After sifting through all the latest campaign images and lookbooks that have landed on my desk recently, I suddenly realised that we have never covered men’s vest in any sort of detail. They are prominent in all of the high street lookbooks I have received for the upcoming spring/summer 2012 season, and really this article stemmed from my own curiosity of what our audience thinks about the humble vest; an item that has seen its emphasis increasingly move from underwear to acceptable casual attire.

Now let me be the first to say that I own some vests. They are great to work out in due to the increased range of motion offered and they also offer great comfort as loungewear. Mine are of the fitted, timeless variety (black, greys and white) and they didn’t cost the earth. However, I have never opted to use one within a casual outfit – even on holiday.

Now this is purely down to my personal preference. I tend to look at vests as a sloppy option; they don’t have the same lines and often the same fit as their t-shirt counterpart. I have also seen more than enough men’s nipples due to the latest trend of hideously deep racer back vests – it seems these monstrosities have taken over where the deep scoop neck tee left off during the autumn/winter season. You might be proud of your bodies guys, but have some sort of respect.

On the other hand, you might be reading this and already utilise vests within your outfits on an almost daily basis during the warmer months, either as a layering piece or as a statement in its own right. Indeed, I have seen a lot of stylish males rock a vest with ease – creating effortlessly cool looks for festivals, hot sunny days and the like – complete with their dignity/modesty intact.

I truly beleive there is no right or wrong opinion in fashion. So for those of you who are interested in how to pull off a vest correctly, I want to explore the ways you can wear one before we get everyone’s thoughts on whether they are a classic menswear staple, or something that should be banished from any modern wardrobe.

How To Wear

There are two pretty clear cut ways of utilising a vest: As a layering piece, or on its own as a statement.

As a layering piece, the vest offers near similar versatility you would expect from a t-shirt. Underneath knitwear, a blazer, jacket or even a shirt it is hard for others to distinguish whether you are actually wearing a vest or a tee. Of course, the major benefit of opting for a vest over a tee comes from its sleeveless construction. It is going to be cooler to wear by its very nature and will not generate as much warmth as a tee – perfect if you want to create layered looks during spring/summer without them becoming uncomfortable.

Wearing a vest on its own is always going to create a statement. They are still not seen as often as t-shirts, so you will stand out just by wearing one. For example, you could wear a plain vest with some chinos and will probably stand out more than the guy next to you with the printed shirt on. With this in mind, the only way to wear a vest is with confidence. Please note that I don’t mean arrogance or “look how sexy my body is” – this can quickly make you seem like a bit of a dick. Matt already distinguished the difference between boyish confidence and manly confidence in his article last week, so make sure you take note.

In terms of design, you are not limited to plain vests. Plain versions work very well as basic layering pieces, but if you are going to make a statement by wearing a vest, why not opt for something with a pattern, a bold colour or even a graphic? Prints are obviously a major trend this season, and there has been a wide variety of printed vests released to compliment the vast t-shirt range on offer.

Men’s Vests Lookbook

Men's Vests Lookbook

The lookbook above generally showcases how to wear a vest on its own. As previously mentioned, it is extremely difficult to distinguish between a vest and a tee once they are layered in an outfit, so treat them the same way you would your t-shirt collection in that respect. Below are a few key principles to bear in mind when using a vest in your looks this year:

  • Statement Prints/Graphics: The same rules apply to vests as your t-shirts. If you are utilising a bold colour, print, graphic or patterned vest, make sure you tone down the rest of your outfit so it is not competing for the attention.
  • Don’t Forget To Accessorise: The vest is quite a small garment, so it can look quite ‘boring’ (for want of a better word) if you just pair a plain vest with shorts [middle left]. However, accessorising with other items such as necklaces/pendants, trilbies, sunglasses or bags can make the world of difference to the whole look [top centre & right | bottom centre]. If in doubt, opt for accessories traditionally associated with the music festival scene.
  • Take Attention Away From The Vest: A key principle you can use with most garments, if you don’t want your vest to stand out as much then pair it with other statement pieces. For example, bold coloured or patterned trousers will always draw attention to the bottom half of your outfit [top left | middle right].
  • Neutralise The Vest: Another key principle often used here at FashionBeans, you can neutralise a vest like you would a bold t-shirt. A cardigan, blazer or shirt layered over the top of the vest will compartmentalise it and make sure it is a subtle burst of colour/pattern, rather than a full on statement.
Current Men’s Vests
  • Last Night Parade Black Raw Edge VestLast Night Parade Black Raw Edge Vest
  • Asos Vest With Contrast StitchAsos Vest With Contrast Stitch
  • American Apparel Fine Jersey TankAmerican Apparel Fine Jersey Tank
  • Allsaints Tonic Striped VestAllsaints Tonic Striped Vest
  • Striped Crew Neck VestStriped Crew Neck Vest
  • Allsaints Hoxton VestAllsaints Hoxton Vest
  • Topman White Graphic Flag VestTopman White Graphic Flag Vest
  • Silent By Damir Doma Mens Tetor Surma Print Tank TopSilent By Damir Doma Mens Tetor Surma Print Tank Top
  • Allsaints Sherlock Oversized VestAllsaints Sherlock Oversized Vest
  • Topman Teal Pattern Pocket VestTopman Teal Pattern Pocket Vest
  • Obey Indian Summer Oatmeal T-shirtObey Indian Summer Oatmeal T-shirt
  • Burton Natural Native Print VestBurton Natural Native Print Vest
  • Asos Vest With All Over African PrintAsos Vest With All Over African Print
  • Asos Vest With Abstract All Over PrintAsos Vest With Abstract All Over Print
  • Chateau Roux Pocket VestChateau Roux Pocket Vest
Final Word & Your Opinion

The vest is an item that will polarise opinion. Some love the casual, relaxed nature of the garment that makes them comfortable to wear even in extreme heat, whilst others may consider them sloppy and no match for the t-shirt. However, with seemingly more varieties released than ever before, is the vest becoming a viable option to the modern male who craves something different within his casual outfits; something that will make him stand out from the crowd?

I want to know your thoughts on the vest:

  • Has it become a casual wardrobe essential, or are they strictly a faux pas?
  • Can they ever offer the same versatility as the t-shirt?
  • Do you already utilise vests within your looks? If so, how do you like to wear yours?
  • Or is the vest only ever destined to be confined to gym and loungewear attire only?

Let me know your opinion in the comments section below…