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How to Pull Off a Vest for Men

by LaMont Jones, Jr., studioD

Vests have been a part of men’s fashion for centuries. Although traditionally considered dressy with button fronts, modern designs have broadened to include knit and zipper styles. In a spectrum of colors, prints and fabrics, there’s a vest for looks ranging from dressy to casual.

For Dressier Occasions

Wearing a vest and pants cut from the same cloth is one of the dressiest ways to execute the vested look. Pair blue checked flat-front slacks with a matching vest over an blue button-front oxford shirt with French cuffs. Throw on a red power tie and brown leather cap-toe oxfords to complete your look. Another dressy vest look is to pair a black, navy or maroon velvet vest with black pleated dress pants. Add a white shirt, print tie and black suede wingtips and you're debonair as well as professional for work and a date after hours. If your vest has a working breast pocket, add more panache to your look with a cotton pocket square in the summer or a silk one in the winter.

With Jeans and Khakis

A vest is a convenient way to add polish to less-dressy ensembles. Try a knit argyle vest with a button-down shirt, khakis and penny loafers for a lunch date. If jeans are your choice of pants on a dress-down Friday pr a weekend of errand-running, add a zip-up vest in a solid color and a plaid shirt. Finish the look with deck shoes for summer or boots for fall. More casual jewelry made of materials such as leather, wood and beads go well with these sorts of looks. Roll up the shirt sleeves and wear an open collar for an appearance that is relaxed yet still authoritative. And remember that the bottom button of a vest should always remain unbuttoned.

Totally Casual Looks

The right vest worn the right way can be a hip component of a casual look. For example, you don't have to be a member of a rock band to look the part. Just throw on a graphic T-shirt under a lightweight open vest with skinny jeans, black canvas sneakers, a dogtag necklace and a baseball-style cap. If your rocker style is inspired more by Pharrell Williams or Robin Thicke, combine a slim open vest with a fitted striped shirt, skinny black necktie, tailored black trousers and white leather tennis shoes. Top off your ensemble with a lightweight fedora and minimal jewelry such as a novelty watch, and you're ready to project a soulfully chill vibe.

Go West or Nouveau Nerd

The American West and country music stars have influenced men's fashion. Put your own western spin on a vest-anchored look with a brown distressed-leather vest, a light-blue denim or brightly colored flannel shirt, straight-leg dark blue jeans, a leather belt with a large placard buckle, cowboy boots and a cowboy hat. At the opposite end of the vest spectrum is the nouveau nerd, a look best described as bookworm meets dandy. You want the vest snug for this look, perhaps a tweed buttoned style or a knit zip-front with a colorful argyle or stripe motif. Add a contrasting print shirt, suspenders, bow tie and high-water or rolled chinos that rise an inch or two above your saddle shoes or tassel loafers. Finish the outfit with a pair of horn-rimmed faux (or real) eyeglasses or another scholarly shape to show that dorky can be cool.


About the Author

LaMont Jones was an award-winning fashion and beauty editor for a decade at the "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette." A five-time nominator and judge of the CFDA Awards, he covers New York Fashion Week regularly. Jones is a 2011 inductee into the Pittsburgh Fashion Hall of Fame and coaches fashion models.

Photo Credits

  • Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images