Sporting a Vest

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Vests are back this season and I for one am very happy. About 12 years ago, I bought a wonderful waistcoat in Dublin. It was a classic Irish country tweed; colorful but not overdone, elegant but not at all dandified. I loved it then and love it now. Vests have a particularly special relationship with their owners. Cut close to the body and one of the more expressive of garments, they are certainly well known but not entirely understood. Relegated in the mind’s eye to restaurant waiters and country farmers on BBC television shows, most people not sure what to do them and are secretly intimidated by the vest.

In reality, they are an excellent alternative for those times when you want an extra layer of clothing but a sweater is a bit too much. As I just noted, vests are also a great way to show your individual style. For some guys, a vest takes some guts to wear, but don’t be afraid to stand out and get noticed. They give you a vintage look and most have pockets for loose change or keys.

Add a pocket watch for that extra sharp look. If you actually have a family watch, that’s wonderful; if not, go out and buy a nice vintage one and start your own family tradition. Regardless, make sure it actually works because people will go out of their way to ask you the time. Vests have that effect.

Vests, of course, come in different shapes and sizes. From casual sweater vests to three piece suit orphans, there is something for every occasion. According to a recent Wall Street Journal story, more men are investigating three piece suits; last seen on the fashion radar somewhere in the 1980s. These days, the three piece suit is a far cry from that unappealing, boxy contraption. Today’s version is more in line with the Golden Era of the 1930s and ‘40s, when men made a point of choosing clothing that celebrated rather than concealed individual personality. In fact, it is now not uncommon for a tailor’s client to request additional festive or contrasting vests to fit certain occasions or to be worn separately.

As with any piece of clothing – though more so with vests – fit matters. In this case it means your vest should lie close to the body but not constrict movement like sitting and bending. It should also fit in the chest; no gaps around the arm holes and the front of the vest should completely cover your shirt and lay just over the waistband of your trousers. This last rule is open to a little interpretation as the “shrunken suit” trend applies to vests as well. If you are in especially good shape, you can get away with your vest ending well above the pant line, providing a particularly vintage look.

When it comes to buttons of course, the bottom one is always undone. We all know the story about that, right?


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Chris Hogan, an association executive based in Washington, D.C., blogs at OffTheCuffDC.com. A lifelong interest in style and clothing led to sales and management positions at several Ralph Lauren stores and an active wardrobe consulting practice