11 Different Types of Vests

Vests won't go out of style but it can be tricky to pull it off so get to know the different types of vests and find out which ones you can wear casually and which ones are for formal occasions.

A businessman wearing a vest.

Often referred to as the ‘trickiest item in a man’s wardrobe,’ vests are probably one of those very rare pieces of clothing that never go out of style. They are tricky because they have the ability to make or break your dress sense, and also because they are a little challenging to pull off perfectly. You will find many men shying away from making effective use of this amazing menswear. However, those who are brave and risky enough and do manage to get it right, they actually end up looking like they walked right out of a fashion gala.

However, there has always been a bit of confusion regarding this particular clothing item. Some consider it to be a very casual item of clothing and they wear it during the summer since it is sleeveless and allow the body to breathe. On the other hand, there are people who take vests to be a formal garment and they prefer complementing it with a coat and tie.

It sounds weird and confusing, doesn’t it? Well, the only reason behind that is the fact that there are geographical differences between the two. The term geographical here refers to how this unique garment or piece of clothing is referred to by different names in various parts of the world. For instance, in England, it is more commonly referred to as a waistcoat, but the Americans call it a vest.

This difference in names is what has initially influenced the way it is worn by people. The latter, which is the vest, is considered by many people as an informal garment while the former is believed to be formal and proper, and is most commonly paired with a tie.

Vest or Waistcoat?

A man wearing a vest with a glass of wine.

Despite the fact that vest and waistcoat are, in fact, alternate names for the same clothing, the confusion between the two still continues. Although there is no obvious difference between the two,

and are precisely the same garment that you wear below a coat, as well as over a dress shirt with a necktie, many people have gone on to point out some variations between the two. The primary reason for that is the various ways in which this garment is worn by different people residing in the UK and United States, respectively.

A vest is simply described as a garment that is sleeveless and is worn for covering the upper part of the body. The word comes from ‘Veste’ which is French for a sport coat or jacket. It has also been derived from the Italian word ‘vesta’ that refers to a robe or a gown. This means that the term vest can refer to a number of other clothing items and it actually has been used that way. Many people use the term for things like swimming gear, as well as any warm layer that one wears under regular clothes in order to protect themselves from harsh winter winds.

On the other hand, a waistcoat is also sleeveless and generally functions as a waist-length garment that is worn under a coat. It is considered to be a part of men’s formal wear and is typically referred to as the third piece in a traditional three-piece suit.

You can think of vests and waistcoats as different names for the same kind of clothing, serving a similar kind of purpose. They have primarily been designed to cover the shoulders and the upper body, leaving room for your arms since both are sleeveless. However, they have a few very subtle differences between them in terms of how they are worn by people, their styles, and the ways in which they are paired with other clothing items.

Variations in Styles

One of the main differences between a waistcoat and a vest is the way they are styled and their appearance. For instance, you can expect a waistcoat to have buttons that go all the way up to the neck whereas the buttons in a vest begin at that exact point where the front of the jacket is buttoned.

Other than this, you can find waistcoats in both single-breasted and double-breasted styles. But if you go for a standard vest, you would probably have to order a customized one if you want a double-breasted style, for example. In that case, it pretty much becomes a waistcoat.

Vests adopt quite a minimalist approach in their styling which makes them quite casual wear. On the other hand, waistcoats often sport an ornate appearance and some of them even come with lapels that give them a formal, tuxedo-like look and make them formal attire.

How They Are Worn

Since waistcoats are a little towards the formal side, they are typically worn with a full suit. This suggests that you are not likely to see men wearing a waistcoat over a jacket on a casual summer day. Even if they do wear a jacket, you will notice a vest underneath which makes perfect sense in case they might wish to take the jacket off.

Similarly, it is a very rare sight to see men or women wearing a waistcoat with slacks. Slacks are casual trousers so you have probably seen them sporting a pair of these trousers with a vest on top a number of times.

This is one of the reasons why waistcoats are often kept aside for events like a banquet dinner, a wedding, a gala benefit, or one that calls for formal and strict dress codes. In the same way, vests are reserved for informal occasions like a casual dinner with friends, a night at the bar, or a random get-together at a friend’s house.

The History of Men’s Vests

Often worn under a sport coat and sometimes paired with a long-sleeved shirt, the men’s vest has undergone a great transformation over the years and has become quite the ultimate clothing when it comes to versatile mid-layering clothing.

You can expect to find a whole lot of different types of vests in any man’s closet or wardrobe in a variety of styles. Some of these styles include vests with formal lapels, gilet vests, or the casual fleece ones.

The history or origin of the three-piece suit menswear essential or the men’s waistcoat goes all the way back to the 1630s, a time during the rule of King Charles II of England. He was the first-ever person who introduced the vest as a part of the right kind of attire to the English court. He basically declared a resolution of his that was aimed at setting an unchangeable fashion trend for clothes which was in the form of vests.

This resolution stemmed from an idea that Charles II had borrowed from Sir Robert Shirley, who was an English adventurer and traveler. At that time, the ‘vest’ was originally a longer type of coat that gained significant popularity among a number of men.

After some time, during the 17th century, the fashion demands of most men underwent great changes, as a result of which, the ‘vest’ began to be known as a ‘waistcoat’ that sported a short waist-level cut. Throughout the eighteenth century, men were found wearing brightly-colored, stylish waistcoats as a part of their everyday attire.

However, the 19th century witnessed ever-changing fashion trends that demanded more sophisticated types of vests and waistcoats with subtle, subdued colors. The main reason behind this was that most men wished to match these garments with their lounge suits and business suits that required a less bright color palette. Soon after that, amazing varieties and different types of vests and waistcoats started being introduced, ranging from those made of cheaper fabrics like wool and linen to more luxurious and elaborate ones with great details and decorations. Some were even woven completely out of metallic threads and were equally expensive.

The immense variety of these vests was also largely characterized by the incredible embroideries and motifs on the garment, ranging from colorful flowers, floral sprigs, petals, and intricate thread-work. Some designs were even inspired French paisley shawls and consisted of extremely bright and ostentatious patterning on the vests and waistcoats.

Following the twentieth and 21st century, the elaborate types of vests started adopting a more subtle and pastel-colored appearance which is why most of the varieties that you see today are towards the plainer and more casual side. It is not the embroideries, patterns and detailing of the vests that underwent a massive transformation, but now there are also such different types and categories of vests, each of which serves a special purpose and is meant for particular events.

Different Types and Varieties of Vests

The base form of any vest is a sleeveless garment or clothing that almost reaches the wearer’s waist and covers the entire upper body except the arms. The variation comes from the style, material used, formats, and designs.

The following are some of the most common and popular types of vests, most of which you will find in every man’s wardrobe.

Woven Vest

A hand-made grey woven vest.

This is one of the most initial types of vests that is typically made from wool or any other type of cozy material. It has also been described as the most elegant and classic type of vest by a variety of people given how simple yet stylish it looks.

Interestingly though, this vest started off as a part of school uniforms and at one point, it was also referred to as ‘grandpa’s clothes’. However, it wasn’t long before people started realizing how comfortable woolen fabric is and how stylish the woven pattern on the vest looks once you wear it. Many people prefer wearing a woven vest with a shirt or a t-shirt which provides a very casual stylish look overall.

Puffer Vest

A man wearing a puffer vest.

Known for its puffed-up appearance, the puffer vest has especially been designed for cold temperatures and serves as an excellent insulator. The material used in the making of these vests has a puffy texture and feel that traps heat within it and allows the wearer to stay warm during the cold winter months. It is also popularly worn during skiing and similar activities.

There are also other types of puffer vests that are also well-suited for warmer temperatures and they are typically made of nylon, polyester, and other such light fabrics.

The outside of most puffer vests has a puffy, quilted appearance which is why they also come with a zipper in order to help properly close the front. Some designs may also consist of a sharp opening and multiple pockets which gives them a very different look.

Gym Vest

A man wearing gym vest.

One of the key requirements of a successful exercise session at the gym is the right kind of clothes or gym wear. Did you know there are specialized gym vests for both men and women that greatly aid the wear during their training sessions?

Gym vest is a trademark garment among the hottest gym wear items. The fact that they are sleeveless allows for enhanced transpiration and movement in the gym and really helps improve your overall performance. These vests are also extremely comfortable and are made from super soft and sweat-proof materials that provide an excellent kind of comfort and ease when you wear to in the gym.

There are various kinds of gym vests, each with different fabric properties. Some are made of 100% cotton, but they are not exactly suitable for the gym because they absorb water very easily. The most popular gym vests are those that are made with synthetic fabrics like lycra and spandex. Their popularity stems from the fact that they ensure breathability, durability, and have a great ability to stretch.

Fur Vest

A brown fur vest.

Fur has long been associated with women’s style of clothing, but lately, a lot of men have also been seen rocking fur-based outfits. One of these is none other than fur vests.

Fur vests are more towards the fancy side which means you are highly unlikely to see men wearing them on a daily basis, as a part of their everyday attire. Some vests are made from artificial fur while others

from pure animal fur. They look quite stylish and are often worn with a shirt, blazer which turns them into quite formal wear.

A great thing about fur vests is that they are incredibly soft, comfortable, and cozy which means that they are also very suitable for the winter season.

Suit Vest

A man wearing a suit and vest.

Although vests are generally considered to be the informal counterpart of waistcoats, there are also quite a few types of formal vests as well. One of these is the suit vest or the dress vest which is a part of a three-piece suit. It is an exceptionally formal type of vest worn by most office-going men and also official business meetings.

You can wear the suit vest either as a part of the three-piece suit or separately with your favorite and a button-down shirt. One of the most popular designs of the suit vest is the grey-checkered design that looks super stylish and trendy. Many people pair with a black-tie which perfectly complements the grey color of the vest.

You can also wear a suit vest with any colored necktie that you like and further pair it with any formal type of pants or trousers.

Denim Vest

A blue denim vest.

Denim has to be one of the most iconic and ever-green clothing materials that are used to make such a wide variety of garments and items. This incredible variety ranges from denim jeans and culottes to denim jackets and tops. Much to your surprise, there are also denim vests now that appear so rugged and are super fashionable.

Denim is an amazingly versatile jean fabric that comes in such great designs, styles and patterns. Denim vests are currently trending a great deal and they pair perfectly well with jeans bottoms and a pair of sneakers. A denim vest is almost like a sleeveless jacket made of the same jean fabric.

You will often find most youngsters, both boys and girls absolutely rocking a denim vest with great innerwear and bottoms.

Fleece Vest

A purple fleece vest with zipper.

Most popularly worn by outdoorsmen, Fleece vests are perfect for any adventurous day marked by cool, calm weather. This type of vest has become a staple clothing item in most men’s wardrobes and is often paired with a long-sleeved checked shirt and khaki pants.

Fleece vests are almost like a lighter alternative to puffer vests and greatly help during the cold weather season. They look quite fashionable especially due to the fact they are available in a great many styles and designs. Thee vests are meant for both men and women and look really cool with blazers, dress shirts, and t-shirts.

Quilted Vest

This is yet another very popular type of vest that looks quite like a puffer vest in terms of its appearance. They are often referred to as ‘quilted puffer vests’. They offer a great amount of insulation which makes them an ideal option for the cold winter season.

Quilted vests are often made from synthetic fibers like nylon and polyester. These materials make the vests super breathable, lightweight, and water-resistant.

A great thing about quilted vests is that whether they are packed with multiple layers to provide adequate warmth or that they consist only a few layers, they manage to provide great style and appeal when it comes to versatile kind of layering.

Gilet Vest

This is another sleeveless men’s vest that is typically worn as an outerwear. Compared to other types of vests, gilet is a tad heavier in terms of weight which makes it a great outerwear option since it can withstand great pressure from the environment or the weather.

The Gilet vest is also often used as a body warmer since it protects the wearer from a strong cold. Some designs and styles also come with pockets that provide the added advantage of being able to carry things in the pocket.

There is a whole variety of types of gilet that include fleece gilet, technical gilet, and quilted gilet. Each is made from special and different materials that serve unique purposes of their own.

Travel Vest

As the name suggests, travel vests are specially meant for traveling purposes and they are also quite handy and useful, aside from being a fashion statement. Most travel vests found or made in today’s time actually function as anti-theft products. Underneath the base material, these vests have sections where you can hide or stash away your passport, tickets, and other important documents. They are quite an ideal traveling gear and are highly suited for minimalist kind of travel.

This type of vest is particularly popular among travelers, photographers, and outdoorsmen from all around the world. This is not only due to the convenient pockets found in the vest but also because the materials used in it are built to greatly withstand both tough and easy kind of travel journeys.

Tuxedo Vest

A man wearing a black tuxedo vest.

Just like a suit or dress vest, tuxedo vests are also a lot towards the formal side and they basically go underneath a jacket. Other than the essential jacket, most people like to pair it with a nice, button-down shirt. They are highly formal attire and are often worn to formal events such as wedding and prom.

Tuxedo vest also comes in a variety of colors, other than the standard black or grey in order to give it a funky touch and also to make the whole ensemble look stylish and fashionable.


Vests are undoubtedly an amazingly versatile, unique, and highly comfortable kind of clothing item. Given their huge variety, styles, and designs, there is absolutely no wonder that most men have their closets and wardrobes full of the different types of vests in a variety of colors. They are also unisex which means that both men and women can rock them with absolute perfection!

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