A Nifty Tip For Wearing Vests

Keeping the bottom button undone on a vest is the sort of information that fathers used to pass along to their sons, along with how to flush a public toilet with one’s foot rather than one’s hand. But as I am older than most readers of this website, allow me to offer a bit of fatherly advice about vests and buttons.

In leaving the bottom of the vest unbuttoned, a bit more trouser is revealed. That was fine in 1930 when vests were cut properly and many men wore braces. Today, however, two things are obvious about modern vests. One is that they tend to be cut too short, particularly if they are part of a suit. Secondly, some people – stylists at least – seem to think that a little peek-a-boo with the belt buckle is an attractive sight.

It is not. It makes one appear to be wearing a very cheap and ill-fitting article of clothing (this reminds me of the classic definition of the English bespoke suit: a beautiful and expensive garment that appears to have been made by hand for someone other than the current wearer).

There are several ways to deal with the problem of short vests that reveal the detested shiny belt buckle. The first is, as in antiquity, to wear braces, which will minimize the problem but requires one to practically disrobe if one needs to drop trou during the day. Another way, if one is purchasing an odd vest rather than one that is part of a suit, is to size up, so to speak. I am a 42 regular, but when I buy separate vests, most usually from tack shops, I choose 42 longs. The extra inch or so of vest length solves the problem. But with off-the-rack suits that include a vest, this is not usually an available gambit unless you can do some surreptitious switching of pieces from hanger to hanger.

So here is a simple little trick to deal with the buckle issue, and as far as I know it has nothing to do with the Ivy League specifically or higher education generally. In fact, it is a 1950s greaser technique, a concomitant style to the pointy Flagg Brothers shoes of the period and the habit of taking two rolls up on the sleeves of your short-sleeved shirts. The instructions that follow are for right handed men; lefties should reverse the instructions. As you stand with your trousers on and your belt in hand, you would normally insert the non-buckle end of the belt strap under the first belt loop to the left of the fly, as you look down. But, instead, ignore the first loop and insert the belt under the second loop and then all the rest.

When you are finished threading the strap completely around your waist, the buckle will be between the first and second belt loops, at your side, rather than centered in front. Only the belt strap will appear at the front, and even a relatively short vest should cover it, even if the bottom button of the vest is left undone. The strap, though it may inadvertently peek out from time to time, will be dark enough against the trouser fabric to not be noticeable. If you will follow old Dad’s instructions, you will look like an adult and not appear to have a shiny Cyclops peering out from the top of your pants between the points of your vest every time that you raise your arm or take a deep breath. — CHUCK WATKINS

32 Comments on "A Nifty Tip For Wearing Vests"

  1. Charlottesville | January 30, 2017 at 1:01 pm |

    Well-written post. Probably good advice as a stop-gap (literally) measure but the better method is, of course, to buy clothes that fit. Sadly, as that seems to be difficult to do for most younger folks these days. I was taught never to wear a belt with a vest, and so I always make certain to have suspender buttons sewn into my waistbands for trousers that will be worn with a vest. This works well, and I recommend it for those who prefer not to look like an overstuffed deli sandwich..

  2. The “greaser” technique of positioning one’s belt buckle to the side rather than front-and-center was originally to avoid scraping the paint off one’s car. Cars in the 50s were finished with nitro-cellulose lacquer, which was very prone to scratching. The same applied to guitars; vintage photos of guitarists would often show them with belt-buckles off to the side to avoid turning the backs of their instruments into hamburger.

    I think I first noticed the belt-buckle-to-the-side fashion statement in the outfits worn by Monkees bassist Peter Tork. I would have seen the Monkees in reruns in the early 70s. Their first run in the 60s was before my TV-watching days.

  3. Imagine. You’re in a store. You see the perfect three-piece suit you’ve been searching for. You reach for the 42T size that you are. The jacket and pants drape beautifully, but to your dismay, the vest is awkwardly short. Upon closer inspection you find out that the vest registers a size 42R and clearly has been switched out by the writer of this blog!

  4. Jock Hamilton | January 30, 2017 at 3:17 pm |

    Hey Mr. Freedom of Speech. Kellyanne Conway is coming for you.

    “Not one network person has been let go. Not one silly political analyst and pundit who talked smack all day long about Donald Trump has been let go. They are on panels every Sunday. They’re on cable news every day.

    Who’s the first editorial — the first blogger that will be left out that embarrassed his or her outlet? We know all their names. I’m too polite to call them by name. But they know who they are, and they’re all wondering, will I be the first to go?

    The election was three months ago. None of them have been let go. If this were a real business, if the mainstream media were a thriving private sector business that actually turn a profit, which is not true of many of our newspapers, Chris, 20 percent of the people would be gone.”

  5. Cameron: love the vintage guitar reference. I guess a lot of guitarists didn’t know that trick. Rare is the vintage guitar from the ’50s or ’60s without a significant amount of buckle rash on the back. In fact, the current craze for “relic-ing” new guitars (which shows no sign of fading) often includes ersatz buckle rash as part of the deal.

    I have a mid-60s Fender that I bought second-hand in the early ’70s. It came to me with a large and noticeable chunk of buckle rash which, needless to say, is worse now, 40 years later. Fenders seem to be more prone to this than Gibsons for some reason.

  6. G. Bruce Boyer | January 30, 2017 at 3:22 pm |

    A very nice piece, but I think Mr. Watkins errs slightly in thinking that vests are too short. It’s not the vest, but the rise of the trouser that’s too short when shirtfront, tie, and belt buckle peak out below. It’s the result of the trend for the tight, little-boy suit. This trend is now mercifully over except for Stephen Colbert and a few other middle-aged guys who think they’re still running with the young dogs. On the point about the origin of moving the buckle to the side, we did indeed do this in the 1950s to prevent scratching the fenders of cars, as Cameron notes.

  7. This brings up what I consider to be a similar problem. With newer suits, the jacket is tight and way to short. Pants are low waisted so when the jacket is is buttoned the shirt and the bottom of the tie stick are visible. I suppose this is a great look if you’re Charlie Chaplin.
    I think I’ll just keep wearing my older suits until this silliness passes.

  8. G. Bruce Boyer is spot on, no buckle or even the waistband should be exposed when wearing a vest. Many tailors can lengthen a vest, but not much.

  9. @Jock Hamilton what in God’s name are you talking about?

  10. @Mason @G. Bruce Boyer

    There’s a third problem for guys over 6’1 with current suiting. They made the waist line shorter and the jacket button stance higher, but didn’t increase the standard 57-59″ length of ties. If you’re tall, in order to have the front of your tie correctly hit the top half of your belt buckle, the back of the tie will NEVER make it to the label loop. I’m either forced to use tie clips, or sometimes a small safety pin. Extra long ties tend to only come in the most garish patterns.

  11. Did you just say “suiting”?

  12. @GS

    Just making sure Cucksvold doesn’t get any bright ideas about criticizing Daddy. We pushed that freedom of speech nonsense as a way to harass SJW’s, but if he starts thinking about applying that logic to the Trumpenreich, he’s going to be sorry.

  13. Benjamin
    O’Connells has extra long ties in non garish patterns. While I’m only a little over six foot, I have a large neck from college football, so you have my sympathy. I just use a straight pin vertically through the tail. It’s an old trick to dressing mannequins.

  14. @Goy

    Plenty of Trump administration mockery on our FB page and my Twitter account. They haven’t jailed me yet.

  15. “Trumpenreich” as opposed to every past Republican candidate for president is a nazi. Why criticise Kellyanne Conway or Steve Bannon for stating the truth, the old media is the real opposition party, democrat operatives with bylines. Conways “we” means the american people who have no respect for the press, the press has only themselves to blame.
    The only cucks are Obama’s crappie legacy, Hillary and the neutered Democrat’s power. The media, SJWs and the Democrats need to keep up their moronic hysteria, it will guarantee four more years for Trump and even more devastating losses in the Senate.

    Conway wasn’t referring to Christian, he’s competent.

  16. Modern vests are not too short. Rather, they are either too long, in order to accommodate the low rise of today’s trousers, or not long enough to match the even lower rise of some trousers/jeans.

    A long vest is not a good look, wether or not they cover the belt line. It makes your torso looks longer and shortens your legs as a consequence. The men in your theme photo are wearing vests much shorter than modern norms, together with high rise trousers. That’s the way vests should be worn.

  17. I wouldn’t call it mockery because that would be in poor taste. I try to engage in honest, and brutal, criticism of President Trump’s outfits. I do not think that the president is above criticize whether you voted for him or not. The media, I felt, held back on Obama and pretty much only ever praised him whereas they are at war with Trump. It is unfair but at least this election exposed their bias.

  18. Mac, I agree that Conway and Bannon were correct about the media’s blatantly biased coverage of our president but I don’t see an end to this squabble. That “goy” character sounds like either an alt-right troll or just a plain troll.

  19. Goy Orbison | February 2, 2017 at 2:40 pm |

    Oy vey! I think we’re talking past eachother. The God Emporer is not bothered by softball fashion comments. Besides, he only wears the best, most expensive Brioni suits, so he understands that you might be a little envious.

    I’m just here to remind Cucksvold that he should be engaging in some autistic screeching over Berkeley right now and he should not make any mention of whatever infractions he think the Trumpenreich may be guilty of.

    Now get out there and start crushing some protests, goys! Shadilay!

  20. Alt-right troll confirmed.

  21. It’s really remarkable how the alt right can’t even misrepresent their opponents coherently.

    As soon as they try to frame any point of view except their own – even for purposes of comedy, caricature or satire – they literally lose the ability to write in sentences.

    That fact will be of huge historical interest one day.

  22. The attempts sound like a pre-schooler trying to mock String Theory.

  23. If I were Christian, I would probably engage in a little soul searching to figure out why my content keeps attracting far-right goons like Goy Orbison, Mac McConnell and GS. Personally, that’s not the audience I want to cultivate.

  24. Content has been consistent for past 8 1/2 years across 1,500 posts by a wide range of contributors.

    There are 40,000 unique visitors in the audience per month.

    Under my soul-searching editoriship, Ivy Style has had the most inclusive content of any preppy website on the web, with posts by and about trad-wearing blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, Sikhs, Jews and gays.

  25. I guess the brownshirts are just the loudest.

  26. Mr.Press, it is very upsetting to see you mischaracterize to me as a “far-right goon” when I was mocking an actual far-right commenter in defense of Mr.Chensvold. Politically, I am center-right and I can assure I am no goon. I have reviewed my previous comments on this article and while I may have expressed some views common with those on the right I certainly said nothing that would be accepted by the far-right. I am against extremism of any kind. Also, I do not believe that Mr. McConnell was expressing far-right views either, simply views of those on the right. I would imagine that a man your age, and from your generation, would be conservative as well and I am sorry to see that you read me incorrectly.

  27. Yet another political hijacking. Can’t read a got-dam thing lately without it getting hijacked by zealots.

  28. Oh boo-boo, just a light dusting of politics.

  29. Henry Contestwinner | February 6, 2017 at 5:50 pm |

    Imagine that—a political highjacking, and I had nothing to do with it! Whatever will they think of next?

  30. Best to wear trousers with a decently high rise and a side-tab top (no belt loops at all) for wear with odd vests. The belt shouldn’t be part of the equation at all, IMO, and wearing belt-top trousers without a belt, thereby leaving naked belt loops, looks silly.

  31. Evan Everhart | January 18, 2018 at 10:09 am |

    Hi All,

    I have to say this; the proportions of suits in the past decade have been thrown completely into disarray! Jackets are too short with conversely excessively high or sometimes even low (see J. Crew) button-stance, gorges are so high that the overly narrow lapels (in stride with the worst of so-called “continental” style of the 1960s), appear to be preparing to take flight, vests (and sweaters – heaven help us) are so long that they give the appearance of a waist line that typically begins at the pubic bone instead of at the waist, and to further this ridiculous effect, ultra low-rise, or at best, low-ish mid-rise trousers that that are typically over-long in the inseam and bunch as cheaply made denim will do, or which if somehow, wonder of wonders are not over-long, are still so skin tight as to be the (typically) pseudo-woolen equivalent of men’s yoga pants. Men look like they are wearing women’s suits (as has been commented upon previously within an article on this site). Men should look like men, especially if they are wearing men’s suits! Many of my family were tailors on my Father’s Mother’s side, for generations, they’re rolling over in their graves. Solution: shorten vests and sweaters to no more than 1″ below the natural waist, trousers rising to or within a 1/2″ above the navel, and lowering the gorge of jackets’ lapels such that if one were to button the lapel, the two sides of the collar would meet and give the appearance of a “Mandarin” collar, if these proportions are taken into consideration, then you can always be assured that the original intent of the garment is preserved. Beyond the above, the middle button, or the bottom button on a paddock jacket/suit, should side just at, or just above or below (as dictated by taste), the navel. All of these things combined ensures that you never play peek-a-boo with your underclothes (shirts) between shirt and jacket, never see the waist-band of your trousers whatever is holding them up, beneath the bottom of your sweater or vest, and also ensures that you look your tallest, most athletic, and trimmest with no additional worries, beyond this, clothing that fits like this is more comfortable, gives more ease, and allows you to do anything that you want in your suit. One more item; high arm holes! Most suits now have dangerously sagging arm-holes. Low arm-holes cause disarray whenever you must move your arms. Oh, and super 100-Anything, other than for shirting. Come on! That stuff has no substance and no endurance. Sad times. Sorry to rant folks. Just UGH! O’Connell’s and J Press ALL THE WAY! (Or Vintage B.B.!)

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