What is a Waistcoat — Waistcoat vs Vest Coat Differences in 2022

David Beckham wearing a waiscoat

Men, we know what it’s like. Getting dressed up is sometimes the last you want to do.

To be summoned to work or a conference or a networking event where you have to leave behind your hoodie or sweatshirt… well, it’s as they say: “parting is always such sweet, sweet sorrow.”

Formal clothes just don’t have that comfortability or that idea of completing an outfit in one quick swing like joggers or a jersey. Somehow, it just never feels self-expressing enough.

Can anything match up to the likes of informal layers?

We at The Highest Fashion found just the thing: waistcoats!

Dictionary Definition of Waistcoat

We are aware this might be the very first time you’re hearing about a waistcoat and we agree it’s a pretty interesting name — don’t all coats cover the waist?

A waistcoat actually frames the waist and is tailored to every man’s more or less specific measurements (if you get a waistcoat that’s too big or too small, you can always get it tailored!)

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a waistcoat definition is a “piece of clothing that covers the upper body but not the arms and usually has buttons down the front, worn over a shirt.”

Waistcoat Pronunciation

A waistcoat is pronounced just like you’d think by combing the pronunciation of “Waist” with “Coat.” weist·kowt

Meaning of a Waistcoat — What Is a Waistcoat, Really?

Waistcoats are meant to be that formal layer over a dress-shirt that pulls the whole look together.

“The primary function of a waistcoat is to provide both a sense of depth and formality to an outfit,” GQ UK reports.

A waistcoat that is double-breasted especially promotes a look of sophistication and often provide more warmth in the winter weather, a perfect choice if you commute to work or have a highly air-conditioned office.

More importantly, waistcoats aren’t just black or white — each has a personality and demeanor of their own. Whether it be the classic neutral-colored waistcoat, a plaid waistcoat, the tweed waistcoat, the window-pane waistcoat (the flaps near the color inspired the name), or the double-breasted — so many exist and all because no guy is alike.

A waistcoat is ultimately meant to uplift your formal look in a way that is meaningful and truly fashionable — in a way that is also totally you.

Waistcoat vs Vest Coat — Waistcoat and Vest Differences

Waistcoat vs Vest Coat

If you were clicking through other articles talking about a waistcoat vs vest, you might find that a lot of men aren’t sure about the differences between a waistcoat and a vest.

So, the question remains, “Are a waistcoat and vest the same?”

And essentially, the answer is no. While a waistcoat and vest are both sleeveless and require an undershirt to complete their look, waistcoats are made with higher quality fabrics and provide a tighter fit.

Vests are great for informal dinners or casual Fridays or any office that doesn’t pay too much attention to your professional look; however, waistcoats are able to provide a polished, formal look that is both refined and sophisticated. Vests are not a waistcoat synonym.

A waistcoat takes a vest to a whole other level.

Additionally, buttons reveal another major difference between the two as waistcoats have at least one column of buttons, sometimes two. Vests can do away without the buttons and therefore can look more informal and have a more “on-the-go” feel.

“On-the-go,” however, does not provide the slim-fit feeling of a waistcoat!

With that said, if you hate dealing with buttons galore or hate spending too much money on a layer for dress-shirts, maybe a button-less vest or cheaper vest is what you should invest in. But if you have some extra change to spare or like higher-quality material like cotton, wool, silk, tweed, etc., a waistcoat is definitely there for your taking.

Waistcoat or Cummerbund?

It’s the best when formal attire has the perkiest names, isn’t it? Cummerbunds are long waist sashes that are often maroon, black or navy blue. These sashes are all the more formal than a waistcoat and brings a layer of ostentation, tradition and class like no other suit accessory.

Some men benefit from cummerbunds on fancy occasions rather than from waistcoats because the sashes “tend to make men look taller, with a thinner waist.”

Waistcoats bring attention to the waist and can make a man seem shorter given its pattern and lapels — so if you have a wedding or formal function to go to and you want to be the most chivalrous-looking man there, cummerbunds just might be the way to go.

Waistcoat History

Although your history teachers and professors may have never fully invested your time in learning about the history of the waistcoat, you don’t have to worry. All you need to know is below:

The waistcoat originated in Persia and rose to fashion fame in the middle of the seventeenth century. History of Fashion reveals that Samuel Pepys, a member of English parliament, wrote in his diary, in 1666:

“The King hath … declared his resolution of setting a fashion for clothes which he will never alter. It will be a vest.”

Pepys said it and the waistcoat continued its powerful rise.

Double-breasted waistcoats became the most stylish of all kinds and the first few decades of the 1700s saw men wearing the small pocketed waistcoats with flaps, no sleeves.

By 1800, the waistcoats with the single-breast and the small lapels gained attention and fabrics began to change color and texture, featuring horizontal or vertical stripes.

What is the Purpose of a Waistcoat— How Do You Wear a Waistcoat?