to your frame.

If you’re a broader Gentleman then Patterned and Textured Waistcoats are a better choice as they break up the monotony of a solid three-piece and split the profile into individual parts. Try a Double Breasted Waistcoat or Lapelled Waistcoat as they work well with fuller silhouettes.

The things to look for to ensure a good fit:

  • Large Armholes for ease of movement

  • No wrinkling across the vest

  • A smooth fit across the chest ( No gaping at the shoulders)

  • As a rule of thumb- Never close your bottom button.

    ( I cannot emphasise this enough; it separates the men from the boys and lets people know that you know your stuff!)

  • No shirt reveal above the waistband

When Should I Wear A Waistcoat?

If you’re attending a Wedding, Award Ceremony, The Races or A Black Tie Ball then by all means wear a waistcoat but if you’re going for an interview, going on a date or heading for the office then its probably best to stick to your trusted Two-Piece Suit.

Why? Well, waistcoats are considered formalwear and don’t always work as a casual item. Here are our tips on how and when to wear a waistcoat.

Formal

If you’re invited to a Wedding then a waistcoat can be a valuable asset. They add personality to a suit and they make you look suave and stylish even after you ditch your suit jacket. They can be a welcomed break from a solid colour scheme too. In more recent years we’ve welcomed back the idea of contrasting waistcoats for weddings and as a staple of classic style, no racegoer is fully dressed without their tweed or wool waistcoat.

For Weddings, a good tip is to opt for a waistcoat that is a shade lighter or darker than your base colour if it’s a Wedding. You should choose finer materials and colours to that complement your outfit.

David Beckham wears a Double Breasted Grey Waistcoay Under His Charcoal Tailcoat

Benetti James Navy with Anthony in Grey- Classic. Cool and Sophisticated

Black Tie/ Evening Wear

While Weddings or Family events might allow for more creativity when it comes to styling, Black Tie is a much more disciplined dress code. There are rules set out in black and white ( No Pun Intended).

If you should choose to wear a waistcoat often it will be scooped ( a deeper cut than normal) or double-breasted and in a contrasting cloth. The idea behind this is to showcase your shirt details. The back of your waistcoat should be a fine silk with a paisley or jacquard pattern to emphasise the elegance of your event.

Check out our Kelvin and Kelly waistcoats in a variety of colours.

Casual

If you wish to wear a waistcoat casually then ditch the fine materials and opt for a heavier cloth like Tweed, Cord or Suede.

Johnny Depp for GQ 2018

The nature of a vest is to look serious and sophisticated so as a casual item we need to tone it down. Instead of a formal collared shirt and tie, in this scenario, we recommend choosing a grandad collar shirt. Trousers should semi tailored or chino material. Add a pair of Chelsea Boots to complete the casual and cool look.

Functions

A waistcoat can be incorporated into a smart casual outfit to give us a preppy look and for a more grown-up look try a turtleneck with a waistcoat and jacket and loafers. It shows others that we know what we’re about but we’re not afraid to have fun. Try pairing your waistcoat with your trusted blazer or sports coat to add character to your work attire. The Marc Darcy range offers semi-formal attire that can be dressed up or down and suits all ages and body types. So if you don’t want to go “ Full Suit” then try a blazer with a waistcoat alongside your favourite pants or dark denim. We can’t get enough of the Abbott or Scott collection from Marc Darcy.

Abbott Tweed Waistcoat

How To Style A Waistcoat?

Below we’ll list a few examples of how to style your waistcoat but as discussed before it will take some experimentation to find what look best suits your event and your personality.

Style 1: The Traditionalist

The traditional three-piece is the safest option when it comes to dressing formally but that’s not to say it’s boring. A lot of the time in Tailoring, less is in fact more. This look is timeless, suits most body types and fulfils all levels of formality. If you wanna look the part but not necessarily stand out, then try the classic look from our Stanley or Antoine range for Greys and Peter and Jonny for French Blues and Navy.

Style 2: Spezzato ( The Broken Suit)

Spezzato literally translates as broken. This is a concept used by Italians to use pieces of clothing they might already own by wearing them as part of a suit. Basically, it means that your waistcoat will be a complete contrast to your jacket and pants or alternatively your jacket will be different to your vest and pants.

E.g. Navy Suit with Grey Waistcoat / Grey Suit with Navy Waistcoat

Our Latest collections come with a contrasting waistcoat to save you the stress of finding the perfect match.

For Example, The Benetti Ronnie in Indigo and Grape are quickly becoming the must-have three-piece.

Simon Beige by Benetti with Jonny Navy WC and Pants

Ronnie Indigo

Style 3: Casual

Ryan Reynolds at Cannes Film Festival - Chinos, Oxford Shirt, Waistcoat, Boots, Belt

A waistcoat can add depth to a simple outfit and in warmer months can replace an overshirt or a jacket. A pair of chinos and an oxford shirt can be quickly taken up a notch by adding a vest or waistcoat just like above. It doesn’t have to be something loud or out of your comfort zone. Something simple like this is easily put together before a night out or city break.

Shop our take on the look here;

  1. Tom Penn Slim Fit Button-Down Shirt

  2. Mark Straight Leg Chino

  3. Rampton Boot

  4. Max Navy Waistcoat

Style 4: The Layered Look

As the title suggests, this look involves layering clothes to create a look that’s practical and fashionable. Suited to colder months or unpredictable climates, by adding items of different weights you can be reassured you’re going to stay warm and look good. The idea is that the fabric will be lighter the closer to the body it’s worn and gets heavier as we move outward. All items should subtly contrast in colour but you can really shake it up when it comes to textures.

Autumn/Winter and wool and tweed go hand in hand and this look suits all ages, body types and tastes. You can add more personality to your outfit by wearing a hat or scarf in colder weather like our Harris Tweed Hudson hat or Bamboo Scarves from Swole Panda.

An example of A/W Layering

Hudson Harris Tweed

Bamboo Scarf

Looking For A Waistcoat?

Now that you know the ins and outs and dos and don't of vests and waistcoats, it’s time to find our perfect match. Browse our selection online or call in-store and speak to our team Arturs, Cian, Joe, Paddy, Peter or Shane and they’ll help you with fabrics, fits and formalities.