Men Vest Styles: How To Wear a Vest

how to wear a vest for a man

A vest is a great way for a man to add a standout and unique element to an outfit. Vests are also a fantastic way to extend your wardrobe into many different and new outfits. They can be worn as matching pieces, odd vests with varying patterns and textures, formally or casually, and can be used in many MacGyver-type functions you’ve never even considered.  Only joking with that last one, but the point is a vest is a very versatile vessel for varying your visage.

Waistcoats vs Vests

The term waistcoat is a more dated and formal term for a vest. Traditionally, “waistcoat” was reserved for formal vests used in three-piece suits for business wear or black-tie events. And the term vest was used for more casual wool or tweed vests used outside of formal events.

Technically, “vest” just describes a garment that covers the torso and doesn’t have any sleeves. Today, you can use vest interchangeably with waistcoat when referring even to formal vests. So we will use the term vest for the majority of this article.

How a Vest Should Fit

man vest styles

No matter how or when you decide to wear a vest, the most important element of the look is the proper fit. The purpose of the vest to hold and tie everything together, as well as occasionally provide additional warmth. But the fact that it’s supposed to hold everything together means it is imperative for the vest to fit you as best it can.

This means it must be fitted and tapered to your specific body type. Whether you’re slim, muscular, or husky, the vest needs to fit your body. Not too tight so the buttons are stretching, but slim fitting enough so there is no extra fabric on the waist or shoulders. Extra fabric looks sloppy and lazy.

Your shirt needs to be fitted to your body type as well to match the vest fit. You want your shirt to be neatly tucked beneath with no ballooning outside of the vest.

You want to make sure the armholes are large enough to allow for total freedom of movement. You don’t want to be restricted at all. Also, the higher the armholes start up your sides, the more modern and stylish the vest will look. You are looking for a balance of functionality and modern style here.

The last and very important element of the fit of the vest is the length. You want the vest to cover your waistband in the front of your pants. On the sides, it can rise a little higher and maybe show some shirt, as some vests are styled this way. But in general, you want the vest to be just long enough to cover the waistband of your pants.

Important Vest Details

how to choose vest for a man

When opting to wear a vest, there are some things you need to keep in mind. The first is to almost always keep the bottom button unfastened. This is both a nod to tradition and still considered the proper way to wear a vest. It is also a tip for functionality, as leaving the bottom button undone will allow the vest to not pull up when you lift your arms.

The second thing to remember is a belt. Or maybe you need to forget the belt. Some fashionistas believe it is always faux pas to wear a belt with a vest, but in more casual looks, a belt is totally acceptable, especially when wearing jeans. Just make sure the belt buckle isn’t gaudy and none or just a little of the buckle is showing at the bottom of the vest.

The last decision to consider with vests is single or double-breasted. Double-breasted is much more dated and usually formal, where single breasted is contemporary and more versatile. So unless you have a specific outfit or purpose for a double-breasted vest, such as an awesome pocket watch, your best bet is to stick with the single button style.

Formal Waistcoats

man s guide to wearing a vest

For a long time, a vest as part of a three-piece suit was a way the upper class distinguished themselves from others. Vests came with adorned fancy buttons and custom fabrics that always almost matched the suit.

Nowadays, it is still a very formal look to wear a matching vest within a three-piece suit in a business setting or at a black-tie event. These waistcoats almost always match the suit fabric exactly and will be tailored to fit with the suit coat perfectly.

For black-tie events, you’re going be wearing a waistcoat or cummerbund, and it is almost always the same fabric and color as your coat. Some black-tie ensemble men with panache can pull off a vest or cummerbund of a different, more bold color. It’s not common though. These formal waistcoats are often backless are fashioned together with an adjustable strap. These vests also always have a lapel and are cut lower than other vests.

If you buy and wear a three-piece suit, this is a more formal look for business settings or weddings or formal events. It shows a different level of class and confidence, as long as it is tailored properly. Another important tip to remember in formal settings is that a vest is always worn with a tie. No exceptions.

Upper management in offices often wear three-piece suits, though it is not reserved for them. And in today’s increasingly casual business attire, it has become acceptable in many offices to wear mismatched or odd vests to work whenever you please.

Odd Vests

great vest look for men

And odd vest is a mismatched vest from your coat, always in color and often in fabric. They are more casual and are a great way you extend your personal wardrobe exponentially. You can wear an odd vest for a night out or on a date or to certain cocktail parties or if your office is more business casual.

Odd vests are immediately less intimidating than a matching three-piece suit. This doesn’t mean that they can’t look every bit as good. There are two imperative things you should always remember when wearing an odd vest. The first is that the vest is often the star of the show. A vest, while more popular than ever right now, is still seen less often than not, so they stand out. The other tip to always keep in mind is that even though the odd vest stands out the most in your outfit, it should still complement and work in harmony with every other piece in your ensemble.

Odd vests can also be worn with or without a jacket. Another reason why they are such a great addition to your wardrobe.

Vest Fabrics

The fabric and texture of a vest is a great way to make it subtly stand out from all others. You can have a simple outfit with simple colors, and a nicely textured vest makes the entire outfit pop.

Odd vests can be worn in any season, and that is the best guide for which type of fabric to go with on that day. During colder weather, wool and tweed and cord vests are best. For warmer months, linens and cottons and lighter fabrics will do you well.

Vest Colors and Patterns

If you have an eye for style, you can successfully pair any color or patterned vest with any shirt, jacket, and pant combo. But for those who don’t have that rare keen eye, always remember the vest will usually be the star.

Base on this logic, a couple simple rules to remember when wearing an odd vest are:

  • Darker jacket means lighter vest, and lighter jacket means darker vest.
  • If the vest has a pattern or bolder color or texture, it’s best to keep the rest of the outfit relatively simple.
  • Your shirt should always be long sleeved. You can roll your sleeves up if you aren’t wearing a jacket, especially with denim. But you should always have sleeves.
  • Ties are not always necessary. Judge whether or not to wear one based on the event and if the tie goes really well with the vest.

The two most versatile colors of vests are black and grey. Black vests often look best when mismatched without a jacket. But that is often the only limitation. They look good with black or grey trousers and a white shirt. They look great with dark jeans and light-colored shirts. They look great with or without a tie. You can’t go wrong with a black vest as your first.

Grey vests also look great with or without a jacket. A light grey vest looks amazing with a navy jacket. A darker or charcoal vest looks excellent with brown or tan jackets. Any color grey with dark denim and a white shirt is a timeless, dapper look.

Other colored vests like blue, red, green, etc., look best with a jacket and complemented by your tie and shoes or pants.

Patterned vests can also be an excellent look with a jacket, but this the most casual you can look when wearing a jacket. The jacket must be plain and pattern on the vest must work with the fabric of the jacket.

A patterned vest is one of the best ways to make a jacketless outfit seem much classier and bolder. They show that you have confidence and when assembled correctly, you have practice and care in knowing how to dress. If you aren’t donning a jacket, always keep the shirt relatively plain. Remember, the vest is the star. A patterned shirt with a patterned vest is far too busy.

Vest and Jeans

As stated several times previously in this article, vests and denim are in right now and that’s because they pair exceptionally well. Dark denim has been day/night-out wear for a while now, and adding a vest to this dark denim makes you pop even more.

Keep the shirt simple, wear a tie or a bowtie if you please, and the sleeves can be rolled If you please because this is the most casual way you can wear a vest. And it still looks classy, because that’s what vests do.

Final Words

You now know that vests are one of the best ways to diversify and embolden any outfit and your entire wardrobe. They can be worn in formal and casual settings, always upping your look to the next level.

And you also know how to wear a vest and that fit is the most important thing to remember. That and that vests will be the star of your outfit if you opt to wear one. So go to the store or order one, be bold, and grab those wandering and admiring gazes!