How To Style A Men’s Waistcoat Casually

Posted by Rishi Chullani on

Looking to elevate your sartorially inclined game? Cue the men’s waistcoat. And we’re talking in a casual capacity. Sure, a waistcoat can be worn as part of a three piece suit – but what about as a separate entity, paired with trousers, chinos or a pair of dark denim. Not only does this timeless piece of clothing never go out of style – it also happens to add a fairly healthy dose of flair to any ensemble. In this blog post, we’ll cover how to wear a waistcoat casually and nail that smart casual endeavor. We will cover the various types of waistcoats, waistcoat fabrics & seasons, and how to style it – along with paying attention to relevant details.

Waistcoat Casual Style

A waistcoat helps in accentuating that refined, dapper, smart casual look! Courtesy of

Why Wear A Waistcoat

Before delving into the details of wearing a waistcoat – why should we strut one in the first place? A waistcoat, through the sheer act of incorporating it into your ensemble, adds a certain aura of elusiveness. While waistcoats have traditionally been reserved for more formal events and their associated three piece suits, the strong emergence of smart casual wear has made the waistcoat a staple in the discerning gentleman’s wardrobe.

Men's Waistcoat

A waistcoat adds a significant element of pop in a more formal setting. Courtesy of

While the waistcoat adds a dapper element under your suit jacket during the winter months, it acts as a great layer during the fall season and as a definitive alternative to a sports jacket during the spring / summer months!

Worn aptly, this particular piece of clothing slims down your silhouette, while adding both visual depth and interest to your aesthetic. So….what’s there not to like?

The best fabrics for a casual waistcoat

When opting to strut a waistcoat casually, eschew silk, sheeny materials in lieu of something more textured. This prevents your ensemble from appearing too sleek.

While a woolen suit will traditionally require a woolen waistcoat, tweed waistcoats work great in a more casual capacity, especially during the fall / winter months. A tweed waistcoat is both stylish and comfortable, adding more than a touch of sophistication to your look.

Tweed Waistcoat Smart Casual Style

Tweed waistcoats, given their texture and insulative properties, are well suited towards fall & winter seasons. Courtesy of

A tweed waistcoat also ensures that significant thought was put into creating your look, as opposed to mismatching your trousers, chinos or dark denim with your three piece suit’s waistcoat.

Texture is of paramount importance when figuring out your waistcoat game. The best textured fabrics consist of natural fibers such as wool, tweed, brushed cotton, corduroy and linens. Natural fibers have insulative properties in addition to being more breathable, and hence don’t retain odors in the same manner that synthetic fibers do.

Seersucker Waistcoat Casual Style

Lighter, more breathable fabrics such as seersucker are an ideal complement during the spring / summer months! Courtesy of

Fabric composition that is marginally comprised of polyester can work well, as it will provide your waistcoat with some rigidity – essentially implying that it creases less than a purely natural fiber based article of clothing.

Similar to looking for a suit jacket or blazer, go for quality materials that correspond with the weather. Hence tweed (and dare I say) corduroy work best for winter months, while linen, cotton or seersucker work best during spring / summer season.

Cotton Waistcoat Casual Style

Cotton waistcoats work best during the spring / summer months! Courtesy of

Single vs Double Breasted Waistcoats

Single Breasted Waistcoats are great for creating a relaxed yet refined aesthetic. These waistcoats can be worn with dark denim or chinos and look particularly impressive with an open dress shirt. Double Breasted waistcoats, by comparison, tend to be more formal.

Single Breasted Waistcoat

A single breasted waistcoat provides for smart, chic wear! Courtesy of

Single Breasted waistcoats are considered the more contemporary choice, especially when worn as part of a dapper three piece suit. These waistcoats usually come without lapels, making them the sleeker, more minimalistic option. The double breasted waistcoat, by comparison, is typically accompanied by peak, notch or shawl lapels, resulting in a more traditional look.

 Double Breasted Waistcoat

A double breasted waistcoat, even when worn in a smart casual capacity, provides for a more formal look.  Courtesy of

The right fit for a casual waistcoat

Achieving the perfect fit for a casual waistcoat is imperative to creating that effortlessly stylistic look. When deciding on a smart casual waistcoat that is paired with trousers, chinos or dark denim, look for a modern streamlined look that follows the lines of your body, such as a slim-fitting style.

Waistcoat Fit Smart Casual

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To ensure the best fit when strutting your waistcoat, we suggest the following:

  • A waistcoat that fits closely at the shoulders and chest
  • High enough armholes that are still comfortable and don’t restrict freedom of movement
  • Length of the waistcoat should end just above the hip
  • The front of the waistcoat should fasten comfortably, without pulling at the fabric.

What to avoid: Going for an urban, oversized look. The additional billowing of material will make your waistcoat look boxy. The whole purpose of the waistcoat is to provide you with a refined, streamlined silhouette.

The perfect style for a casual waistcoat

The key to styling a waistcoat is to aim for a relaxed, dapper look, versus strutting a three piece suit (where a waistcoat is worn in a more formal capacity).

A waistcoat is a highly versatile piece that can be worn in various settings. As such, working with an appropriate style is highly important.

While we are not discussing wearing waistcoats with a traditional three piece suit in this article, trousers (separates – standalone pants) are a great option for styling a waistcoat in a smart casual setting.

Waistcoat Smart Casual Attire

Incredibly sharp attire, featuring a stunning plaid waistcoat paired with trousers.

One of the best ways to style a waistcoat casually is with chinos. Chinos happen to be an ideal choice given that they are both stylish and comfortable. For a classic, timeless look try pairing a navy waistcoat with tan or grey chinos. Alternatively, for a more contemporary twist, why not opt for an olive green or burgundy waistcoat with light blue, or dare I say, light pink chinos.

Light Grey Waistcoat Smart Casual

A light grey double breasted waistcoat works effortlessly with these navy chinos. Courtesy of

Looking for something more casual, but equally dapper?  Dark denim, well fitted jeans pair perfectly with a waistcoat. For a more trendy look, pair your favorite pair of jeans with a check or patterned waistcoat. To keep the look smart and casual, ensure that you pair your jeans with a subtle, accented waistcoat.

Waistcoat Smart Casual Style

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A collared dress shirt is also a great choice for wearing a waistcoat casually. Opt for a plain white dress shirt and pair it with a textured or patterned waistcoat for an effortless, smart casual look.

As an alternative to a white dress shirt, you can decide upon a shorter sleeve dress shirt, or a long sleeve dress shirt with your sleeves rolled up – the epitome of casual chic!

Men's Waistcoat Smart Casual Style

Rolled up shirt sleeves add to the visual pop created by this stunning waistcoat! Courtesy of

Finally, a sports jacket can be worn in conjunction with a waistcoat. Try going for a sports jacket that is tailored and slim fitting, which helps in creating a more streamlined look.

Waistcoat Smart Casual

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  • Traditional silk neckties can work extremely well with a waistcoat. We would, however, recommend sticking to solids or a larger spaced pattern such as a polka dot tie, to add further visual intrigue to your outfit. Furthermore, a solid pattern or larger spaced pattern should result in less clashing between your necktie, shirt and waistcoat designs.
  • As an alternative, we suggest opting for a knitted tie. These casual alternatives to a silk tie make perfect sense, given that they are congruent with the smart casual connotations of the waistcoat. Knitted ties, as the name implies, are ties that have been knitted as opposed to woven. As such, these ties are characterized by an open weave, a narrow blade (2.0 to 2.5 inches) and square ends (versus triangular, pointed ends that you typically see with traditional silk ties). Knitted Ties will help add textural depth to your waistcoat ensembles. Additionally, given that knitted ties are usually presented in alternative patterns, such as horizontal stripes, they will also add an aesthetic point of differentiation.

Waistcoat Smart Casual Style

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Knit Ties | Silk Knit Ties | Knitted Ties

  • Pocket Squares are another seamless, effortless option for accessorizing your waistcoat. Similar to neckties – while you could opt for a silk pocket square with more lustre, we suggest deciding upon a linen or cotton pocket square – adding further textural differentiation to your ensemble.

Men's Waistcoat Smart Casual

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Pocket Squares | Silk Pocket Squares | Linen Pocket Squares
  • While ties and pocket squares can be worn together, we do suggest choosing just one with a waistcoat, given that the whole point is to dress smart casual, and not overtly formal.
  • A pocket watch, as the name suggests, is a watch that is meant to be carried in your pocket. Pocket watches come with an attached chain to be fastened to your waistcoat.
  • And finally, lapel pins / lapel flowers. These are an ideal way to accessorize your waistcoat and elevate your style game!

And that’s a wrap for this one. We hope that you have enjoyed reading this as much as we did writing it!


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