They say all publicity is good publicity. That no matter what’s being said about you, at least you’re being talked about. Like the time Kate Moss, embroiled in a tabloid drug scandal many believed would kill her career, savvily weathered a media storm only to resurface commanding an even more eye-watering salary than before. Or when Borat’s poking fun at the alleged backwardness of Kazakhstan resulted in Hotels.com experiencing a 300 per cent uptick in its users’ interest in visiting the post-Soviet state.
The same mantra does not, however, apply to vests. Vests, those essentially inoffensive, hot-weather-ready alternatives to T-shirts, are still recovering from the critical PR blows they’ve been dealt in recent years: the juiced-up cast of Geordie Shore, and the dickhead in everyone’s gym who insists on wearing a string version despite the fact that his form – and his finances – would’ve been better off if he’d just gone topless.
But as egregious as these style crimes are, it’s important to remember that vests aren’t the criminals. They’re merely the weapons. And like any weapon, a vest must be used wisely, with the proper knowledge of exactly when, and how, it should be deployed.
Like when it’s hot AF and you’re not at work. It’s the perfect time to wear a vest because a) it’s sleeveless, and therefore lets your pits breathe in a way that a stink-ripening T-shirt doesn’t, and b) you’re not at work and can get away with it.
Vests are also good for when you want to show off, whether it’s a freshly inked sleeve or a pair of hard-won delts that you’re giving some airtime. Provided your vest comes in a not-so-punchy colour and fits neither skin-tight nor potato sack-baggy, wearing one is not something you need be intrinsically ashamed of. Anyone that says otherwise is jealous, wants to be you (or be with you) or is a Victorian so nudity-allergic they can’t bear to see their girlfriend swimming in anything less than a burkini.
Keep reasonably fit. Keep your armpit hair trimmed if you’re especially hirsute. Don’t wear anything with ‘Beast Mode’ emblazoned on it. And remember that it’s not vests that are the problem, it’s the men that don’t know how to wear them.
— Cillian O’Connor
There’s a Demetri Martin joke that explains that a man in a leather jacket is always cool. But a man in a leather vest? “That is uncool. And that’s when I realised that cool is all about leather sleeves.”
It’s a rule to live by. Or at least, the idea that divorcing sleeve from shoulder immediately makes you the guy at the party people hope they don’t get stuck with. Because lose six inches of fabric and, no matter your opinions on the long-term economic stability of a post-Brexit Britain, you may as well be an extra from Geordie Shore.
Perhaps it’s not fair to blame the vest itself. Clothes are context, after all. Anywhere wind resistance could stop you achieving a podium finish, feel free to streamline. But outside elite sport, vests offer nothing a T-shirt can’t. To shun sleeves is a fashion statement, nothing more. And the vest speaks volumes about the man inside.
Pull on a vest, take a look at the sky and think to yourself, ‘yes, this is warm enough’ and, intentionally or not, you’re asking to be quizzed on whether you lift, bro. Either it’s clear to see that you do not – your coat-hanger arms and concave chest signalling that you’ve got better things to do than shift weights (most of which probably involves finding crack) – or it proves there’s nothing meaningful in your life besides the gym. That you need to validate those lonely hours, grunting away, trying to fix a body you hate. That you pump and swell until sleeves can’t hold you.
There is no middle ground. Any body in a vest immediately offers itself up for critique. You’ve chosen to display what wouldn’t otherwise be noticed; you’ve demanded people pass judgement. Dadbod? Lean bean? Macauley bulkin’? Doesn’t matter. A T-shirt displays everything you want, but doesn’t thrust it in people’s faces. No one sees a sleeve straining round a bicep and wonders whether, maybe, you stuff. But there’s no perfect physique inside a vest. You’re trying either too hard, or not hard enough.
You shouldn’t get fit for other people. Or, at least, you shouldn’t force your fitness upon other people. The vest is insecurity made material, a demand that people recognise what you’ve built. The vest is a minimum nod to decency made by a man who’d be topless if society weren’t so precious. Vests are the methadone of nudity. And you need to ween yourself off, for good.
— Tom Banham