The swift resurgence of the outdoor vest in the last few years is a nice reminder of the many ways it can upgrade to your winter style arsenal. Bundling up the torso with lightweight warmth while still allowing for uninhibited arms is an easy sell – who needs sleeves after all? The vest has become one of my favorite cold weather staples not only because of its versatility, but they happen to pair surprisingly well with sport coats and suits making them a great layering option. Among its advantages is how the vest eliminates the fit issues in the upper arm/shoulder area when squeezing a coat over a suit.
Unlike a sweater or waistcoat, a vest can be styled on the outside or inside of a jacket and I’ve seen some excellent styles of both. The former, a bit more “Pitti Uomo”, creates a rather bold contrast between sporty and dressy that can be accentuated with unique colours, while the latter is a bit more subdued and practical as far as temperature goes.
Out of all the knitwear options, the turtleneck is certainly the most sartorial bet. A clean and modern style like a turtleneck and vest, shown above, leaves room for a heavy pattern scarf which is a bit less commonplace and a great way to showcase a unique scarf. When its cold, this look will only benefit from a sharp topcoat.
A thicker fabric sport coat can actually be winterized with the addition of a vest underneath. I've written quite a lot on sport coats and its handy qualities. One of those is how well a flannel or tweed fabric performs in winter. Pictured here, the complimentary colours in the jacket and the vest make the vest seem almost like a built in bib rather than a separate layer.
Personally, I find puffers add a bit too much bulk under a jacket so I recommend looking for thinner options, but if it works for you go for it. Just be careful that there is enough space to accommodate the vest or it will compromise the lines of the jacket. The green vest in my second look is quilted wool with cotton lining.
Be careful not to confuse the term vest with waistcoat; waistcoats are typically worn formally as part of a three-piece suit or separate under a jacket and usually with a dress shirt (waistcoats will be featured in a future article). These days you can find a wide selection of styles from lightweight synthetic puffers to sumptuous goat suede with cashmere lining and down filling – I wouldn’t mind of these ones myself.
Because of how versatile vests are, they're actually not that easy to mess it up, but the following pitfalls should still be avoided: