Your Guide To Pulling Off The Suit Vest

Suit vests may have been more popular in the past, but in the modern era, they are slowly becoming fashionable pieces of clothing. These items may be considered traditional, but they have never been thought of as dated, or unstylish. 

Your Guide To Pulling Off The Suit Vest

Now more than ever, men are turning to the suit vest to update the classic look of a suit. If you’ve never worn a suit vest before, you might be clueless as to how to style one, but we can help! 

You’ll learn how to wear a suit vest in this article, including the difference between waistcoats and a vest, how to wear them formally with a suit, and ways of pairing them with other clothing pieces for a casual look. 

If you’ve ever thought about wearing a suit vest, keep reading! 

What Are Vests?

Essentially, vests are any fabric pieces that don’t have sleeves, designed to be worn over another item of clothing, like a shirt. 

Vests are sometimes referred to as waistcoats, though there are several kinds of vests in women’s and men’s fashion. In the case of men’s clothing, men’s vests are often worn as a third component of a three-piece suit. 

The term vest came from the French word ‘veste’. This either means a sports coat or a jacket, though the French now uses the word ‘gilet’ to mean waistcoats or vests.

The word can also be traced as far back as the Ottoman Empire, as Turkish people labeled the clothing as ‘yalek’. We can see that vests in male fashion have a very deep history. 

Difference Between A Waistcoat & A Vest

People often refer to vests as a waistcoat and vice versa, but what is the difference between the two? Though many think these two words refer to the same thing, there are a few differences.

As mentioned previously, vests are any pieces of sleeveless fabric that are worn on the torso, and over another piece of clothing. Vests may be formal, but they can be designed in a casual, informal way too.

Vests can be made from any kind of fabric. These can be knitted, like sweater vests, or from moisture-wicking material for sportswear. Vests of thicker material can also be worn as outerwear in the cold.

Waistcoats are different from vests, as they need to be worn alongside a tie and jacket. These are dressier than vests and are more formal. Waistcoats tend to be cut lower and generally have just a few buttons below. Vests, in contrast, can have buttons along the whole length of the torso. 

Different Types of Vests

We’ll cover some of the most common types of vests below. 


Single-breasted vests are very popular compared to other types of vests. These generally come with 3-6 buttons, though the most classic option is the single-breasted, five-button vest. 

A vest should have, at a minimum, one more button than your suit. For instance, if your suit has three buttons, the vest should have four buttons or more. 

Double Breasted

Double-breasted vests aren’t as popular compared to single-breasted ones, but they are considered to be more formal. Double-breasted vests generally have around 4-8 buttons, though 6 is the more common. 

If you’re wearing a double-breasted vest, you need to ensure that it’s always buttoned fully. These usually have peaked lapels which make them look classy and fashionable. 

How Suit Vests Should Fit

Suit vests, and all other clothes for that matter, should fit properly on one’s frame. A right fit is essential to ensure that the wearer is comfortable and looks good. 

Many men claim that they avoid wearing suits as they aren’t as comfortable as other clothes. Despite this, it’s important to note that the suit’s characteristics aren’t what causes discomfort.

Ill-fitting attire is. Suit vests, along with all the other components of a suit, can feel comfortable enough to forget you’re wearing one. 

Clothes that fit well will always look better than ones that are too tight or baggy. These will help you look professional, clean, and polished, which is very important in a professional setting.

Suits that are too big will make one look sloppy, taking away the youth from one’s face. If they’re too tight, you’ll look heavier than you are or like you’re wearing your younger brother’s clothes. 

How Should The Front Of A Suit Vest Fit? 

Suit vests need to be slim fitting with a gentle taper as you reach the waist. This delivers a tailored and streamlined effect, which is what we want to achieve with a vest. A vest that is loose and hangs straight down from your torso will look shapeless and sloppy.

The vest’s shoulders need to fit closely, but not tight, against your frame. They need to lie evenly against your body without any spaces above the shoulders. 

The armholes need to extend high above your underarms so that it fits better on your frame. Any pulling fabric or straining buttons indicates that the vest is too small and needs to be tailored.

The vest’s neckline should have a deep V shape, but it should extend quite high along your chest. The V cut needs to be thin instead of broad, as this ensures a slight cut of your vest is visible when your suit jacket is buttoned.

As mentioned above, a vest needs to have, at a minimum, one more button than a suit jacket. The bottom button should always be left undone. 

Suit vests generally tend to be single-breasted, but if there is an occasion where you will don a double-breasted option, there’s a good chance of it having lapels.

Double-breasted vests usually have shawl or peak lapels. Despite this, you’ll need to keep the lapels hidden, as dressier, formal events will require males to leave their jackets on. 

How Should The Back Of A Suit Vest Fit? 

Suit vests tend to have a buckle in the rear that helps the user alter the vest’s waist. This can be loosened to make it more comfortable or tightened to deliver a slimmer fit. However, make sure that the buckle isn’t too loose, as this can make the vest look loose and disheveled. 

As is the case with the front of the vest, make sure that there aren’t any gaps around the shoulders or armholes. A well-fitting vest should lie smoothly next to the body. 

Ideal Length Of A Suit Vest

A suit vest needs to have the right length. It will need to pass the line of your pants and cover your entire waist. The vest should also fall roughly an inch under your pant’s waistline. 

Under no circumstances should your dress shirt poke out from beneath your suit vest. If you notice this occurring, this indicates that the vest is too small. This can easily be fixed by going for the next size up, though make sure that you tailor it so the shoulders and armholes fit correctly. 

Suit vests will normally be shorter in the back compared to the front, leaving points on both of the opening sides. 

How To Wear Suit Vests With Suits

If you want to pull a vest off, you’ll need to wear the right vest for your suit. This leaves you with two choices. 

Three-Piece Suit

The first is to wear a vest as part of a three-piece suit. These look a lot more formal compared to standard suits, giving off a classic, traditional, and professional look. 

These vests generally match the fabric and material of the pants and jacket. As long as the material is the same, you can opt for a different color, as long as it still looks cohesive.

For example, a black three-piece suit can look good with another deep-colored vest. This is fine for formal occasions unless the event is black tie. You should only wear a black vest with your suit at a black-tie event. 

If your suit’s jacket is a solid, block shade, the same must go for your vest. The same rules apply if you are wearing a patterned suit jacket, as you would wear a patterned vest to match. Don’t contrast these patterns, they need to be the same. 

Contrasting Vests With A Suit

You can go for a bolder option and wear a vest that contrasts with your suit jacket and pants. If you choose to do so, it’s a good idea to make sure that this color coordinates with the rest of the colors in your look. A color wheel can help you do this. 

Don’t go for totally contrasting colors, opt for complimentary ones instead. For instance, a royal blue jacket and pants would look great with a very light yellow vest. This is a bold look that’s fantastic for spring occasions. 

You can also mix patterned vests with a solid suit, and vice versa. Take one of the colors that are in your chosen pattern, then wear a vest in that same color. 

Going for a contrasting vest will mean that it becomes the center of attention. Traditionally, vests are designed to blend in with the rest of your suit. Contrasting vests may be a risky choice, but when done right, they can still look stylish. 

Remember that no matter how you wear your vest, details matter a lot. Don’t go for vests, pants, and jackets that have lower-quality buttons. Cheap plastic can tarnish your image and will look a lot worse than well-made metal fastenings. 

How To Wear A Vest With Other Clothing

How To Wear A Vest With Other Clothing

Waistcoats are typically only meant for formal occasions, so there isn’t much you can do with one. The same cannot be said for a suit vest, as there are many other accessories you can wear alongside one to elevate your look! 

Belt Or Suspenders

Suspenders naturally work well underneath suit vests, as the design conceals the suspenders well. 

Suspenders are also a fun fashion choice. They come in several different shades and styles, so you can opt for a different color every time you put your suit on. 

Suit vests can also conceal a belt, but remember that belts will add weight around your torso. Vests add another piece of material to your frame, so you may want to forgo a belt. This will feel more comfortable and make you look slimmer.

Nevertheless, if you prefer, you can still wear a belt with your suit vest. 

Bow Ties Or Neckties

Bow ties are much more formal compared to neckties. Black-tie events will require a black tie, which is, in most cases, a bow tie. These look very good alongside waistcoats or formal suit vests.

However, bowties aren’t the best choice for typical suit vests. If you wear a three-piece suit, go for a traditional necktie. Neckties are great for showing your personality while you wear a suit.

You can opt for a complementary color, a neutral shade, or even a fun pattern, if the occasion calls for it.


A vest worn with jeans is perfect for a smart-casual look, but you need to make sure you’re wearing the right jeans. 

Go for darker jeans in a slimmer, not skinny, cut. This is a popular, yet stylish way of wearing men’s jeans. You’ll give off a casual air without looking too drab. 

White jeans are also an option, especially in summer, but remember never to wear a t-shirt with them. This is too casual and can make you look disorganized and untidy. 

When you wear a suit vest with jeans, you can forgo the jacket and blazer, as the vest is enough to give off a smart casual look. 

Different Suit Vest Colors

If your vest is part of a suit, you should always pair the suit and vest together. However, many modern men have several mismatching suit vests in their closets. 

It can be hard to pair a contrasting vest with other colors, but when done right, these can become a stylish focal point. Contrasting vests can change the entire look of a suit. For instance, white vests look amazing with a darker jacket, along with other lighter colors, like beige and pale gray.

Different colored vests are a great way to make a person look less intimidating. They give off an informal appearance without looking too casual. If you’re struggling to do this, you can go for a vest that’s connected to other pieces in your outfit. 

For example, a deep blue vest with gentle red detailing would look great with a blue suit and a red necktie. This will give off a casual, yet classy appearance, simultaneously. 

We’ll cover some different colors of suit vests below, along with a few looks that will go well with them. 

Black Suit Vests

Black vests can be worn on various occasions, whether they are smart-casual or formal. If you are attending an extremely formal event, you need to pair a black vest with a black suit. This can be worn at weddings and other formal occasions. 

Casual looks have more options. Black vests will look great with a light blue shirt, black pants, and brown or black boots.

Another look is pairing a black vest with deep gray pants, a light blue shirt, and brown shoes. You can also substitute a navy suit with black boots. 

White shirts always look good, whether the event is formal or casual. You can add a contrasting tie for a fun, stylish look, or stick to neutrals to keep the look classy. Black vests also look amazing with dark gray pants, though you can forgo a jacket to keep the look casual. 

Gray Vests

Every man should own a gray vest, well-tailored black trousers, and dark jeans. Gray pairs well with many colors, including red and navy. 

Gray vests look great with pants in the same gray shade, along with a navy blue jacket to smarten up the look. 

You can also swap the pants for black jeans, but forgo a jacket for a casual option. This is great for lightly cool days when jackets are too hot for the season. 

Brown Vests

Brown suit vests can be tricky to pull off, but a good rule of thumb is to wear a jacket and pants in the same shade. 

Brown and blue is another classic color combination. Deep blue pants, a light blue shirt, and a brown vest are a classy, yet stylish look. 

Pair this outfit with deep brown boots, then add a tie with some of the same colors in the outfit. Ties with brown, light blue, or navy accents will seem like a natural choice. 

For an unexpected fashion choice, you can also wear brown vests with deep blue jeans. Pop on a white shirt and some brown leather boots for an informal, yet smart look. 

Red Vests

Red is a very bold color, so it can take confidence to wear it right. However, if you want to make a big impact, a red vest can certainly help you do so! 

If you don’t want to make a loud statement, wear a deeper-toned red instead. Opting for a burgundy vest over a poppy red will still make an impression without going overboard. 

Black or deep gray jackets go well with most shades of red. Match your jacket color to your pants to keep the look cohesive. 

Where Should You Wear Suit Vests?

A black-tie event is the most dressy and formal type of occasion. Males will always need to wear a vest on these occasions. Suits are not permitted, but you will need to wear a tuxedo. 

If you are attending a black-tie function, your waistcoat or vest can have lapels, but it needs to be made from the same material, fabric, and color as the rest of your tux. 

You can wear a suit vest even if the occasion isn’t as formal as a black-tie event. This is suitable for semi-formal events, business formal environments, and some casual circumstances.

Vests also serve to add a warm layer on colder evenings where two-piece suits aren’t enough to keep one warm. 

Keep in mind that while contrasting vests and suits can be fashionable, they are thought to be unsuitable for business events. If this is your preferred look, stick to wearing these items at informal events. 

It’s also a good idea to avoid wearing contrasting vests and suits at job interviews. If in doubt, a straightforward two-piece suit and a neutral tie won’t send alarm bells ringing. Just make sure that your suit is tailored well, as ill-fitting clothes will always send the wrong impression. 

The Bottom Line

Suit vests are an extremely versatile piece of clothing, but they can be tricky to pull off. The advice above will help you wear vests stylishly, no matter what the occasion is. 

Once you have more practice wearing suit vests, you’ll find that they will slowly become staple pieces within your closet! 

Just remember to make sure that these vests fit your body properly, are suitable for the occasion, and work well with the rest of your outfit. These pointers may be simple, but they can go a long way in ensuring that you look good.  

Joseph Pais