Five ways to work a waistcoat

Country waistcoats from Samuel Windsor

There’s a waistcoat for every occasion
Image source: Country waistcoats from Samuel Windsor

From nuptials to nights on the town, men’s waistcoats have stood the test of time since they first appeared back in the 17th century.

A versatile piece, your waistcoat can smarten up a casual ensemble or add an extra special touch to a formal look. With so many styles and fabrics to choose from, there’s a man’s waistcoat for every occasion. Here are five different ways to get the most from your waistcoat.

1: A waistcoat to show off traditional taste

Model 2 wearing a summer tweed suit

With a tweed waistcoat you’ll always look the part
Featured product: Slim-fit jacket and waistcoat in summer tweed from Samuel Windsor

Created as formal wear, waistcoats have been tailored for centuries to fit perfectly under a jacket as part of a three-piece suit. If you’re heading to a wedding, job interview or other smart event, traditional is the best way to go, marking you out from the regular suit-wearing wearing crowd. And if it’s a summer event, you don’t need to swelter. Try a summer-weight tweed or linen waistcoat to keep you cool, sharp and comfortable.

For a very formal, streamlined look, switch your belt for a pair of snazzy braces, and always leave the bottom button of your waistcoat undone. For a more contemporary twist, pair your tweed waistcoat and jacket with chinos or even a smart pair of indigo jeans.

2: A waistcoat to add pattern

Paisley patterned waistcoat from Samuel Windsor

Don’t blend in with the crowd
Image source: Paisley waistcoat from Samuel Windsor

Of course modern fashion is all about standing out from the crowd, and what better way than taking a leaf from the 18th century dandies’ folios?

Make a statement with your waistcoat – perhaps even break the rules by swapping vests from different three piece suits for a touch of contrast. The waistcoat experts at Above the Ankles agree:

Thankfully for us, times have changed and people now use fashion to express themselves. Everywhere you go, every Instagram page you visit, you see people breaking fashion rules all the time.

Better yet, treat yourself by buying a totally original piece in a bright colour or different pattern to your jacket.

3: A waistcoat to add colour

Yellow moleskin waistcoat from Samuel Windsor

Use your waistcoat to introduce colour and contrast
Image source: Mustard-colour moleskin waistcoat from Samuel Windsor

A waistcoat is more than just a part of a suit. And by throwing it together with different jackets and trousers you can get a whole new look. Try wearing it alone with a patterned shirt or underneath a casual jacket.

Wearing your waistcoat well is all about layering. Get that right and you’re onto a winner. It’s about breaking up your outfit and treating the waistcoat as casual layer, much as you would a jumper. As soon as you use a waistcoat in a casual way, it takes on an effortless ‘throwaway’ style, giving you a suave yet modern edge.

4: A waistcoat to add texture

Model 2 wearing a red velvet jacket and waistcoat

Make an impact with red velvet
Image source: Velvet waistcoats from Samuel Windsor

There are plenty of modern materials that can add texture to your ensemble.

For the summer, stick with cool linen. In the winter months go for heavier materials like flannel to help keep the warmth in. As well as adding interest, textures can create an added depth and tactility, and there’s nothing like tweed for a bit of vintage class. As fashion blogger Matt Allison at Fashion Beans says:

Look back to the times when [waistcoats] were commonplace, such as the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. Not only were fabrics like corduroy and tweed used more regularly during these eras, they were often paired with other workwear items.

Looking for the fast track to effortless style? Try a velvet waistcoat and jacket at your next formal or black tie event. If red feels a little too racy, go for emerald green or suave black velvet – you’ll stand out for all the right reasons.

5: A casual waistcoat

Hipster with waistcoat and bike

Dressed down is not the same as scruffy
Image source: Shutterstock

Up to now we’ve focused on formal wear, from work to weddings. But the modern waistcoat has so much more to offer.

Add a dash of panache to your Saturday night garb with a simple waistcoat, or impress that special someone with some equally special tailoring on date night. There’s no need to wear it with a jacket – pair it with some jeans and a shirt to let the waistcoat do the talking.

From conferences to concerts, waistcoats are an incredibly versatile addition to any gentleman’s wardrobe. Although they look fantastic as part of a three-piece suit, don’t relegate your waistcoats to formal occasions only. There’s no better way to add colour, pattern, texture and a splash of personality to your everyday ensemble. For a garment that’s both distinguished and totally modern, try working your waistcoat in different ways and see what works for you.

We’ve had a whistle-stop tour of five different ways to wear a waistcoat, but how do you wear yours? Whether it’s crazy and colourful or subtly suave, we’d love to see your images over on our Facebook page.

Posted in Men's style guides.