Waistcoat vs Vest: What's the Difference?

Waistcoat vs Vest: What's the Difference?

Waistcoats and vests are two popular fashion accessories. As you may know, they both consist of a sleeveless upper-body garment that's worn over a shirt or top. You can wear either a waistcoat or a vest over a button-up dress shirt, for instance, to enhance your appearance while creating a more formal outfit in the process.

Waistcoats and vests aren't the same, however. They are two different fashion accessories with their own unique characteristics. Therefore, you should familiarize yourself with the differences between waistcoats and vests before purchasing either of these fashion accessories. Only then will you be able to choose the right accessory for your needs.

What Is a Waistcoat?

A waistcoat is a formal and sleeveless upper-body garment. They typically feature a single column of buttons on the front. After unfastening the buttons, you can place the waistcoat over your shirt or top. You can then secure the waistcoat by refastening the buttons.

Waistcoats have been around for centuries. Even after all those years, they remain a staple fashion accessory. You'll often find them in three-piece suits, for instance. For a suit to be considered "three piece," in fact, it must contain a pair of trousers with a matching suit jacket and a waistcoat. The waistcoat doesn't have to necessarily match the trousers and jackets, but it's still an integral component of a three-piece suit nonetheless.

What Is a Vest?

A vest, on the other hand, is an informal and sleeveless upper-body garment. Like waistcoats, they are worn over a shirt or top. Many men wear them over button-up dress shirts.

Based on their appearance alone, it's difficult to tell what, exactly, the difference is between a waistcoat and a vest. After all, they both consist of a sleeveless upper-body garment that's worn over a shirt or top. With that said, vests are considered less formal than waistcoats.

Differences Between Waistcoats and Vests

Waistcoats and vests are similar in the sense that they both consist of a sleeveless upper-body garment that's worn over a shirt or top. The primary difference between them is that waistcoats are formal, whereas vests are informal.

Waistcoats are typically designed with higher-quality materials, as well as better construction practices, than vests. While vests are often low quality, waistcoats feature a premium quality that manifests in the form of a better fit, better appearance and overall better value.

If you're planning to wear a suit, you should choose a waistcoat. Suits, of course, are formal, so they require the use of formal accessories. As previously mentioned, vests are considered informal, so you shouldn't wear a vest with a suit. You need to ensure that all your accessories are formal so that they flow with the formal and cohesive style of your suit. Otherwise, your outfit won't look right.

It's also worth noting that the buttons may differ on waistcoat and vests. Waistcoats always have at least one column of buttons. Some feature a single column of buttons, while others feature two columns of buttons. Regardless, all waistcoats have buttons on the front. In comparison, vests may or may not have buttons on the front. Many vests feature a throw-on design that doesn't have any buttons or other fasteners.

Benefits of Wearing a Waistcoat

Wearing a waistcoat will help you create a more formal appearance with your suit. From business meetings and job interviews to weddings, graduations and more, countless occasions call for a formal outfit. If you're planning to attend a formal event, you'll need to wear a formal outfit. Among other things, this means you'll need to avoid wearing a vest and, instead, wear a waistcoat.

You can also beat the cold weather by wearing a waistcoat. Whether it's made of cotton, linen, wool, tweed or any other common material, it will create an extra later between your body and the surrounding environment. As a result, you'll stay a little warmer while wearing a waistcoat.

Finally, waistcoats are easy to take on and off. If you get tired of wearing your waistcoat halfway through the day, you can remove it. Just unfasten the buttons, at which point you can pull it off. Because of this, you can wear a waistcoat during any season of the year.

Benefits of Wearing a Vest

While waistcoats are stylish and comfortable, there are reasons to consider wearing a vest as well. For starters, vests are highly versatile and can be worn with many different outfits. You won't be able to wear a vest with formal outfits, but you will be able to wear them with casual outfits.

Like waistcoats, vests are also easy to take on and off. Buttonless vests, for example, are particularly easy to take on and off. You don't have fiddle with the buttons. Rather, you can simply pull off your vest if you're tired of wearing it.

Many vests also cost less than waistcoats. This is because vests are designed with lower-quality materials with a focus on mass production. If you're on a tight budget -- and assuming you want an informal accessory -- you may want to choose a vest rather than a waistcoat.

Choosing Between a Waistcoat and Vest

So, should you choose a waistcoat or vest? To answer this question, you need to take a few steps back to evaluate the outfit with which you intend to wear it. If you're planning to wear an informal outfit, such as jeans and a button-up dress shirt, you should choose a vest. If you're planning to wear a formal outfit, such as a suit, you should choose a waistcoat.

Waistcoats and vests are strikingly similar, but the former offers an exceptionally higher level of formality than the latter. And because of their formal appearance, waistcoats are the perfect accessory for a suit. Just remember to choose a waistcoat that flows with your suit.