Men's dress vests have been a part of masculine style for hundreds of years, with very little change in the basic design and structure. Adding a few carefully selected vests to your wardrobe can lead to a surprisingly wide range of options.
The Versatile Waistcoat
With the possible exception of the button down shirt, no piece of clothing fits into as many categories as the vest. Also known as a "waistcoat" (or, in England, a "weskit") it dates back to pre-Victorian outfits, where it was a standard part of every man's wardrobe from the poorest to the richest. That may be part of why it's carried down so far to the point where anyone from a toddler to a great-grandfather can still be found wearing vests in all sorts of surroundings.
What Not to Do in a Vest
There are a few accepted ways to wear vests in contemporary society that are reflective of good style. Many men like vests for the slimming look they can give, but you have to wear it right. Break these rules, and instead of looking stylish you'll look like you don't know how to pick out your clothes.
- A vest should extend past and cover the belt buckle. A vest that is too short will have the shirt underneath bunching out at the sides, making for a very unflattering line.
- When a vest is buttoned, it should hang smoothly over the belly. If the fabric bunches in an "X", the vest is too small. In addition, if you do button it, the last button is meant to be left undone.
- Make sure the shirt you wear under the vest is well-cut, so that the sleeves don't puff out at the shoulders.
- Some style experts feel that a dark vest with a white shirt is a fashion faux pas, while others see it as a bold statement. The best thing to do is wear what you like and wear it with confidence.
Wearing Men's Dress Vests
Often the first time a man owns a vest is when he buys it as part of a three-piece suit. Because it seems part of an ensemble, often it stays in the closet unless a formal occasion calls for it to come out. The fact is, though, men's dress vests can be worked into almost any ensemble with a little imagination.
The easiest way to integrate it is simply to wear it as a "two-piece" outfit, with the dress pants and vest minus the blazer. Combined with a fitted button-down shirt and a matching tie, a buttoned-up waistcoat gives you both the aura of formality as well as "action." In the 2010 hit movie Inception, in fact, many action scenes were fought by a hero wearing exactly that kind of outfit.
You would also leave the vest buttoned up when wearing it more casually, with bluejeans and an open-collar shirt. This casual look is both comfortable and dapper at the same time, and the slimming effect of the vest will work especially well on patterned shirts with the sleeves rolled up.
Men's dress vests can even be added to a shorts and t-shirt ensemble. In this case, leave the front left unbuttoned. Usually this works best with solid-color or striped t-shirts since patterns or logos tend to clash with the vest.
The Best Place to Get One
Most men are going to want to actually go to a store such as Macy's or the Men's Wearhouse and try on the vests before buying. Once you know what the right size is, though, you can branch out and buy from online resources. Like almost anything else, Amazon.com has quite a few fancy men's dress vests, and you can also find interesting patterns and styles from companies such as PriceGrabber.
Few articles of clothing can be used as many different places as a vest, and it's a worthy investment and addition to any man's closet.