No man’s wardrobe is complete without a suit, and no man’s suit is complete without a waistcoat. If you’re wondering how to wear a waistcoat then give our style guide a read for all the best tips and tricks. 

Have you ever watched an old gangster film like The Godfather and thought, despite the fact that they’re gangsters, these guys look great in a waistcoat? That’s because waistcoats are an amazing way to add an element of class and style to any outfit that you may be wearing.

Unfortunately, Waistcoats deserve more respect than they receive. Wearing a waistcoat seems like a scary task to many men who aren’t sure how to properly style it. Well, with a little bit of know-how and advice you will soon be able to wear a waistcoat in a modern and stylish way.

What is a Waistcoat

In its simplest form, a waistcoat is a waist length jacket that generally comes without sleeves or a collar. Done up with buttons on the front, it is typically tight fitting. Men predominantly wear waistcoats over a button up or dress shirt and under a jacket.

However, what a waistcoat can be, is so much more. Although the history of the waistcoats has been dated back as far as King Charles II, it wasn’t until the 19th Century, when elite gentlemen began to wear them, that the waistcoat we know and love was born.

Originally waistcoats for men became fashionable when it was the style to have a clinched in waist with an emphasised figure. Throughout the 20th century the style became straighter, putting less emphasis on a restricted waist. This has remained the fashion for waistcoats ever since and confirms the waistcoat’s rich history in mens fashion. If anything, this emphasises just how versatile and classic the waistcoat really is.

waistcoat street style combo_166

If you’re wondering what the difference is between a waistcoat and a vest, you can stop. There is absolutely no physical difference between a waistcoat and a vest. The only difference is that if you’re British you will call them waistcoats, and if you’re American then you will probably call them vests.

Although the waistcoat is traditionally a formal item of clothing that is worn as part of a suit, there are also plenty of other ways you can use the waistcoat to create a great stylish outfit that isn’t necessarily ultra formal.

How to Wear a Waistcoat

If you’re reading this then you’re probably wondering how to wear a vest or waistcoat. Well, the main thing to consider when wearing a waistcoat, is that it fits correctly. Getting the size of your waistcoat wrong can be a disaster for your outfit, and is therefore very important, no matter how obvious it may seem. If your waistcoat is too large it’s going to be baggy around your chest and possibly balloon or crease. On the other hand, if your waistcoat is too small, it will appear as if you’re wearing a corset and possibly be hard to breath. Leave the corsets to the Elizabethan women.

The good thing about a waistcoat is that it simultaneously slims your build as well as tidying up the torso section of your outfit. Even if you tuck your shirt in, if you’re wearing a button down or dress shirt, it’s probably going to crease out at the sides. This is where a waistcoat can come and save the day. By wearing a waistcoat the lines of your outfit are made more straight, ultimately making you appear slimmer and taller.

waist coat combinations

Although a waistcoat is traditionally worn as part of a three piece suit, it can be a great item to wear on its own as the centre piece of your outfit. However, in order for this to work, you need to make sure the material, colour and pattern of your waistcoat compliments the rest of your outfit.

When it comes to materials you want to stick to natural fabrics. Avoid any completely polyester waistcoats and stick to cotton, linen and wool. This will not only be more comfortable for you to wear, but will look a hundred percent better on you, avoiding looking like a waiter with that shiny polyester look.

Avoid wearing a waistcoat with any accessories. The waistcoat is an accessory in itself and thereby already gives your outfit all the extra detail it needs. If you start attaching pins or pocket watches you’re just going to look like a steampunk cosplayer. Additionally, although patterns can add detail to your waistcoat, avoid any fancy lace or detailing. Unless you’re going to a wedding you’re going to look over dressed.

Button Waistcoat

Almost any waistcoat you come across is going to have buttons down the front. These buttons are their for a reason and you should use them. Some men have in the past thought that it’s ok to wear a waistcoat with the buttons undone. Don’t do it, this isn’t a sports jacket. If you don’t do up your waistcoat buttons then you will be flapping about all over the place, loosing any formal sense of style that you gained with the waistcoat. The whole point of a waistcoat is to tidy up your outfit whilst adding a subtle and stylish detail. If you unbutton it you will just look as if you haven’t dressed yourself properly.

waist coat button
Bottom Button Undone | PHOTO CREDIT: Me My Suit and Tie

Bottom Button Unbuttoned

I know we’ve just told you that you must, under all circumstances, button up your waistcoat. Which is still true. However, this is with the exception of the very last button of the waistcoat. In many ways, the bottom button of a men’s waistcoat is completely pointless. When you raise your arms or move around you’re applying pull and pressure to your waistcoat. Leaving the bottom button undone reduces this and stops the buttons popping off after a few beers.

Waistcoat with a Suit

The most classic way in which to wear a waistcoat is as part of a suit ensemble. There is a reason that a three piece suit has been a stylish part of mens fashion for decades. In many ways, a three piece suit is the epitome of style, class and formality for mens fashion. If done correctly.

If you’re going to wear a waistcoat with a suit jacket be sure that the colour or pattern is very similar if not exactly the same. Unlike when wearing a shirt with a different colour or pattern to your jacket, a waistcoat should match your jacket in a way that makes it appear almost as if it’s part of the jacket. This will create a continuity to your outfit and add to the stylish flare of the waistcoat jacket combination.

blue three piece suit
PHOTO CREDIT: Robbreport

Also make sure that you don’t do up your jacket over the waistcoat. If you’re just going to end up hiding it behind your jacket, why go to all the trouble of wearing a beautifully patterned waistcoat? Leave it on show for all the world to see and it will add a great detail to your suit without appearing too cluttered.

Waistcoat and Jeans

If a three-piece suit is too formal for you, there are plenty of ways to wear a waistcoat vest for men in a more casual but stylish way. The easiest way to do this is by wearing a waistcoat with jeans. When you’re wearing a waistcoat with jeans think about being a bit more experimental with colour and pattern.

Without a suit jacket, your waistcoat will become the centre piece of your outfit. This means that you are now free to wear exciting colours and patterns that you can base the rest of your outfit around. A good way to do this is by wearing various textures. For instance, a checkered tweed waistcoat combined with some dark navy blue jeans and a blue checkered shirt gives a great rustic aesthetic to your outfit in a smart casual way.

waistcoat and jeans combo

Once again, a lot of this depends on the material of the waistcoat. You could wear a thick wool, or corduroy waistcoat for an interesting style that you don’t usually get with more typical cotton vests.

Remember that your shirt should always be tucked in when you’re wearing a waistcoat. The bottom of your vest should sit at, you guessed it, your waist. Nothing should come below the waistcoat and it should connect straight on to your trousers. In terms of ties, it is entirely up to you. Traditionally, you would always wear a tie with a waistcoat as it can bring the whole outfit to a neat conclusion. However, if you’re trying to go for a particularly relaxed look then you could possibly wear one without a tie.

Brown Herringbone Vest

If you’re looking for a bit of inspiration for typical vest and waistcoat styles then why not start with one of the most classic? A brown tweed Herringbone waistcoat vest is about as classic as they get.

If you wear a brown tweed Herringbone waistcoat with a pair of blue jeans or check trousers you will have a great stylish combination. Be careful what kind of shirt you combine with this as you may end up looking like a farmer. So try not to wear any flat capswith it. A plain neutral coloured shirt will work perfectly. If you want a pattern, try a thin vertical stripe or small check.

brown herringbone combo

To finish off this classic look, add some brown leather brogues, and a knitwear tie. The brogues and tie will contribute to the overall rustic feel and give a great hipster look. All you need now is a big ginger beard and you’ll basically be a member of Mumford and Sons.

Your Quick Guide on How to Wear a Waistcoat:

  • Make sure you get a waistcoat that fits properly. You won’t be able to breath properly if it’s too small, and anything too big, you’ll look like a balloon.
  • Stick to natural materials. Buy a waistcoat in cotton, wool or linen. Avoid any cheap polyester vests, you will definitely be able to tell the difference.
  • Button your waistcoat up. If you’re wearing a waistcoat, do all the buttons up accept the last one. You don’t want it flapping in the breeze, but don’t want it to pop open either.
  • Experiment with different combinations. Don’t be afraid to have fun with a waistcoat. Wear it on its own with some jeans and a shirt, or as part of a suit ensemble.

On That Note…

The waistcoat has a history in men’s fashion that spans back for hundreds of years. After all that time it remains one of the most classic and stylish items of clothing a man can own. Whether you’re wearing it as part of a suit to add an extra layer of formality, or wearing it as the centre piece to your entire outfit. Follow this style guide and you will be donning some dapper vests in no time.


What is the difference between an iron and clothes steamer?

Similar to an iron, water is placed in a capsule and heats up but where they differ is in the application and result – steamers don’t make direct contact with clothes, thus preserving high quality fabrics and achieving a crease-free look on even the most difficult-to-reach spots. As they work more quickly than irons, you’ll also save time and energy and their portability means you can take them anywhere.

Pro tips for a wrinkle-free wardrobe

1. After you have allowed your steamer to fully heat up, test it on a kitchen towel first to prevent any water sputtering all over your clothes. And always steam in a vertical position!

2. Be aware of the type of fabric you are working with. Silk should be steamed from the reverse side to avoid water streaks and velvet should never touch the face of the steamer.

3. Use distilled/deionized water to fill your clothes steamer. Hard water minerals found in tap water such as calcium and magnesium can clog clothes steamers and decrease their overall effectiveness. Distilled water is readily available from most grocery stores and cost about £1 for 2.5L.

4. Clean you clothes steamer with white distilled vinegar. Fill the tank with the vinegar (white distilled only), allow to heat completely then push all the steam out into your kitchen or bathroom sink. Repeat with distilled water to remove any trace of the vinegar and voilà, a good as new clothes steamer.

Here’s our pick of the best.

Fridja F10 Handheld Travel Clothes Steamer

If aesthetics are important to you it doesn’t get much cuter than the Fridja F10, which comes in black, white or pink. Taking only 45 seconds to heat up, it makes quick work of crumpled clothing – especially as the steam jet can be held down continuously for up to 14 minutes.

The handle is slim and the model is light, making it easy to manouver around garments and the chord stretches to almost two metres, which is great if your plug points are in awkward places. Add-ons such as the delicate fabric guard and collar press come in handy whilst the anti-calcium water tank gave us assurance that the product will is durable. Though one of the pricier products on the list, all these factors add up to make it a favourite.

£99.99 | Amazon | Buy it now

Beautural Clothing Steamer 

The 1200W of power provided by this steamer make it a power house at getting out tough creases and enables it to work continuously for up to 15 minutes. What’s more, it works on multiple fabrics including cotton, wool, silk, polyester, velvet and linen to name but a few. What we really love about this model, though, is its intuitive, simple design.

There’s an on/off button and trigger which can be manually activated or set on a lock (allowing a continual flow of steam) and it works both vertically and horizontally thanks to the small pump in the water tank. Aside from that, all you need to do is ensure the no-spill vessel is filled up. Added conveniences such as the 360 degree swivel chord and 35 second heating time make it a particularly user-friendly model.

£29.99 | Amazon | Buy it now

Pro Breeze Garment Steamer 

A truly multi-purpose item, the Pro Breeze Garment Steamer isn’t just good for clothes – it can be used on furniture, upholstery and, most importantly, bedding too (a dream if you love perfectly smooth bedsheets but can’t be bothered to iron them).

Looking a little like a watering can, it’s easy to grip although is a little on the heavier side. It comes with a safety auto-shut-off which disables the steamer if it overheats or runs out of water, bringing us peace of mind in those unpredictable moments such as when the phone rings, the doorbell goes or a child under our care starts climbing into the toilet (for example…). This one also works well on beaded and sequined garments – a god send if you’ve been wondering what to do with that crumpled ballgown that’s been sitting at the bottom of your wardrobe since last year’s Christmas party.

£24.99 | Amazon | Buy it now

Philips Styletouch Pure GC442 Compact Garment Steamer

Streamline and compact, the Philips Styletouch is a small enough model to pack into hand luggage or a suitcase without taking up too much weight and space.

It comes with three buttons that are easy enough to understand without even having to look at the instructions (although we’d always advise that you do) – there’s an on/off switch, a gauge to control the amount of steam that’s released and a button to release the steam.

The small brushes at the top are really handy for protecting your clothes as they create a helpful barrier and the detachable chord makes it much easier to fill up at the sink.  

£99.99 | Argos | Buy it now *On sale now

Vivreal Clothes Steamer 

This is a particularly budget friendly model and actually delivers a lot for its small price. It’ll be ready to go in 80 seconds and can continually steam for up to eight minutes, working on everything from wedding dresses and curtains to carpets.

With an easy to hold handle and thin nozzle, we found it worked particularly well on more delicate and intricately constructed items such as tops with ruffles and pleated skirts. It’s simple to use, too – the water container uses a simple cap, much like a kettle, forgoing the more fiddly screw tops on other varieties.

£21.99 | Amazon | Buy it now

Tefal DR8085 Handheld Garment Steamer

Looking more like a retro microphone than a clothes steamer, the Tefal DR8085 is one of the most aesthetically pleasing on the list.

Its steaming works well on some of the more crease-prone synthetic fabrics, creating a smooth finish quickly and thanks to its 45 second heat up time, you can have you don’t need to set aside much time to use it.

On the plus side, its chord is two metres long, allowing for greater flexibility when in use, but it is on the heavier side, so if you plan to steam multiple items in one go, you may want to choose a lighter option.

£39.58 | Amazon | Buy it now

Von Haus Handheld Garment Steamer

Cheap and cheerful, this is a great option to try before committing to buying a more expensive model and works well as a portable option for travelling, weighing in at just 640 grams when empty.

Heating up in 90 seconds, it can work continuously for up to six minutes and comes with a handy clear window to help you gauge how much water is left.

Though it doesn’t pack enough of a punch to completely decrease stubborn items such as cotton shirts, it works wonders on gauzy fabrics and more floaty pieces. 

£11.99 | Amazon | Buy it now


BOKEH 1200 Multi-Purpose Clothes Steamer and Travel Kettle 

Yep, you read that correctly – this one doubles up as a travel kettle, making it the ultimate travel companion. With a 450ml tank, it’ll work as a steamer for much longer periods than most and has enough capacity to make two cups of tea at once.

Heating up in just 35 seconds, the model is lightweight and can used with both hard and soft water. The four steam jets are small, helping it create high pressure for the more stubborn creases you’re tasked with removing. Nifty and compact, its ingenious design is something of a space – and life – saver whilst travelling.

£29.99 | Amazon | Buy it now

Efbe-Shott Hand Held Garment Steamer

With a special adaptor for creasing trousers, this one is a great option if you have to wear a suit for work and travel a lot. Its wide surface area gets the job done quickly and hold-down button is easy to manoeuvre. Weighing just 1kg, it’s light enough to pack into hand luggage and isn’t as awkward a shape as some of the other models, making it easier to slot in beside your other belongings.

£12.98 | Amazon | Buy it now