Dating back to 1666 England, the waistcoat was born out of King Charles II’s admiration for vests worn in the Persian courts of Shah Abbas. King Charles therefore instated them as correct dress during the Restoration of the British monarchy. In those times the waistcoat was a lot longer in the body and was far more extravagant. Fast forward to the 19th century and the designs were a lot closer to what we see today with a shorter body and simpler finishes. Then, as we hit the 20th and 21st century, we see the waistcoat adopted by everyone from the Mafia to indie and steam punk followers in more of an ironic sense. Now the waistcoat is being seen worn as part of a casual look by the style-conscious, but it can be a hard look to pull off.
When you’re wearing your waistcoat there are a few tips, tricks and rule you should stick to if you’re after a classic aesthetic. If you want a more rugged or alternative look from your waistcoat you won’t have to pay close attention to these.
On that last point, it’s probably time we looked at the rest of your outfit. Now, in general, we want to keep everything well fitted and leaning more on the smart side of the sartorial spectrum. If it’s cold outside, head for an overcoat or peacoat, for most people, we want to stay away from sportier or casual styles like bombers, wind-breakers or parkas. If you’re a little braver, you could try a biker jacket but, if you do go for that, make sure everything else is clean, smart and well fitted. Underneath the waistcoat, I’d go for an Oxford shirt or, for a retro finish, a granddad collar. The main thing to note here is, if the shirt is plain, the waistcoat can have some print but if it’s a printed shirt, keep the waistcoat plain.