Misconceptions About How To Wear A Waistcoat

   There are some fads that catch on, not for practical reasons but simply because, it would seem, everyone else is doing it - the Passive Peer Pressure Effect. The 90s, a decade I will keep referring back too as the nadir of human fashion, saw about 90% of men decide to sport Stone Roses style fishing caps teamed with black dark-framed, orange lens glasses and tracksuits making them look like some type of hybrid-sports sex pests. There is no way to explain how this style became so fashionable other than a bad-dressing illness spread like a kind of bird flu.

   I am reminded of this as I think of waistcoats (or "vests" as they are known in the USA) and a trend of wearing them that no-one can really explain. Whereas a few men have managed to give them a winning contemporary tweak, Justin Timberlake being a prime example, few people understand how to wear waistcoats in the manner in which they were invented. This problem seems to stem from male fashion herds completely ignoring one useful rule and inventing another which simply did not need to exist. The first has to deal with how to wear waistcoats in context with trousers and the second has to do with the misconception at how they should be fastened.

   Like the Loch Ness monster's existence, 9/11 being an inside job or Austin Powers 2 supposedly being a comedy, the way men should sport waistcoats has become the centre of widespread misconception. Many guys will often be baffled at why, when trying on waistcoats, they often seem to be short in the back - this is partially because the item was not designed to be worn in the modern style. In their heydey, waistcoats were worn as part of an ensemble which did not feature belts. Instead men would use the item to help conceal their braces (suspenders) and as such they would generally wear their trousers higher in the knowledge their vertiginous waistlines would be obscured by their waistcoat. (Many modern men will never in their life wear their trousers above the hips which used to be the correct style. Anywhere too far below the hips is plainly ludicrous although sadly this has become much more common, and less open to ridicule, than the former.)


   Another mistake many men make is leaving open the bottom button of their waistcoat (vest) without knowing the reasons for doing so. Some think this is simply an aesthetic choice but it actually stems from a practical decision - for those who are to spend their day engaged in physical activity, or even standing up or sitting down a lot, then the fastening of a bottom button would cause the outfit to ride up. So, if you plan to physically exert yourself in a three piece suit (like many early 20th century labourers would) then unfastening the bottom button is the correct choice. However, for evening events or attending conferences where you will be sat down for the entire day, the button should remain fastened.

   Next time you are about to leave the bottom button undone ask yourself "why?" Is it because you think it looks good or are you just doing it like you think you should because other people do it? If its the latter, please consider that it was this mind frame that created the society in which Dido sold millions of records a decade ago before everyone realised they didn't actually like her. Ask questions people. Please keep on thinking about things before society devolves into a puddle of mediocrity. Button up or next thing you know, you too will own a copy of No Angel.
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27 comments

  1. I don't like those guys who wear waistcoats, don't the reason behind but they don't look cool at all.

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  2. stfu stupid ugly ho

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    1. This is my favourite comment of all time. Thanks.

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  3. Thanks for this post Kieron, I found it very interesting - I never really knew the reason behind the un-done button, and feel much better now I do! I'll keep the fact in mind for the future!

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    1. Kieron,

      I understand that actually a lot of waistcoats these days are actually tailored in a manner where the unfastened bottom button is mandatory. Regardless why it started, but a lot of manufacturers have this in mind during design and they are made to be kept bottom button undone.

      Just a thought.

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  4. The reason you don't button the bottoms button is usually the same as with a jacket: the item is tailored to account for that. Buttoning the bottom button often creates too much strain because it's not designed to be buttoned.

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    1. Thats how I understood it too. In most cases any way.. Also though, one must never underestimate the power of a faux pas.

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    2. I understood that was due to an occassion when the Prince Regent was unable to do up the bottom button because he had gained weight and all the sycophants assumed it was a new fashion and followed suit

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  5. This is a great article, but seeing as how fashion is in constant evolution, you seem to be a bit judgemental. For a start, belts with waistcoats are perfectly acceptable as noone wears braces. Secondly, you're mixing hipster fashion and the fashion of those who genuinely wear waistcoats. Justin Timberlake is certainly not the latter. Your bit about the last button being undone is dead on though!

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    1. Thanks for your comment.
      I agree I am being judgemental - perhaps too much so.
      It's mainly to start conversation rather than through any real strong feelings about what anybody else wears to be honest!
      I'm glad you like the post - thank you!

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    2. I wear braces, they keep my trousers up admirably.

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  6. It's simply etiquette. Not undoing the bottom button is like leaving your fly zip open. If you feel happy walking around with your fly zip open then do the button up too!

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    1. Not quite sure I get this point but thanks for the comment.
      I fasten my zip so that people can't see my penis.
      Fastening the bottom button on my waistcoat is unrelated as far as I can tell.

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    2. "Does sir dress to the left, the right, or just desport the end over the top of sir's waistband?"

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    3. Good article. I wear underwear, so my penis is covered even if I don't fasten my zip. You should try it!

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  7. Thanks - I emailed him with the link. I'll keep you posted
    fashion belts

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  8. A good article , but the bottom button should be left undone. Long before the invention of the Zip Fly , buttons used on trousers ,and because waistbands on the trousers were worn so high, the waistcoat was a bit longer to cover this . The Fly usually buttoned right up to the top ,so when a Gent had to 'spend a penny' he had to undo the bottom button on the waistcoat to be able to unbutton his fly. And that is why you leave the bottom button undone .Best Regards .

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  9. Only peasants have the bottom button done up.

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  10. A terrible article penned by an ill-informed, pseudo-intellectual. The authors misplaced pretentiousness destroys any credibility the article may have had and their offensively sloppy writing style is infuriating to read. I hope and pray that such drivel never graces my screen again.

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    1. This is my favourite comment I have ever received. I do hope the anonymous reader does return here in the future though as I'd love further feedback on the rest of my articles like this.

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  11. Further to an earlier comment, the rather rotund Edward VII was noticed to be wearing his waistcoat with the bottom button undone at a formal dinner as it was a bit tight. Others at the event followed suit to make him feel less self conscious and that is the generally accepted explanation of how the tradition started.

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  12. So what? Who cares? If you want to follow a trend of leaving a button undone, so what? I'd rather leave my bottom button undone than grow a ponytail, or wear sweat pants and trainers, but that's my choice.

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  13. A lifelong waistcoat wearer; I wholeheartedly agree. When riding (horses, not my motorbike!) or otherwise physically active, I undo the bottom button. When relaxed, or activity is gentle, regardless of the formality of the occasion, then I always button fully... The rules for blazers and suit jackets however do vary, depending on button configuration.

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