Waistcoat rules – how do you wear them?

Little-worn, and rarely done right, this is how to wear a waistcoat

There are many rules when it comes to formalwear. Don’t let your dinner jacket show white above your waistband, never pair brown shoes with a black suit, make sure your cuffs peek out beyond your blazer. But, one of the most commonly misworn garments is surely the waistcoat.


To unbutton the problems around this little-worn piece of formalwear, we turned to Henry Hales, a young London entrepreneur who created Sir Plus, a British menswear brand using the finest surplus fabrics to create high fashion clothes. And, with everything from a Lemon Single-Breasted Waistcoat to a Cerise Pink Double-Breasted Waistcoat on his rails, he’s a man who knows the garment inside out. So what are the rules?

Waistcoat rules – how do you wear them?

Always leave the bottom button undone

The golden rule is to leave your bottom button undone. If you fail to do this, get carried away, and button all of the buttons up, than all the time you spent matching your tie, starching your shirt and polishing your shoes will have been a waste. Don’t be a rookie, gents. Know when to stop buttoning.

Waistcoat rules – how do you wear them?

Make sure it’s not too short

Another key rule – and one which may be harder than you think – is getting the fit of your waistcoat right. Traditionally, waistcoats used to stop around the height of your belly button. However, today, we wear our trousers considerably lower – so get your length right, and you don’t want to show shirt.

Waistcoat rules – how do you wear them?

Ensure it also fits you around the body

Across the chest there should be enough space for throwing shapes on the dance floor, but it can’t be too big otherwise it will sag. The buckle at the back also can’t be forgotten. If it is neglected, or not done up tightly enough, the strap can slip out – which will result in your formalwear looking sloppy.

Waistcoat rules – how do you wear them?

Never rent a waistcoat

Commonly rented for weddings and other formal occasions, there is nothing worse than wearing a waistcoat others have broken in before you. Instead buy a decent garment that will last for a while. No rental looks very good, and for the price of a couple of rentals you could buy a great garment.

Waistcoat rules – how do you wear them?

Think about your accessories before you don your waistcoat

Before you slip into your waistcoat and button up – but not completely, remember – you should think about your other accessories. If you’re wearing a tie, especially, this must compliment the pattern, colour and cut of your waistcoat – and when buttoned up must sit symmetrically down the chest-V.

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