This is a must-have item in every man or woman’s wardrobe, but knowing which types of vests better suit your style and needs can be quite tricky. There are simply too many types of vests, and some are quite formal and go well with business attire, while others are more casual.
Some vests are thin and are great under a coat, but others are so thick they double up as a coat. Don’t worry, we’ll have a look at the various types of vests on the market and see when you’re supposed to wear each of them, and also see what you can pair it with.
One thing is for certain, vests have been around for centuries and they’re not going anywhere, so you’d better stock up on as many types as you want.
Different Types of Vests
A vest is supposed to keep you warm and if you want to feel real cozy you should choose a long one, something that covers your back and your buttocks, preferably. Women can go for even longer vests, say mid-calf if they match it with a pair of skinny jeans or a long dress.
Long vests can be made of various materials, such as wool and polyester. If you’re going to wear a long vest, keep in mind that it will become the focal point of your outfit so choose something with an eye-catching knitting pattern.
When the weather is cold but you’re not ready yet for a bulky sweater, go for a sweater vest. This is basically a sleeveless sweater you can wear over a simple white office shirt, with or without a business coat.
Such vests can be made of various materials, including wool and polyester. In many cases, polyester sweater vests are preferred because the fabric is thinner but quite as soft and warm as wool. If you’re going to wear it at the office, go for a mute color, at least if you’re a man.
The ladies can go with whatever color they feel like, provided it matches that of the skirt. On the whole, it’s not exactly formal attire, but it’s not too casual, so you can wear a sweater vest on many occasions.
Related: What To Wear Under A Sweater Vest
Plaid is a very particular type of fabric that was invented by the Scottish people many centuries ago. Their full plaid fabric came in a checkered pattern using many shades of red, green, and brown, but today any sort of color works.
To qualify as plaid, the vest should have a checkered pattern, preferably with big squares rather than small.
Some men choose to wear trousers and vests in a matching plaid pattern, but you can also wear a plaid vest with a regular pair of trousers in a solid color. However, make sure the colors complement each other.
You’d never expect an item so typical of an era to be still fashionable five decades after its heyday, but hippie vests are still around. What makes hippie vests so appealing is the loose fit and the funky fringes.
Most hippie vests are made of fake suede and they’re brown by default. It might be a light shade or a darker one, but to qualify as a hippie vest it must be brown. Since you’re going for the hippie style, you should wear such a vest with jeans or a denim skirt.
On the other hand, you can also wear a hippie vest with a long and flowing white or light-colored dress, typical of the flower-power era.
If the vest is not meant to give your outfit a stylish note and you wear it to keep you warm, you will want it to be fastened.
Full-zip vests are the best when you’re going to wear them outside. If the vest has a bit of a collar, the zipper should go all the way up. Maybe you won’t need to zip up completely, but it’s good to have the option. Puffer vests or quilted ones usually fit in this category.
This is a heavy-duty type of vest, meant for the great outdoors. They’re usually made of polyester, with a water-resistant outer layer and a soft inner layer. It is filled with an insulating material, which traps your body heat to keep you cozy in cold weather.
This is something you should wear when going on a mountain trip or if you need to do some heavy work outside. Puffer vests are long enough, sometimes going over your buttocks as well, so you’re protected against the elements.
Also, a top to bottom zipper is a must. Puffer vests come in many colors, but if you know you’re going to wear them for several days you’d better choose a dark color, so it won’t show too much if it gets a bit dirty.
There’s nothing better to channel that outdoor rugged image than a denim vest. Everybody loves denim and you must have at least one pair of jeans in your wardrobe. Who doesn’t? Denim vests are very resistant, well, obviously, that’s why we love this fabric.
At the same time, denim vests are very practical because they come with many pockets, so you have where to keep your car keys, your wallet, or your phone when you go out. Don’t look for something that looks brand new, those that looked well-worn and rugged are more fashionable.
However, try to make sure the color of the vest matches that of your jeans or even shorts because you can totally wear a vest with those as well. Or even with a skirt!
The name says it all. This is a very elegant type of vest you can easily wear at a business meeting or on formal occasions such as weddings and fancy dinner galas.
You can buy such a vest as a part of a three-piece suit, in which case it will be of the same fabric and color as the coat and pants.
However, you can also wear your favorite suit vest with only a stylish dress shirt and look quite dapper. A suit vest looks incomplete without a tie or at least a bow tie, preferably black.
Although you can find fur vests also in the men’s department, this sort of garment is vastly preferred by women. It doesn’t matter if it’s real fur or fake fur, the important thing is such a vest looks simply great and it’s soft to the touch.
You can put a fur vest over a sweater if it’s the warmth you’re after, but it can go equally well with a blouse or a shirt in a light color. You can wear a fur vest with a pair of jeans and boots, but it’s stylish enough for a dress.
When the weather gets cold outside, but you don’t feel like taking out your thick coats, why not grab a fleece vest? Even though it’s a synthetic fabric, fleece is super-soft and keeps you quite warm. The perfect fleece vest should be long enough to cover your back completely.
Some fleece vests have no type of fastening on the front, but if you want to be truly cozy look for a fleece vest with a zipper on the front.
Fleece vests come in every color imaginable so you can easily find something to match the outfit you have in mind for an informal outing or for doing some work in the garden.
However, you can also wear a fleece vest indoors, it’s much more comfortable than wrapping yourself in a blanket.
Tuxedo vests are quite similar to suit vests. Obviously, they’re meant to be worn with a tuxedo. On the other hand, such a vest doesn’t have to be the same color as the tuxedo. It can be in a light gray, for instance, or in a bright red or fuchsia, to create a bit of contrast.
If you choose to wear a tuxedo vest in a striking color make sure to accessorize your outfit with a bow tie in the same fabric and color. A tuxedo vest needs to be a bit shiny, so the best fabric for such an item is silk.
A gilet vest is much thicker and heavier than your regular vest. Basically, it’s a sort of sleeveless jacket, perfect for those who need to work outside in cold weather.
While a regular vest is figure-hugging, a gilet is straight and a bit loose, which is great as it doesn’t encumber your movements in any way.
A gilet can be made of various materials, even fleece or knit wool, but as it’s meant as outerwear, it’s preferable if it’s made with a piece of water-resistant fabric and strong enough to keep the wind out.
Also, a gilet will have at least one pocket, to keep your valuables, or many pockets, some large enough to keep small utensils you might need when working outside.
When you hear the words biker vest you immediately think of leather. True, some bikers might wear a denim vest, but the real biker vest must be made of leather.
Preferably black, if you want to look like a real bad boy biker. A real biker belonging to a motorcycle club will have the name and emblem of his club on the back of the vest and maybe some patches on the front.
Such a vest needs to be thick enough to protect you from the elements when you ride with your buddies. If you want to look like a real biker, make sure the leather is also real.
If you spend a lot of time outside during the cold season, you should definitely have a quilted vest, as this type of fabric keeps you warm and, most importantly, keeps the wind from getting to you, sending shivers down your back.
They’re surprisingly light and also quite thin, considering the warmth and comfort they provide. Since they’re fitted, they look great on both men and women.
On a late autumn day, you can wear a quilted vest over your favorite sweater and feel perfectly cozy, but, on a harsh winter day, you can have a quilted vest under your coat for extra protection.
If you want to look like a real English gentleman, you should try a tweed vest, which you can wear under a coat or even on its own. The term tweed refers to a type of woolen fabric with which is closely woven, and this makes it perfect for outerwear.
This type of garment was made popular by English, Scottish or Irish gentlemen going on a hunting trip. That was centuries ago, but now you can wear a tweed vest on an informal occasion, like a dinner with friends.
You will look very stylish if you wear a nice buttoned-down shirt under a simple tweed vest. Ties are completely optional for such an outfit.
Just as the name says, these vests are created with the traveler in mind, although you can also wear one even if you’re only traveling to the park down the street.
Traveler vests are very practical, with many pockets and secret pockets, on the inside where a tourist can safely hide money and ID.
The fabric doesn’t matter much, it can be made of denim, cotton, or leather. The important thing is that it’s sturdy enough to have your back if it gets windy and also has plenty of pockets.
However, for a summer trip, look for something that’s not too thick, cotton perhaps. Also, since it’s something you’re going to wear with many different outfits, choose one in a neutral color.
Hooded vests are just perfect for people who like to spend time outside in cold weather. You can have a hood on a puffer vest, a fleece one, or a fitted wool one.
Such garments are suitable for working outside, for going on a camping trip, but also for a simple walk on a chilly autumn day.
Some types of vest come with a detachable hood, so you can get rid of it when there’s a bit of sunshine. Hooded vests are very popular among teenagers and fitness enthusiasts.
Adjustable Weighted Vests
Alright, this type of vest has nothing to do with style or keeping you warm. Weighted vests are made for intensive training, an item you can find in the sports equipment department.
You can wear a weighted vest during a running session to exert your body a bit more and also improve your running posture.
Such a vest can also be used for weight training as well as for a regular cardio session. Beginners should start with a lower weight and build up their resistance. An adjustable weighted vest allows you to add more weight over time.
You can wear a gym vest when you go for a jog or even if you workout somewhere in the open and it might be a bit chilly. At the same time, it’s just perfect to put on after a hard training session at the gym.
When you’ve worked up quite a sweat, putting on a light gym vest will keep you warm and protect you from catching a cold. Workout vests should be made of breathable fibers to muck up moisture and prevent you from getting too hot.
If you’re going to wear it for your running sessions, a hooded gym vest might be your best choice. Who knows how the weather is going to be? You might be glad you have something to cover your head.
You don’t have to be a biker to wear a leather vest. However, leather vests for regular folk are usually thinner, so you can wear them indoors, as well as outdoors.
Both men and women can wear leather vests, which are usually fitted and close with a few buttons. Or not. Although the fabric is thin enough and you could slip it under a coat, it’s a bit too informal, so not exactly what you should wear at the office.
A leather vest would look most stylish for a relaxed dinner with friends or walk-in cool weather. Women can wear leather vests with pants, skirts, or dresses, and they go particularly well with a pair of high boots in a matching color.
What’s better than wool to keep you warm in winter? Some might say that knitted vests are for children or old people, but the truth is they’re so soft and give you such a warm fuzzy feeling, you’ll love to wear one no matter what age you are.
If you have a granny that loves knitting you can have a nice fitted and totally unique vest. Knitted vests are very fashionable and can be worn both inside and outside.
For inside wear a short vest, down to the waistline, should be enough, but for outerwear, you can have a longer one to keep you cozy. For women, knitted vests go particularly well with a tight skirt and a shirt or a light sweater.
To put it simply, the term waistcoat is just another way of saying vest. However, a waistcoat only refers to the suit vest type of garment. It’s rather formal attire and it can be in both single-breasted or double-breasted style.
A really cool waistcoat will have a rich appearance with a fabric in a subtle print or it may have small lapels, to make it look more like a tuxedo than a simple vest.
It’s the type of thing you’ll only wear on very formal occasions, like a business dinner or a gala concert, and not on its own. A waistcoat always comes with a coat!
There are many vests that do not close at the front, but if you want to be nice and warm you might prefer buttons on your knitted vest. At the same time, buttons are also a question of style when it comes to vests.
You won’t see a gentleman wearing a buttonless vest under a formal business coat. With formal attire, the buttons are usually small and unobtrusive.
They’re not meant to be seen at all. However, for a knitted vest, you can choose large colorful buttons to give it more style.
That’s more of a military outfit, but there are a lot of men who love such a vest even if they’re not in the military. A tactical vest is heavy and quite bulky, but it offers you some degree of protection.
The most important aspect is that a tactical vest has plenty of pockets, to keep everything you need at hand.
Some pockets can be so big they count as pouches and you can store big items inside. You might find this sort of vest useful when you go on a camping trip.
This type of vests is made of resistant fabric, which is a must if you’re going to be out there all day long in all sorts of terrain.
A hunting vest should be thick enough to keep you well protected on a cool day, but it also needs to have lots of pockets to store everything you need on a hunting trip.
Preferably, a hunting vest should be in a bright color, preferably orange, something that stands out. This way your buddies won’t confuse you with some sort of animal and try to hunt you down.
Safety vests are necessary for many outdoor activities. Safety vests are usually mandatory on tourist boats and then there are the safety vests on airplanes, an item you can only hope you won’t ever get to see.
At the same time, safety vests are a must in many amusement parks, usually the kind of vest that can be fastened with cables and hooks to a safety line.
This type of vest is very useful for people who must work outside in severe weather. Such vests have built-in heating elements, usually in carbon fiber.
The temperature can be controlled via switches or USB. The heating pads are placed in various key points, like the shoulder and neck area or the lower back.
Even if you don’t have to work outside, such an item might come in handy on a camping trip or even if you go skiing.
Boating vests are basically life jackets, specially designed for people who love water sports. They usually have a nylon outer layer which makes the vest water-resistant.
Also, the interior is filled with a PE floatation foam to keep you above the water until you get rescued.
It’s a good thing to have at hand if you take your family on a boating trip, but boating vests are also recommended for water skiing, wakeboarding, and tubing.
When you spend long hours on a boat, it might get chilly, so wearing a vest is a really good idea.
However, fishing vests serve mostly a practical function and they come with many large and small pockets where you can keep all the things you might need.
A boat is not the safest place, your stuff might get damaged by water, so keeping them on you at all times is the smart thing to do.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What’s the difference between a vest and a waistcoat?
There’s not much of a difference between a vest and a waistcoat as both terms refer to a sleeveless garment to cover the upper body. The confusion stems from the fact that in the UK they call this type of garment waistcoat, while Americans call it a vest.
A waistcoat refers to a more formal garment, like the vest you might wear with a tuxedo or as part of a three-piece suit. A leather or fleece one can hardly be called a waistcoat. That’s a vest no matter which side of the Atlantic you are.
Are vests fashionable?
Vests are quite fashionable as they can make many types of outfits look very stylish. Vests go well not only with a formal business coat but also with casual outfits.
A denim vest is just perfect for an outing with friends, while a knitted vest can look very cool worn with either jeans or a skirt. Hooded vests are also extremely popular among teenagers and young sports enthusiasts.
Can vests be tailored?
You can definitely tailor a vest if you’re not comfortable with how it fits you. For instance, you can shorten a vest if you find that it shows under a coat. Also, you can make it tighter.
If you’re good at sewing you can make small alterations yourself. If not, find a tailor who can do the job for you. Making a vest larger is a bit more complicated, but doable for an experienced tailor.
Vests to wear with jeans?
Denim vests go well with jeans if they’re in a matching color. Two different shades of blue won’t go well together. On the other hand, you can also wear a puffer vest or a quilted one with a pair of jeans if the weather requires it. Also, you can wear a knitted vest with jeans or even a hooded one, if you’re going for the sporty look.