Men’s waistcoats have a long and storied history in Western fashion. Waistcoats, also known as
vests outside the United Kingdom, have traditionally been associated with formal attire. They are often worn as
part of a suit, over the dress shirt but under the jacket.
Although they have mostly been a crucial part of formal dress, contemporary fashion trends have
rendered them a much more flexible garment in terms of style.
Modern trends reveal waistcoats being worn as an element in a much less
formal ensemble, being paired with jeans or dungarees.
For example, modern “scenester” fashion trend is known to include the incorporation of the vest
with much less formal attire as an ironic statement about fashion.
As such, inexpensive versions of mens waistcoats can be increasingly found at department
stores in addition to the more traditional method of having them made to fit at by a skilled tailor.
Nevertheless, wearing a waistcoat without a full suit can still be indicative of formal attire,
albeit a more edgy, modern version of formality.
Mentions of men’s waistcoats as pervasive fashion items dates back in the
United Kingdom to the 17th century. The famous English diarist Samuel Pepys, who lived in the mid seventeenth
century, referenced a vest (or waistcoat) in his renown diary.
The term waistcoats supposedly refers to the fact that the garment is cut at the waist; the
jacket of a suit is permitted to extend down below the waist whereas the waistcoat rarely ever hangs below the
Because of the ride height of the garment, it made them ideal places for storing a pocket watch.
Waistcoats often have a small watch pocket on either side which hold a circular pocket watch with a chain fastened
to the end and connecting to the pants at the other end.
This allowed the person wearing the waistcoat to access the watch by pulling the chain in order
to get the watch out of the pocket. The chain, needless to say, became a fashionable element over time and is
greatly associated with the waistcoat.
Though historically it is a
Western fashion item (having been developed in the United Kingdom), the use of men’s waistcoats has become
increasingly common around the globe. This is due, in large part, to a variety of forces driving globalization.
As garment makers relocate their business to new labor markets outside the Western world, the
garments themselves spread to new countries as well. And with globalized digital media, fashion trends can travel
to every corner of the globe across a host of different cultures.