Smart-casual occasions are some of the trickiest events to dress for. Do you go for a formal look in a full suit? Is it acceptable to wear jeans? Can you wear jeans with a suit jacket or waistcoat instead? Of course, all of the above are scenarios that run through our heads when picking an outfit for a party or informal gathering.
When it comes to choosing an outfit, it’s always best to go a little overdressed. That will rarely look out of place whereas underdressed will ensure you stand out, not in a good way! Smart-casual events require a little more though when it comes to your outfit. A strong contender is wearing a waistcoat. It’s dressy without being formal.
Our favourite way to wear a waistcoat on semi-formal occasions is with jeans. It might seem strange but it’s a look that still feels formal but without the restrictions of a suit jacket or blazer. In true Rydale style, we’ve rounded up a few of our favourite waistcoats, where to wear them, some styling tips and extra pieces to make an outfit.
Where to wear a waistcoat
Sometimes, wearing a waistcoat can seem very formal but it all depends on how you style it. We’ve come up with a few scenarios when you can wear a waistcoat but how you wear it and what to wear it with differs on each option
The office - Workwear can be very same-y but adding a waistcoat doesn’t have to just be for special occasions. You might prefer to wear one instead of a jacket or wear a three-piece suit if that’s what you feel comfortable in. Some offices have a casual dress code but that does not mean joggers and trainers! You never know who might turn up at work or if you might have to go out to visit customers or clients. You might even work in an office in which wearing jeans is acceptable so why not smarten them up with a waistcoat?
Weddings - The most formal dress is required for black tie events and weddings. During summer weddings, you might get away without a suit jacket for the most part but take one just in case. For countryside weddings, you’ll probably look out of place if you don’t wear a waistcoat! Just make sure you double check the dress code before picking your outfit.
Parties - By parties, we mean casual, family gatherings so formalwear is a big no-no. That doesn’t mean you can’t look smart. Dressing for smart-casual occasions is easier than you think. A smart shirt, a tweed waistcoat and dark straight leg jeans is an easy enough outfit to put together. Finish with smart shoes and you’ll look stylish but be comfortable at the same time.
At the weekend - No longer are waistcoats just for formalwear. They give off a sophisticated vibe to most outfits so why not break out your waistcoat at the weekends too? By wearing it with dark skinny jeans, it becomes casual but smart. Complete the look with clean canvas trainers and you will be the envy of the entire shopping mall!
Our favourite waistcoats and how to wear them
Any waistcoat must be paired with a smart, collared shirt underneath. Whether it’s plain, checked or striped is up to you but anything else makes the waistcoat look sloppy, which it is not! You should also only wear dark wash straight leg jeans with any waistcoat as light wash jeans look far too casual. You can also wear chinos with a waistcoat but again, stick to dark colours so your waistcoat does all the talking.
To be more specific, we’ve gathered our three different styles of waistcoat with our favourite items to wear them with. Embrace your country gentlemen and look slick from head to toe, complete with your new fitted waistcoat!
Moleskin front waistcoat - If you’re not a fan of pattern, a moleskin front waistcoat will be your best option. Because of their plain, neutral colours, this is where you can go crazy for colour on your shirt underneath. Just make sure it’s within a similar colour palette as the waistcoats (beige, browns and olives compliment each other, blues and greys look smart together, reds and pinks go well together with a dash of beige).
Moleskin waistcoats look best with a ‘quieter’ style of check, as opposed to gingham check. We love our Garton Country Check Shirt in Brown paired with the sand moleskin waistcoat. Finish off this look with dark brown brogue shoes for an ultra smart look that can take you from the office straight to the pub!
Standard tweed waistcoat - Our men’s tweed waistcoat allows for a bit more colour and pattern underneath. Try matching up the tweed’s threads with your shirt to give a more cohesive, put-together look overall. The York Olive style has some rich berry tones running through it as well as on the back so why not pair it with our classic Oxford cotton shirt in Daniel Wine for a super smart look? We love to pair rich red with tan leather shoes so grab yourself a pair of Chelsea boots to complete the look.
Tweed waistcoat with satin back - The most formal option we offer is the Hawthorn satin back tweed waistcoat, which never looks out of place on smart-casual occasions,
A favourite in our office is the Helmsley shade, a deep grey colour with a royal blue back. The thread in the tweed has red and yellow colours but those would clash with the blue back. Amp up the cool factor with our Matthew Blue option for both day and night. With dark indigo or grey straight leg jeans, this is definitely an outfit worthy of showing off
A few styling tips
- When wearing a waistcoat without a jacket over the top, you get to show off the often patterned or colourful back. Make sure your shirt doesn’t colour or pattern clash with it!
- Always leave the bottom button undone. Don’t ask us why, it’s just the done thing.
- Make sure it fits properly around the shoulders as this is the key area. Too tight and it will look and feel uncomfortable, too big and it will look like you’ve borrowed it off your dad/grandad/friend. The idea is to have your waistcoat fitted, not snug. If you can’t move freely in it, it’s too small.
- Stay away from shiny materials for casual occasions - they scream formality and don’t look great dressed down.
- Adjust the back if needs be with the strap and buckle on the back. If you need to use the adjuster a lot more than you probably should, it might be time for a new waistcoat. It is only to be used for minor adjustments.
- Always tuck your shirt into your trousers to look more put-together. An untidy shirt spoils the entire look.
- Stick with neutral colours as much as you can. Allow your shirt to add a pop of colour if you wish but the waistcoat should be as neutral as possible. This will give you maximum wearability for your money and if you wear it with a different coloured shirt every time, it will look as good as new every single time.
Wearing a waistcoat with a pair of jeans doesn’t have to be tricky when you stick with dark washes and a smart, collared shirt. You can amp up any outfit with accessories but the staples are exactly the same. As usual, you’ll probably have most of these items in your wardrobe already but it’s all about making them work in a new, unexpected way.