drakes cardigan waistcoat

A waistcoat is a practical piece of clothing. It keeps the trunk of your body warm, leaves your arms free and pins your tie in place. A waistcoat is also stylish. It allows for the possibility of different colours underneath a jacket and elongates the silhouette.

Unfortunately, a sweater cannot do both.

For similar reasons to those explained above, I would argue that the most practical sweater a man can wear with a jacket is a tank top – sleeveless and with the same shape, essentially, as a waistcoat.

A normal, sleeved sweater underneath a jacket creates needless bulk and heat under the arms. This is particularly true if your suit is of a Scholte-inspired, Anderson & Sheppard-modelled cut, with high armholes. As soon as the temperature rises a little, you immediately feel uncomfortable around the armpits and take the jacket off. The extra layer of clothing down the arms is equally needless and potentially uncomfortable.

So a tank top is practical and, let’s face it, looks fine as long as your jacket stays on. But it is not stylish and is damned to never be so. Occasional trends for geek chic aside, a normal (sleeved) V-neck sweater will always look the most stylish.

This occurred to me a while ago because of a recommendation on A Suitable Wardrobe where Will argued that sleeveless knitwear under a jacket is best as it performs the same function as a waistcoat.

Yes it does. But it’s hard to think of a less stylish knitwear option than the lavender tank top pictured in that post. It may look good under a jacket, but it will be very unflattering once that jacket comes off – which, I admit, most men are more likely to do more often than Will. At the very least a tank top should be just as fitted as a waistcoat, to flatter the physique. Unfortunately, this one is anything but.

I believe supporters of tank tops have unfortunately prioritised practicality over style. This does happen with more traditional gentlemen, as the geekish side of them takes over and they spend their time discussing, for example, the discovery of Russian reindeer leather rather than whether it is being used on an attractive last.

I should also mention that my opinion was backed up by the second in this ASW series – on roundneck sweaters and t-shirts with suits. Generally looks bad, and specifically looks bad in these colours (a pale orange horizontal stripe?)

Sweaters can be practical or stylish under a jacket, but never both.

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Francis

Do not agree completely. Depends on how it is worn. I have several merino wool and some cashmere sleeveless cardigans (that is what I like to call them). If worn properly go very well with jeans, or a tweed riding suit, and works nicely with bow ties too. They can be very stylish.

Kurt

Simon, you are right, but I wonder whether you are right enough. Not only are those things not stylish, they are also (I bet) not as practical as a true waistcoat.

Part of the point of a waistcoat, at least for those who aren’t obsessed with maintaining a sleek appearance, is having, even without a coat, pockets to put things–keys, pocket watch, reading glasses, lighter, or what have you.

I haven’t tried a sweater vest, but I bet the pockets would sag and shift around annoyingly, due to the nature of the fabric. Functional pockets require some rigidity.

twitter_jbosca

Hello Simon,

Apoligies if I have posted the question in the wrong area. If you wish to post my question, I of course, have no objection.

Before I ask my question – an enormous thanks for providing us with your amazing blog! I have been a keen reader of your blog, and Will’s blog, for a number of years. With you help over the years, I have a decent shirt tailor, good bespoke suits and blazers, odd trousers and overcoats from WW Chan, a solid collection of British made shoes, some good leather goods.

However, there is one specific area of my wardrobe that is a seemingly endless frustration – good quality wool and cashmere jumpers – vee necks, crew necks and cardigans of various weights. Now, I am aware of some of the worlds best producers (well at least in the UK as this is where I reside) and have tried William Lockie, Laing, amongst others. The problem is – these jumpers are simply too large for me, even in the smallest size. The chest is massive on a size 40. I am guessing this is because the average size in the UK and globally for men is increasingly large, so perhaps manufacturers need to cater to the average size man who is certainly heavier than men from several decades ago.

William Lockie will make me a smaller size (i am 5’7 and 145 pounds and the 40 from Lockie was very big on me) – but I fear the jumper will still be too large!

So – can you recommend any slimmer fitting brands for wool and cashmere jumpers. I have found:
– J Crew (i am not particularly fond of the quality but they have a slim fitting range which fits just fine)
– Epaulet in New York: I have a cardigan from this brand and it fits slim compared to the scottish brands mentioned above

Could you kindly suggest any other alternatives for the slimmer man? I know you have done some projects with an English maker for a specific type of jumper and I am open to trying this jumper, however, for thicker cardigans, v necks and crew necks I am lost….

To give you an idea of the types of jumpers I like – classics in shades of brown, blue, camel etc as in these great jumpers from Lockie that I found on Rakuten (like a Japenese ebay). Lockie or someone in Japan must have commissioned the jumpers specific for Japan

http://www.pinterest.com/jbo8080/mens-william-lockie/

Thanks Simon, sorry for the long message.

twitter_jbosca

Hi Simon, thanks for your reply. So, I have a bit of news (good and perhaps bad, although it is good news as to the quality!). So, Lockie will make you sweaters to your chest size (I am going to have some 38’s made, which is a size down from their smallest size they retail which is 40). You have to order 4 of one style however (eg 4 cardigans or 4 vee necks) as the custom order disrupts production.

Furthermore, I read your Anderson and Sheppard post – thank you. HOwever, I did check with Lockie and as far as Lockie goes, Lockie has told me tailors cannot (nor can Lockie) adjust their sweaters as they are fully fashioned. I realise few makers use this method now, however, I thought it was interesting to note. Thanks again Simon, and please keep up the amazing work on your blog!

twitter_jbosca

hi Simon, sorry in respect to modifying sweaters – I was referring to the post you link to – “how to tailor your sweaters”.

Yes, the shape of the Lockie sweaters would be the same – funny but I had not even considered that!

the A&S sweaters look great, and the fit looks great on you. however, the Lockie sweaters are around £70 for lambswool, so I would have to have a look and see why the cost is £140 for the A&S shetland wool sweaters. Perhaps the cost is justified, and it certainly would eliminate the hassle of trying to tailor a more larger Lockie fit.

thank you for your help, the A&S option is one i never considered.

Hal

The phrase “tank top” is unfortunate, as it has also been used for the singlet type of vest. “Slipover” or “sleeveless pullover” avoids the ambiguity. “Tank top”, I believe, was coined in the 1970s.