How To Style A Men’s Waistcoat Casually (2023)

Looking to elevate your sartorially inclined game? Cue the men’s waistcoat. And we’re talking in a casual capacity. Sure, a waistcoat can be worn as part of a three piece suit – but what about as a separate entity, paired with trousers, chinos or a pair of dark denim. Not only does this timeless piece of clothing never go out of style – it also happens to add a fairly healthy dose of flair to any ensemble. In this blog post, we’ll cover how to wear a waistcoat casually and nail that smart casual endeavor. We will cover the various types of waistcoats, waistcoat fabrics & seasons, and how to style it – along with paying attention to relevant details.

How To Style A Men’s Waistcoat Casually (1)

A waistcoat helps in accentuating that refined, dapper, smart casual look! Courtesy of

Before delving into the details of wearing a waistcoat – why should we strut one in the first place? A waistcoat, through the sheer act of incorporating it into your ensemble, adds a certain aura of elusiveness. While waistcoats have traditionally been reserved for more formal events and their associated three piece suits, the strong emergence of smart casual wear has made the waistcoat a staple in the discerning gentleman’s wardrobe.

How To Style A Men’s Waistcoat Casually (2)

A waistcoat adds a significant element of pop in a more formal setting. Courtesy of

While the waistcoat adds a dapper element under your suit jacket during the winter months, it acts as a great layer during the fall season and as a definitive alternative to a sports jacket during the spring / summer months!

Worn aptly, this particular piece of clothing slims down your silhouette, while adding both visual depth and interest to your aesthetic. So….what’s there not to like?

When opting to strut a waistcoat casually, eschew silk, sheeny materials in lieu of something more textured. This prevents your ensemble from appearing too sleek.

While a woolen suit will traditionally require a woolen waistcoat, tweed waistcoats work great in a more casual capacity, especially during the fall / winter months. A tweed waistcoat is both stylish and comfortable, adding more than a touch of sophistication to your look.

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Tweed waistcoats, given their texture and insulative properties, are well suited towards fall & winter seasons. Courtesy of

A tweed waistcoat also ensures that significant thought was put into creating your look, as opposed to mismatching your trousers, chinos or dark denim with your three piece suit’s waistcoat.

Texture is of paramount importance when figuring out your waistcoat game. The best textured fabrics consist of natural fibers such as wool, tweed, brushed cotton, corduroy and linens. Natural fibers have insulative properties in addition to being more breathable, and hence don’t retain odors in the same manner that synthetic fibers do.

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Lighter, more breathable fabrics such as seersucker are an ideal complement during the spring / summer months! Courtesy of

Fabric composition that is marginally comprised of polyester can work well, as it will provide your waistcoat with some rigidity – essentially implying that it creases less than a purely natural fiber based article of clothing.

Similar to looking for a suit jacket or blazer, go for quality materials that correspond with the weather. Hence tweed (and dare I say) corduroy work best for winter months, while linen, cotton or seersucker work best during spring / summer season.

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Cotton waistcoats work best during the spring / summer months! Courtesy of

Single Breasted Waistcoats are great for creating a relaxed yet refined aesthetic. These waistcoats can be worn with dark denim or chinos and look particularly impressive with an open dress shirt. Double Breasted waistcoats, by comparison, tend to be more formal.

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(Video) Contemporary Ways To Style The Waistcoat

A single breasted waistcoat provides for smart, chic wear! Courtesy of

Single Breasted waistcoats are considered the more contemporary choice, especially when worn as part of a dapper three piece suit. These waistcoats usually come without lapels, making them the sleeker, more minimalistic option. The double breasted waistcoat, by comparison, is typically accompanied by peak, notch or shawl lapels, resulting in a more traditional look.

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A double breasted waistcoat, even when worn in a smart casual capacity, provides for a more formal look. Courtesy of

Achieving the perfect fit for a casual waistcoat is imperative to creating that effortlessly stylistic look. When deciding on a smart casual waistcoat that is paired with trousers, chinos or dark denim, look for a modern streamlined look that follows the lines of your body, such as a slim-fitting style.

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Courtesy of

To ensure the best fit when strutting your waistcoat, we suggest the following:

  • A waistcoat that fits closely at the shoulders and chest
  • High enough armholes that are still comfortable and don’t restrict freedom of movement
  • Length of the waistcoat should end just above the hip
  • The front of the waistcoat should fasten comfortably, without pulling at the fabric.

What to avoid: Going for an urban, oversized look. The additional billowing of material will make your waistcoat look boxy. The whole purpose of the waistcoat is to provide you with a refined, streamlined silhouette.

The key to styling a waistcoat is to aim for a relaxed, dapper look, versus strutting a three piece suit (where a waistcoat is worn in a more formal capacity).

A waistcoat is a highly versatile piece that can be worn in various settings. As such, working with an appropriate style is highly important.

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While we are not discussing wearing waistcoats with a traditional three piece suit in this article, trousers (separates – standalone pants) are a great option for styling a waistcoat in a smart casual setting.

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Incredibly sharp attire, featuring a stunning plaid waistcoat paired with trousers.

One of the best ways to style a waistcoat casually is with chinos. Chinos happen to be an ideal choice given that they are both stylish and comfortable. For a classic, timeless look try pairing a navy waistcoat with tan or grey chinos. Alternatively, for a more contemporary twist, why not opt for an olive green or burgundy waistcoat with light blue, or dare I say, light pink chinos.

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A light grey double breasted waistcoat works effortlessly with these navy chinos. Courtesy of

Looking for something more casual, but equally dapper? Dark denim, well fitted jeans pair perfectly with a waistcoat. For a more trendy look, pair your favorite pair of jeans with a check or patterned waistcoat. To keep the look smart and casual, ensure that you pair your jeans with a subtle, accented waistcoat.

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Courtesy of

A collared dress shirt is also a great choice for wearing a waistcoat casually. Opt for a plain white dress shirt and pair it with a textured or patterned waistcoat for an effortless, smart casual look.

As an alternative to a white dress shirt, you can decide upon a shorter sleeve dress shirt, or a long sleeve dress shirt with your sleeves rolled up – the epitome of casual chic!

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Rolled up shirt sleeves add to the visual pop created by this stunning waistcoat! Courtesy of

Finally, a sports jacket can be worn in conjunction with a waistcoat. Try going for a sports jacket that is tailored and slim fitting, which helps in creating a more streamlined look.

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Courtesy of

  • Traditional silk neckties can work extremely well with a waistcoat. We would, however, recommend sticking to solids or a larger spaced pattern such as a polka dot tie, to add further visual intrigue to your outfit. Furthermore, a solid pattern or larger spaced pattern should result in less clashing between your necktie, shirt and waistcoat designs.
  • As an alternative, we suggest opting for a knitted tie. These casual alternatives to a silk tie make perfect sense, given that they are congruent with the smart casual connotations of the waistcoat. Knitted ties, as the name implies, are ties that have been knitted as opposed to woven. As such, these ties are characterized by an open weave, a narrow blade (2.0 to 2.5 inches) and square ends (versus triangular, pointed ends that you typically see with traditional silk ties). Knitted Ties will help add textural depth to your waistcoat ensembles. Additionally, given that knitted ties are usually presented in alternative patterns, such as horizontal stripes, they will also add an aesthetic point of differentiation.

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Courtesy of

  • Pocket Squares are another seamless, effortless option for accessorizing your waistcoat. Similar to neckties – while you could opt for a silk pocket square with more lustre, we suggest deciding upon a linen or cotton pocket square – adding further textural differentiation to your ensemble.

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Courtesy of

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  • While ties and pocket squares can be worn together, we do suggest choosing just one with a waistcoat, given that the whole point is to dress smart casual, and not overtly formal.
  • A pocket watch, as the name suggests, is a watch that is meant to be carried in your pocket. Pocket watches come with an attached chain to be fastened to your waistcoat.
  • And finally, lapel pins / lapel flowers. These are an ideal way to accessorize your waistcoat and elevate your style game!

And that’s a wrap for this one. We hope that you have enjoyed reading this as much as we did writing it!


How do you casually style a waistcoat? ›

Casual Waistcoat

In this casual approach, don't worry about matching the fabric of your trousers to the waistcoat. Opt for a tailored pair of chinos or slim-fitting denim jeans to complete the looks. If you want to really keep things casual, do away with the jacket altogether. Keep it close by, however.

Can you wear a waistcoat casually? ›

Wear your double-breasted waistcoat with a suit or shirt that contrasts to lift your formal style. If you want to dress it down with a more casual outfit, don't let the double-breasted style stop you – it can look just as good with jeans, chinos or a more casual style.

What is the etiquette for wearing a waistcoat? ›

Waistcoats. When wearing a waistcoat keep the bottom button undone on the waistcoat. If you wear a jacket over the top, generally no jacket buttons are done up, or the rules above are followed.

Is it OK to wear a waistcoat without a jacket? ›

For formal events, it is generally not appropriate to wear a vest without a jacket. However, for more casual occasions or when wearing a casual vest, such as a sweater vest or a puffer vest, it can be acceptable to wear it without a jacket.

Is waistcoat formal or casual? ›

A waistcoat is generally associated with formal events, and wearing it underneath a jacket with a three-piece suit is the classic and preferred choice. Go with a cotton waistcoat underneath a three-piece suit, which tends to look the most formal and creates the slimmest silhouette.

What jeans to wear with waistcoat? ›

You should also only wear dark wash straight leg jeans with any waistcoat as light wash jeans look far too casual. You can also wear chinos with a waistcoat but again, stick to dark colours so your waistcoat does all the talking.

Why do people not wear waistcoats anymore? ›

Wartime Fabric Rationing

Double-breasted suits were banned, lapels were made narrower, pockets were made less numerous, and, worst of all, turn-ups or cuffs were also banned. Fabric rationing during World War II also led in part to the decline of waistcoats.

Do waistcoats make you look slimmer? ›

A three-piece suit can be very slimming because the waistcoat gives you the illusion of having a smaller waist. If you love how you look in a double-breasted jacket, by all means, go for it, however, if your goal is to look slimmer, wear a one or two buttoned ,single-breasted jacket instead.

Can a groom just wear a waistcoat? ›

Waistcoats for weddings are almost compulsory if you wear a morning suit, but you can add an air of modernity and personality beyond the usual silver and cream men's waistcoats for weddings. Blue, red, green, or patterned are more and more common nowadays.

Should you see shirt below waistcoat? ›

The most important element of a proper fitting waistcoat is the length. It should fully cover the entire waistband of the trouser and never let any shirt fabric show in between.

Do you wear a shirt in or out with a waistcoat? ›

Don't leave your shirt untucked

However, one piece of advice that still applies when wearing a waistcoat is to avoid an untucked shirt. This does not look fashionable and instead creates an impression of overall sloppiness.

Should waistcoat be lighter or darker than suit? ›

Basically, your vest should match -- or at least flow cohesively with -- your suit jacket and trousers. Most men prefer to wear a vest in the same color as the rest of their suit. If you're planning to wear a navy suit jacket with a pair of navy trousers, for example, you may want to choose a similar navy-colored vest.

Why do you not do up the bottom button on a waistcoat? ›

Single-Breasted Waistcoat

You don't want to have to undo a button every time you sit down like you would a jacket. The derivation stems from that same practical reasoning. It is generally believed that the ever-expanding King Edward VII could not sit down on his horse with his bottom button done up.

What are the benefits of wearing a waistcoat? ›

There are obvious practical advantages to wearing a waistcoat. It is quick to change; and easy to discard if it gets too hot, and easy to put back on if turns cold. A waistcoat helps to hold in the stomach and make the wearer look slimmer.

Should waistcoat be loose or tight? ›

A properly fitted waistcoat should be snug in the body but not so tight that the buttons pull. It should also be long enough to hit about an inch below the trouser waistband, showing no dress shirt between the two garments.

What occasion should I wear a waistcoat on? ›

Traditionally a waistcoat was worn to hide a man's breeches. It also serves to keep any excess material from your shirt in check, so everything is carefully hidden away, except for the impactful triangle of your shirt and your tie or bow-tie. Simplicity is key.

Is a waistcoat fashionable? ›

No, you're not imagining things: waistcoats are everywhere these days. The somewhat debonair, definitely chic look has come in and out of style for decades and holds a lot of sartorial power for those confident enough to give it a try.

Is just a waistcoat OK for a black tie event? ›

A waistcoat is optional, but it must match the jacket and it must never be worn with a cummerbund (they essentially do the same job of creating rigidity and good upright posture). Yes, we've mentioned that black is quite important for the black tie outfit.

Can I wear a waistcoat with a 2 piece suit? ›

A matching color fabric vest can add a new dimension to a 2-piece suit and a vest with contrasting fabric can give more character to a business suit. The vest should have the same fabric as the jacket and trousers. The waistcoat which consists of an odd vest and suit is not considered as a real three-piece suit.

How do you know if your waistcoat is too big? ›

The great thing about waistcoats is that they act a bit like a corset. They're great for slimming you down. To ensure you achieve this effect, make sure it's not too loose or too tight. Too loose and it'll just look baggy; too tight and you'll be showing off your lumps and bumps.

Do you have to wear a blazer with a waistcoat? ›

How to wear the vest. Excluding exceptions, the vest must always be worn over a shirt with a buttoned collar and under a single-breasted jacket or blazer. It should never be worn under a double-breasted jacket: the neck of the jacket, in fact, must be large enough to allow the waistcoat to be visible.

Do you wear a belt with a waistcoat? ›

As mentioned in our 25 Tips to Dress More Elegantly, when you wear a vest, always skip the belt in favor of side adjusters or braces for your trousers. A belt will always make your vest stand away from your pants' waistband, which looks bulky and crowded.

Why do men no longer wear suits? ›

Now, the “suit” has become casual-looking and has taken a back seat to more causal clothing styles like t-shirts and jeans. With globalization, American clothing standards have caused many other countries to emulate the same causal dressing styles, causing a decline in the “traditional” suit's use in daily life.

How do you style a suit vest casually? ›

Wear your vest over a button-up shirt for a casual yet professional look. Roll up your sleeves and leave the neck button of your shirt undone. Don't wear a tie with this outfit, or else you'll look more formal than casual.

Are waistcoats old fashioned? ›

But while the vest was a menswear mainstay from 1666 through the mid-20th century, its popularity has diminished significantly since the 1960s or so.

Can you wear a vest casually? ›

A vest is a sleeveless, upper-body garment. You can wear this versatile article of clothing with a dress shirt and necktie for formalwear or a T-shirt for a smart-casual look.

How do you make a suit look casual? ›

Choose a high quality T-Shirt that contrasts with the color of your suit jacket. Pair this look with clean and simple sneakers or loafers to emphasize the casual attitude of this outfit. Wearing a polo shirt with a suit is a more forgiving casual suit look thanks to the presence of a collar.

What is the difference between a waistcoat and a vest? ›

Waistcoats And Vests: What's The Difference? Simply put, there is no difference between a waistcoat and a vest – the difference is purely linguistic. Both terms refer to the same style of garment: a short, form-fitting, sleeveless item of clothing worn over a shirt and under a suit jacket or blazer.


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