There is something incredibly debonair about a suit vest.
It’s impressive how much this small, simple garment can radically up your style game.
If you don’t often wear suit vests but are looking to take the plunge, you may be surprised by how simple it is to incorporate one into your wardrobe.
All the fashionable gents are wearing one.
Introduction to Suit Vests
You probably have a pretty general idea of what a suit vest is. They are similar to your suit jacket but tighter and with no sleeves.
You absolutely must wear a dress shirt under your suit vest.
Vests are most frequently worn with either tuxedos or three-piece suits.
They’re a rather formal garment with an amazingly deep history, worn even in Medieval times.
However, there are some ways you can use them in a smart-casual fashion if you style them appropriately.
Not all vests are the same; they come in a couple of different variations.
Suit Vest vs. Waistcoat
If you’re wondering if there’s a difference between a suit vest and a waistcoat, join the crowd. Unfortunately, this terminology confuses many folks.
Generally, a waistcoat is the more formal of the two types of garments.
A vest can be rather informal. It’s a term that covers nearly any top that lacks sleeves.
Still, it can be a specific addition to a men’s suit, thus creating the three-piece suit.
The V-shaped vest is standard for most three-piece suits.
A waistcoat, on the other hand, is more formal. Usually, a waistcoat is something you’d wear with a tuxedo.
A tie is a great companion to a suit vest. On the other hand, a bow tie is best when you wear a waistcoat.
In other words, all waistcoats are vests, but all vests are not waistcoats.
For example, a tuxedo vest is more akin to wearing a waistcoat.
A knitted sweater vest? Certainly not a waistcoat.
Single-Breasted vs. Double-Breasted Suit Vests
You’ll notice that, like in suits, suit vests are single-breasted.
Single-breasted vests are usually worn for less formal situations.
Also, most single-breasted vests have between three to six buttons. Fewer buttons make your vest more casual.
A good button guide is to go off your suit jacket; your vest should have one more button than your suit jacket.
Double-breasted vests are more formal and are a very classy style.
They most commonly have six buttons but can also have four or eight.
Another significant difference between single-breasted and double-breasted suit vests is their lapels.
The single-breasted suit vest lacks lapels in favor of a simple, clean cut.
A double-breasted vest often has lapels. They are usually shawl or peaked to match the formality of the vest.
Basic Rules to Consider
It’s best to fully button your double-breasted vest, although some prefer to leave the bottom button on the outer side unfastened.
On the other hand, you should always leave the bottom button unfastened on your single-breasted vest, much as with your three-piece suit jacket.
In addition, you should always be able to see part of your vest peeking out from your buttoned suit jacket; therefore, you should never wear a vest with a double-breasted suit jacket.
Dress shirts are the only acceptable shirt to wear under your vest.
When wearing a vest for a more formal or professional vibe, it needs to be the same color and material as your suit.
How Should a Suit Vest Fit
As with each part of your suit, a good fit for your vest is essential.
An ill-fitting suit vest will disrupt your entire suit.
The fit isn’t entirely about aesthetics; your comfort is critical when you wear a vest.
If your suit vest doesn’t fit well, you’ll be uncomfortable. You’ll avoid wearing it, and then what’s the point of even having it?
The Front of the Suit Vest
Your suit vest should feel slightly snug, as if it’s pressing right against your body.
However, it shouldn’t be so tight that you feel like a sausage or it looks tuckered in spots.
Look for a vest with a tapered waist. This will create a sleek silhouette underneath your suit jacket.
You don’t want bulk or bumps under your jacket!
The front of your suit vest should lie smooth and flat across your entire torso.
Shoulders are Well-Fitted But Comfortable
Again, you want a snug fit at your shoulders, keeping the material flat against your body’s outline.
Avoid gapping around your armholes, a sure sign that the vest is too large for you.
High armholes help create a better fit for your suit vest. They’ll hold the vest in place and reduce the risk of sagging.
But again, you don’t want to feel uncomfortable, so they should not be cut so high that they cut into your armpits.
Proper Suit Vest Length
The length of your vest is critical; one of the surest signs your vest fits well.
Your suit vest must be long enough to provide full coverage for your entire waist and belly.
The hem of your vest should fall just past the top of your pant waist. This would place the bottom vest button slightly on or above the belt line.
No dress shirt fabric or belt should be visible at the bottom of your vest.
The Back of a Suit Vest
This part of your vest is shorter than the front, though it should still cover the waistband of your trousers.
Again, you want this material smooth and flat, with no pulling or sagging.
You have a little more wiggle room with the length of the back of your vest than you do with the front, thanks to the length coverage your suit jacket provides.
If the back falls just slightly short, you might be able to get away with wearing that suit vest only if every other part fits you fine and if you don’t plan to remove your suit jacket.
How to Choose a Vest to Wear with a Suit
The right vest with your suit makes all the difference when aiming for sophistication.
Most three-piece suits have a vest that matches the rest of the suit.
However, if you want to get creative, wear a contrasting suit and vest. However, it will affect your suit’s formality.
The Vest as Part of a Three-Piece Suit
A three-piece suit makes your style formal; it’s an elegant and genteel approach to dressing.
This is an excellent way to dress when you need a traditional and classic way to be very dressed up.
The vest should be the same color and material as your suit jacket and pants.
If it isn’t the same, it must be very close. There can be no contrast in colors to maintain your formal appearance.
The only time you’re required to wear a vest that’s the exact same as the rest of your suit is if you’re attending a black-tie event.
There is no room for forgiveness for a very formal affair.
Button-Up or Button-Down Shirt to Match the Formality
You need to pair your vest with a dress shirt, so the only decision to be made is what kind of dress shirt you should wear.
You have the option of either a button-up or button-down; the difference between the two is minimal but significantly affects formality.
A button-up dress shirt is dressier, so you absolutely need to wear one for formal events.
However, you can wear a button-down dress shirt with your vest to intentionally make your outfit slightly more relaxed.
Match with a Different Tie Color
The most traditional way to pair a tie with your suit vest is to wear a matching color.
It’s a subtle style and is easy to put together.
However, you aren’t required to stay within the same color range.
You can be bold and go with a different color tie.
The easiest way to play with color for your suit is to pick a complementary colored tie. This would be a similar color to your vest but a different shade.
For example, add a charcoal grey tie to a light grey vest.
Black Vest and Tie if Attending Formal Event
Add a black waistcoat for an exquisite touch to your formal suit.
You’ll create a very polished appearance.
A black-tie event has zero room for flexibility regarding ties, which you need to wear anyway if you add a waistcoat.
After all, it isn’t called “black-tie” without good reason!
You can choose between a bow tie or a necktie, but a bow tie is much more acceptable due to its formality.
Wearing Different Suit and Vest Colors for More Casual Events
When the dress code offers you flexibility, you are welcome to mix and match your suit and vest.
If you decide to change up your vest, pick one that creates a bit of contrast, but be cautious that your colors don’t clash.
For further boldness, mix and match solids and patterns.
You could also get creative and wear a textured vest with a regular suit.
For example, a tweed vest with a wool suit is an exciting approach.
Your vest will stand out and will be the first thing people notice about your outfit, so you need to be confident to pull this off!
Wearing a contrasting vest and suit will make your outfit more casual.
Different Vest Colors You Can Wear with a Suit
Are you considering branching out from the matching suit vest and jacket?
Or maybe a special vest has caught your eye, and you don’t know how to wear it.
We’ve got you covered. Here are some of the most popular three-piece suit color combinations.
Navy Vest for Blue and Navy Suits
Navy is a very professional suit and vest color.
Wearing all navy is very dressy, and pairing a navy vest with a blue suit makes a great look because the darker vest makes the suit more sober.
Since navy is formal, a white dress shirt is the best color to complete this outfit.
It should also be a button-up instead of a button-down to keep the style similar.
Finish off this suit with dark brown Oxford or derby dress shoes.
Grey Vest for Blue and Grey Suits
Grey has a reputation for being a dull color, but that’s far from the truth!
It’s a very versatile color that matches so many colors and adds a touch of sophistication.
For a super professional style, pair a grey suit with a grey vest; it can be a different shade if you’d like a bit of spice.
Add a grey vest to a blue or navy suit if you want a very unexpected twist.
This combination will loosen up your suit style a bit. Consider adding a pocket square to increase the outfit’s formality.
You can wear black dress shoes, but dark brown shoes are also acceptable.
Brown Vest for Blue and Brown Suits
Wearing all brown from head to toe can be a bit overwhelming and boring; brown is a color that’s usually best in smaller doses.
One major exception is a brown suit and vest in different shades.
Light and dark browns paired together to form an interesting and awesome semi-formal outfit!
Medium brown dress shoes are the perfect color for this suit; why not lean into the more casual nature of this outfit with a pair of double monk straps?
A brown vest with a blue suit is nice because the brown subdues the blue for a modern, laid-back style.
Black Vest for Navy and Charcoal Suits
Black goes with everything but is usually reserved for the most formal events.
Of course, you can wear a black vest with a black suit. But you don’t need to save that black vest for a formal event!
Pair it with a different-colored suit to work it into your everyday wardrobe.
A black vest gives navy and charcoal suits a sharp tweak.
All of these colors are typically very dressy or professional. However, the contrast they create together makes them less formal.
Naturally, black dress shoes are the best color to top off these color combinations.
How to Pair the Suit Vest with Other Outfits
Vests aren’t only for suits.
Branch out and make the most of this debonair garment!
However you opt to wear a suit vest, you need to style it properly to make the most of it.
Even when you are wearing it without a suit, there are still specific guidelines that apply to vests. Follow them for a more refined and put-together appearance.
Choosing Between Belt or Suspenders
While both are technically acceptable, suspenders are the far superior choice for a vest.
There are two benefits to choosing to wear suspenders.
First, the suit vest is designed to cover your suspenders, so they remain mostly unseen.
Second, style-wise they match your vest because both are incredibly dapper. Plus, they’re a perfect way to sneak a little color or pattern into your suit.
Belts are acceptable in a pinch, but avoid them if possible.
The vest already adds extra material around your waist, so you don’t want to keep adding more. It will soon start to look and feel like extra padding.
Should You Wear a Tie or a Bow Tie?
You need to wear a tie with your vest since you’re also wearing a collared dress shirt, but which one is more appropriate?
Bow ties are formal, so you must wear them if you’re dressing for a formal event.
However, they may be considered too formal for your everyday work suit.
Opt for a necktie for your three-piece suit; it will help relax your appearance and not look too dressy.
Matching the Vest with Jeans
Mixing a bit of dressy with a casual style can often create a stunning outfit.
Wearing a vest with jeans is a very cool style. It’s a sophisticated way to dress down while still indicating that you put effort into dressing.
If you go with this smart-casual look, your jeans need to be dark and crisp.
Also, a slim fit and tapered leg are wise since your vest is also relatively slim.
You still need to wear a dress shirt with your vest, but you can go ahead and roll up your sleeves to play up your laid-back outfit.
Choosing the Right Pair of Shoes
The shoes you decide to wear should depend on the formality of the rest of your outfit.
For formalwear, you don’t have any other option but to wear black dress shoes, ideally Oxfords. For something a little extra special, try a pair of patent leather ones.
If you’re wearing a three-piece suit, black or brown dress shoes are the perfect match. Oxfords and derby shoes are your ideal choices.
You have more options when you’re wearing your suit vest casually with jeans.
You can be laid back with black or brown loafers or go for a contemporary, urban feel with leather boots.