A common variation to the classic suit is the three-piece suit that is essentially a suit jacket and pants with a matching vest. Though the added element that is the vest is supposed to make a suit seem more formal (and in some cases, more suitable for weddings), the great thing about the vest is that it can still be worn in a casual manner that makes it an ideal light-weight layering piece. Thus, the most appropriate time to wear a vest without a suit is when it is used to complement a more relaxed ensemble.
With that said, wearing a vest without the matching suit is an appropriate and highly efficient way of dressing up a casual outfit that consists of a button-down shirt and jeans. By acting as a simple layering piece, adding a vest to a look is an easy way of making an outfit seem more fashionable and better thought-out, while still retaining the outfit’s original laid-back nature.
One of the advantages of wearing a vest without its matching suit is the fact that the vest thankfully conserves its abilities of flattering the waist. Seeing as the vest is also alternatively called a waistcoat, the vest has the valuable benefit of making a waist seem much smaller than it truly is because it streamlines the torso while hiding the side and back bunching of the tucked-in shirt. Consequently, wearing a vest without a suit can give a casual outfit a more tailored quality.
On that note, an important rule that must be followed when wearing a vest without a suit is to ensure that the vest fits properly. According to Be Better Guys, “the key is a somewhat snug fit [that] hits you at the waist”. If not, the wrong proportions could make the vest seem completely inappropriate.
Another element that makes wearing a vest without a suit an appropriate option for casual attire is the fact that this combination of formal-wear and day-wear is one that is completely unexpected, yet undeniably modern. When a vest is worn without a suit, this reinterpretation of the vest’s formal nature allows the wearer to take advantage of its unique versatility which enables it to be worn with anything from dark-wash jeans to casual khakis.
One celebrity that is notably fond of this trend is Justin Timberlake. He is often seen wearing a vest over a button-down shirt and jeans, and occasionally capping the entire look with a tie when necessary. Someone else that often mixes formal pieces with casual clothes is Frank Muytjens, the head designer for J. Crew. In GQ, he was quoted saying that the best way to make a suit interesting is to “break it up and pair it with something you’d never think of”. As important fixtures in the fashion industry, both men have greatly popularized wearing a vest without a suit.
However, when wearing a vest without its matching suit, there is one very important condition that must be respected: the vest cannot be worn with another suit seeing as it was only intended to be worn with its original suit. Because all three pieces of the suit are made of the same material and are of the same colour, wearing them in a mismatched manner with pieces from other suits is certainly not recommended because it takes away from refinement and tailoring of the pieces.
Therefore, it definitely is appropriate to wear a vest without a suit because it can dress-up any casual outfit while being a light-weight layering piece. Throwing on a vest over a button-down and jeans is an effortless way of being stylish, yet still laid-back.