When worn smart they point towards immaculate tailoring, and when pared down for a casual look they add a touch of relaxed, bohemian character to any stiff upper lip. The waistcoat has been a signature piece for decades, particularly among those noted for style. Just look back to the days of avant-garde Paris, the swinging 20s, the Golden Age of glamour.
We’re pleased to see it making a welcome, long-awaited, revival thanks to a few modern day men, including some of our favourite sartorial icons. David Gandy, Justin Timberlake and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, to name a few, have all been spotted in them recently. It’s time to take your cue from them and tap into this trend.
Wearing a waistcoat as part of a three-piece suit is easy – it comes with the two-piece – but choosing one to wear for an off-duty look takes a little more thought. We get it, if you haven’t dabbled in one before then it’s quite an unnatural step to take but we can guarantee you’ll be surprised at how easily you’ll pick up on the trend and pull it off.
Our advice would be to buy an assortment of styles in different fabrics, patterns and neutral colours that you can mix and match with the rest of your wardrobe.
To help you get on top of the trend we’ve pulled together five simple rules to follow and our pick of the best designs available now.
Waistcoat Rules –
Rule One – Leave the bottom button undone
This isn’t our rule as such but a rule that stems from years and years of tradition. Where does this stem from? There are several theories, the first being that when Edward VII was Prince of Wales he apparently became so rotund that he couldn’t squeeze himself properly into his waistcoat thus his court followed suit and the ‘trend’ stuck. Another theory is that young dandies back in the day would often sport two waistcoats at once and would tend to leave the bottom button of the top layer undone to reveal the style below – talk about layering! Finally, rather practically, it allowed for greater comfort when riding atop a horse.
It doesn’t matter if you aren’t well-built, a rider or a dandy – we advise avoiding going against the grain on this one.
Rule Two – Stick to neutral colours
Unless you want to look like you’ve stepped out of a Circus ring we recommend staying within variations of tones within grey, blue, black and brown colour schemes. David Gandy masters this impeccably with his extensive range of waistcoats. Get his look and pair with a staple slim-fit, crisp white shirt and jeans.
Rule Three – Collar up
By all means, you can wear a waistcoat over a round-neck t-shirt but we can guarantee you’ll end up looking like you stepped off the wrong side of a rock concert. To maintain a smart, effortless, off-duty look partner your vest with a slim fitting collared shirt and let your top two buttons swing open with the charm of Alain Delon.
Rule Four – Go slim
This one’s simple: make sure you pick a tailored, close-fitting waistcoat. Baggy is not an option.
Rule Five – Be versatile
Treat waistcoats as an accessory rather than a staple piece of clothing. Get comfortable throwing it on with different looks and paring it up and down with ties, handkerchiefs and jackets. Consider knitted styles, subtle patterns and wool designs. The more comfortable you feel wearing one the more effortless you will make it look.
Here’s our pick of the best on the shelves:
Alexander McQueen Blue Wool and Mohair-blend, £425, at mrporter.com
Hardy Amies, Contrast Collar Wool Waistcoat, £225, at mrporter.com
Richard James, Prince of Wales Check Wool waistcoat, £285, at mrporter.com