Men's Fashion Basics - Part 12 - Men's Waistcoats

So I’ll be the first to admit that I am running low on ‘men’s basics’ to cover these days. I look back on the previous instalments and I’m pleased with how they’ve turned out and also just how MUCH we’ve covered together. However, I feel that our time together may be drawing to an end soon but never fear; I still have some aces up my sleeve before it’s all said and done.

I was walking through town the other day trying to get ideas for an article, watching all the unwanted winter stock getting shoved into smaller and smaller corners like your ugly cousin at a wedding and being replaced with all the new and shiny things of summers to come… when I came across an item that had escaped my mind for the past few months. A waistcoat. Suddenly, all sorts of images flashed across my mind, Justin Timberlake videos, Tom Ford in his three piece suits and Paul Newman looking like the coolest man alive in his tweed version from the 60’s. And I remembered just what we’d all been missing out on in this harsh winter we’ve had.

Waistcoats are great… brilliant… fantastic or any other superlative that takes your fancy. Despite what others may think, they are an extremely versatile asset to your wardrobe and will always add a unique twist and dash of sophistication to your ensemble. Nothing can quite beat the powerful demeanour of a man in a three-piece suit in the office (just think of Al Pacino in the Godfather films) or how the right waistcoat can straddle ‘casual’ and ‘formal’ like no other clothing can.

As always guys, the fit is EVERYTHING. Make sure that it is cut with high armholes so you can have more movement and less restriction and that it has a snug but not tight fit to your body. Similarly, don’t be wearing your looser fitting shirts or t-shirts with waistcoats because it creates a billowing effect at the shoulders and waist that just looks untidy generally.

When it comes to style and material, there is as much variety out there for waistcoats as there is for blazers right now. You can buy them seasonally with tweeds and herringbones for the colder months and cotton for the summer. You can go for them in standard neutral tones, bright bursts of colour or even plaids, checks and gingham patterns. In the end, it will come down to your personal preference and what you want out of your waistcoats. For more versatility, start off with neutral tones like grey, black and navy that will be easier to pair with what’s already in your wardrobe, then graduate to the colours and the patterns. And when you do, remember to keep your other pieces simple and neutral in colour so as not to detract from the focal point of your outfit; the waistcoat itself.

Ways To Wear

And as always here are some fool proof ways of wearing a waistcoat: -

  • A real easy way of incorporating a waistcoat is by pairing it with things you’re already familiar and comfortable with. Try some dark denim jeans and your favourite neutral coloured printed/graphic t-shirt with a dressy black cotton waistcoat. Reach for that trusty pair of Jack Purcell Converse’s or Adidas Stan Smiths and a black trilby to round things off in style.
  • Since chinos will be really big this summer and next autumn, pair your waistcoat with these as well. If your chinos are on the darker side like navy or black reach for a white shirt with black or brown stripes and a lighter grey waistcoat. If you’ve got the traditional camel/beige chinos then contrast them with a black waistcoat instead.
  • A look that I always seem to end up in – dark denim Jeans, a slim fitting smart striped or plaid shirt in reds, blues or pinks and a medium grey tweed waistcoat. Rounded off with a grey drivers cap I recently got from Topman and some brown loafers, black Chelsea Boots or navy boat shoes.
  • Finally, one for the office/formal events and really simple to pull off. Buy the waistcoat as well as the suit but leave the jacket at home. Pair it with a simple shirt in white, blue or pink, a colourful stripe tie and some black brogues for a different but commanding take on how to wear a suit.
The Final Word

Finally, a word on buttons. As some of you will find, there are some waistcoats available that have all there buttons low down and the V is similarly cut low as well. These are fine and should always be buttoned due to the way they have been designed. However, for the standard 5-button waistcoats in a traditional cut, try to leave the top and bottom button undone to allow more room for movement or leave completely unbuttoned instead for a more casual look. Other than that, go go go! Get yourself a waistcoat lads.

Until next week
Matt Allinson

Basic Waistcoats

Topman

NAVY 4 BUTTON WAISTCOAT Stone Trim Waistcoat Grey Sharkskin Waistcoat

Black 5 Button Waistcoat Grey suit waistcoat Navy Trim Wasictoat

All Saints

Salzburg Waistcoat Kovek Waistcoat Remedy Waistcoat

ASOS

Ben Sherman Andrew Tweed Waistcoat ASOS Knitted Waistcoat French Connection Parker Beatles Sharkskin Waistcoat

MyWardrobe

Navy Fine Stripe Cotton Classic Waistcoat Dark Beige Zip Waistcoat Navy Check Back Waistcoat