A suit vest without a suit? Yes, it’s more risqué — many men have worn it oh-so-wrong while the rest have relegated vests to no-go territories, put off by the fedora rocking muso with ill-fitting jeans, a bad haircut and a wooden bead necklace who’s kept the vest punishingly alive.
However, the waistcoat or suit vest is ultra versatile and has a major role to play in menswear when done right: tucked under a dapper suit jacket as part of a three-piece suit, or flying solo with jeans and a button up shirt. And the latter is where today’s style conversation will go.
Solo suit vests will see you getting more from your wardrobe, not an easy feat for any man. As is finding ways to work the waistcoat into a modern wardrobe. So, read on for tips and tricks on how to wear a suit vest aka waistcoat without a suit, mastering a look the Italians have been owning for decades.
Fit Is Everything
Perfect for warm weather — when a blazer feels too hot — the suit vest should be just as chic as a peak lapel, cotton slub jacket, acting as the outer layer of a smart casual look, that’s summer-friendly. How?
“A waistcoat should be well fitted,” says Brent Wilson, founder and designer, Brent Wilson.
Things to look for: high armholes, and a close fit around the shoulders and torso. Things to avoid: any pulling at the buttons or around the back, as well as the opposite problem — excess material, which just looks sloppy.
Button It, Almost
It’s supposed to make you look put together, so why would you want it any other way?
“Always buttoned as that is how this piece looks best and was designed to be worn,” says Wilson.
However, always leave the last button undone (like a suit jacket), so it doesn’t pull when you lift your arms up.
“It is almost a fashion must to leave the bottom button unfastened,” says Wilson. “t is not certain where, when, why or how this trend was introduced but it’s here to stay.
Master The Material
Just like a blazer, go for quality materials that match the weather. Think tweed and cord for winter and linen or cotton for summer: both will inject some all important texture into a monochrome shirt and vest combo.
Avoid shiny polyester that looks like you’ve gone to rent-a-tux and hired something last minute.
“That means those ill-fitting poly-wool blend black waistcoats,” says Wilson.
As for patterns that personalise, look to checks and stripes, but do away with kitschy built in chains and brass buttons: think stylish not dress-ups.
Buy As Part Of A Suit
If you’re worried about finding a quality waistcoat, opt for one when buying a suit. “Think of as it as an extension of a suit, where tailoring and the right fit is key to looking great.”
That way, it will come tailored (not off the rack) and perfectly fitted to you. And, you have the option of matching it as a whole suit for formal occasions down the track.
Plus, buy a second three piece suits and mix and match waistcoats with contrast suit pant, getting more for your suit buck. Double, we mean, triple win.
Keep Your Pants On
“You can go with the choice of jean, chino’s or a matching suit trouser,” says Wilson. “All options will work well with the solo vest option ensuring you create the right look.”
To avoid looking like a garçon, pair your vest with items that aren’t black trousers.
“No black pant and white shirt combinations,” says Wilson. And say no to shorts unless you’re Nick Wooster. Or as cool as he is.
To Shirt Or Not To
As an avid wearer of the solo vest, Wilson suggests gents should play around with shirting, styling the look formally or giving it a more relaxed feel, depending on the shirt.
“It’s all about creating a more relaxed feel, compared to wearing a three-piece suit,” says Wilson. “But, at the same time ensure the outfit still has a certain formality to it.”
And don’t be tempted to rock it with a singlet; too much arm skin, not enough discretion.
“Try wearing it with a t-shirt, short sleeve shirt or a long sleeve shirt with the sleeves rolled up.”
Now, click through the gallery for 50+ ways to rock a suit vest without a suit.