Did you know that the men’s waistcoat is actually an older piece of clothing than the suit itself? Here’s our very short history.
The Restoration Era
Long before the suit as we know it existed, the waistcoat (then called a “vest”) was first mentioned in the court of King Charles II. In 1666, the King proclaimed that the garment should be recognized as proper court attire.
Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary: “The King hath yesterday in council declared a resolution of setting a fashion for clothes which he will never alter. It will be a vest, I know not well how.”
The “vest” was imported into the court by English travelers returning from Persia. The vests worn in the court of the Emperor Shah Abbas impressed these travelers so much, they decided to adopt the style.
The 18th and 19th Centuries
For the first 200 years of its history, the waistcoat was worn in bright colours with ornate decoration. The rise of dandyism in the mid-19th century saw the waistcoat tailored in a plainer, tighter fashion.
In the years following the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution, ornamentation was out: a more utilitarian, but still elegant, fashion began to take its place. At this time, the waistcoat was worn with a frock coat and trousers.
The Modern Waistcoat
From the end of the 19th century and throughout the 20th century, the waistcoat was a necessary part of business dress. The item went hand in hand with the modern lounge suit and you’d rarely see a businessmen not wearing one.
The mid-20th century saw a shift in the waistcoat’s fortunes, as it came to be seen as an optional part of business attire. Its popularity declined as a result.
Today, the waistcoat has carved out an unusual place within men’s fashion – in part, because it’s one of the most versatile garments a man can own. Not only does the waistcoat work as part of a three piece business suit, it’s also a great addition to a casual outfit over a T-shirt and jeans.
From its ultra-formal origins in the royal court of King Charles II to its modern day versatility, the waistcoat has always been seen as a timeless classic.
A Suit That Fits’ Waistcoats
A Suit That Fits tailors individual waistcoat starting at £84 for our Professional Range items, £159 for our Distinguished Range items, £199 for our Premiere Range items and £319 for waistcoats cut from our Ultimate Range of cloths.