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Style Advice

Dos and don'ts of vests

Dos and don'ts of vests

Dressing for hot weather is no mean feat, even for the most style-conscious among us. As the mercury rises, you might feel inclined to strip back the layers and wear as little as possible – and for many guys, that means ditching the sleeves and donning a vest. 

Vests – also known as tank tops or singlets – can be an MVP of the warm-weather season, but it’s no secret that they can also be tricky to pull off. In fact, there’s been plenty of debate over the years as to whether the look should ever be worn in public. But we’re not here to make that decision for you. What we can do is offer some simple dos and don’ts so if you do decide to bare your biceps this summer, you’ll be doing it in style.

Do: get the fit right

If you’re already browsing for this year’s vest of choice, make sure you go for a relaxed fit that hangs about half an inch from your body with the armholes falling no lower than your top rib. Too tight and you’ll look like you’ve been caught out in your gym kit, too loose and you risk looking swamped in what should be one of the smallest items in your wardrobe. As long as your nipples are covered, your chest isn’t fully bared, and the hem is falling somewhere in line with your belt loops, you’re good to go.

Do: know the right time and place

When you’re working from home with no Zoom calls in the diary, almost anything goes. When you’re working from the office, even post-lockdown, it’s time to smarten up. The vest is an item that’s almost impossible to make formal. In fact, it doesn’t even cross into smart casual territory. Its inherently laid-back vibe makes it a perfect choice for the poolside, the park, or even when you’re working from the garden or a cafe. But when it comes to office attire, the only time a vest is appropriate is as an undershirt.

Do: layer it up

The tank top doesn’t have to be a stand-alone piece. Layer it under a loose summer shirt, or even under a linen blazer if you know you’ll be keeping it on but don’t want to feel too stuffy underneath. You’ll still have the free movement and air-flow that makes a vest favourable over a t-shirt in hot weather, but without baring your arms and shoulders.

Photographed: YMC Hot Rats Vest (Multi) ($54)

Don’t: go overboard on details

The tank top itself is statement enough. Keep it plain, or with minimal patterns like stripes. Bold florals or graphics should be reserved for safer pieces like tees and shirts, whilst slogans should be avoided altogether. If you want to make a subtle statement, go for bold block colours or pastel shades, and pair with neutral-toned bottoms.

Don’t: overcompensate 

Unless you’re a surfer dude or the frontman of a 00s indie band, casual vests are probably not in your go-to style wheelhouse. A simple, yet often negated, rule of thumb is to always buy the right size. If you're skinny, don't buy a bigger sized vest to look less skinny. If you're larger, don't buy a smaller sized vest to look smaller. Buy true-to-size, avoiding long-line cuts and ridiculously oversized arm openings or scoop-necks – we promise it will look more flattering. 

Don’t: wear something designed for a workout 

More often than not, clothes have their specific purposes they're designed for, meaning they tend to work best with other garments designed for that same purpose. With that in mind, remember that wearing your basketball jersey or workout vest under an Oxford shirt was never its intended end use. You might feel your best at the gym, but that doesn’t mean the look translates well into other settings. If you’ve got your heart set on the sporty look, go for athleisure styles like this vintage-inspired perforated jersey vest by YMC.

Words: Ella White