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Should you wear a vest with short sleeves?

Ah, the vest. It was a staple of 1980s fashion, it’s a necessity if you’re wearing a three-piece suit and it’s a great way to add a layer when it’s cold out. Vests are made in every possible clothing material and a huge variety of styles, from woolly to puffy to silky to studded leather. But does that mean wearing a vest is a solid fashion choice…or even a halfway good one? And what about wearing a vest with something like a T-shirt? Should you wear a vest with short sleeves? Or will you be committing a terrible fashion mistake if you make this choice?

The Vest Debate

Numerous style experts have shared their opinion about pairing a vest with short sleeves. Some have strong opinions one way or the other, but none have no opinion at all. This is actually a pretty hot topic in the fashion world. And though the combination of vests with short sleeves is seen all the time, there are many who say this is a fashion mistake of the highest order. Others will tell you that this combo does work…but it’s all a matter of how you wear both items and how they look together. 

Seater vest full outfit

“With short sleeves and a vest, you’re on pretty safe turf. Witness well-dressed dudes like Adam Levine, Usher and Ryan Gosling. They’ve all pulled this look off recently. We like tailored vests and a T-shirt with jeans or chinos. The result: a casual, rocker vibe. If you’re seeking a more professional look, a short-sleeved collared shirt (with or without a tie) works well, too. Just pay attention to fit. A baggy shirt and vest looks like you’re an off-duty valet in a rental uniform. Keep everything fitted (but not tight) to make this look work for you,” says Men’s Health.

And to avoid that baggy fit and keep your look sleek and hot, Real Men Real Style has some vest-wearing tips: 

“Wearing a vest is a good way to add maturity to your look. People tend to associate vests with older men who are wealthy or have good taste.

“So if you’re trying to catch a woman’s eye, it helps to have the perfect vest on for more sophistication. Make sure that your shirt is tightly tucked under the vest.

“Good tucking will keep any shirt fabric from ‘ballooning’ in little puffs from the bottom…which tends to draw more attention to your waist.”

Others, however, take a hard stance against wearing a vest with a T-shirt or other short sleeve styles. The Adult Man leaves no room for argument, advising “Avoid short sleeves under a vest. It was true for T-shirts, and it’s true with nicer button-ups, too. Even if you have a great shirt underneath, the vibes don’t match. Again, if it’s cold enough to start layering, you should start with long sleeves.”

You don’t have to wait for winter to wear a puffer vest or a warm fleece vest. These looks can work even in short-sleeve weather, if you’re going camping for the night and you need a little extra warmth. A down vest doesn’t have to sit in the drawer and wait for winter. You can mix and match different styles of vets and T-shirts and you can create your own styles. Can you wear vests with short sleeves? 

So…what’s the final verdict? The great thing about fashion is that really, there are no actual rules. The rules of style were made to be broken. New rules are being written all the time. The simple fact is that if something looks good and makes you feel good, you should wear it. But if you want other people to think you’re stylish instead of hopeless, it helps to follow some basic style tips and wear your vest and short sleeve combination like someone who is truly fashionable at heart. Use your style to express who you are and to present yourself a certain way to the world. 

History of Vests

When you really think about it, the vest looks like kind of a silly garment. It fits only around the trunk of your body. It ends at the waist and it’s really rather low cut on the chest. It has no sleeves. The vest can be worn to either add an insulating layer around the core of your body or it can be worn purely for style purposes. But either way, it’s weird…right? So where does this clothing item come from, how long has it been around and how did it get paired up with short sleeves?

Denim vest

Fit for Two Kings

Vests, which have also been called waistcoats (when they’re worn with suits), were first worn by King Charles II of England. According to historians, it was he who introduced the vest to his royal court in the mid-1600s. Charles II was known as a merry king who enjoyed feasting, parties, the theater, music, dancing and pretty much anything involving fun. He was also pretty well-known for being a bit of a fop. In the olden days, that meant that he really liked to dress to the nines. heck, Charles II dressed to the tens. As King of England, he could afford to have whatever fine fashion he liked. 

And he really, really liked fashion. It’s said that Charles II was actually attempting to outdo the French king, Louis XIV, when it came to living a lavish lifestyle. Louis XIV, who built the opulent palace of Versailles, is known for popularizing high heels and several other items of fashion. His court was one of the most lavish and well-dressed in all of history, so Charles set quite a goal for himself in trying to outshine the world-famous King of France. 

Clothing historians say that Charles II got the idea for the vest from an English noble, Sir Robert Shirley, who went on a series of grand adventures around the world as an explorer. He had seen vest fashions in Persia in the royal court of Shah Abbas the Great, who himself was quite the sharp-dressed man. 

The Evolution of the Vest

These early vests were actually much more like long coats than the vests worn today. This later shortened to become a waistcoat in the 1700s ad 1800s. These shorter vests were tight around the waist and flared out slightly over the hips, ending above the mid-thigh. It was in the 1700s that the vest lost its sleeves and became a trunk-surrounding style that is much more like modern vests worn today. In the later 1800s, vests became even shorter and went up to the waist-length look they have today. 

Vest full outfit outside

Vests became a standard part of fashion for men, worn with jackets and pants as everyday wear. They were even included in military uniforms. Revolutionary War soldiers fighting for both sides of the conflict wore them as part of their standard-issue look. 

Throughout most of fashion history, vests were made in highly embellished and eye-catching designs, often made with patterns and embroidery to add plenty of details. Many vests are worn with elaborate details like this to this day, though more simple designs are worn just as often in modern fashion. 

The Vest Goes Modern

All the way up to WWII and the years immediately after, the vest was still worn as more of a formal item. It was worn under suit jackets and over dress shirts, a touch of extra style and attention to detail that was practically a requirement in tuxedos and wedding attire. But then, fashion changed. 

In the 1960s, everything changed. That’s when young men began wearing vests as part of new, more modern fashion styles. They wore them without suits, placing vests over shirts of all kinds and sometimes wearing only the vests with their pants. The style freedom of the 1960s inspired all kinds of looks and encouraged people to take a look at fashion items in whole new ways.

Suddenly, the vest broke free of the suit and became its own stand-alone item, to be added at will to outfits of all types. Today, men and women and everyone else wear vests to create great-looking styles. Vests are worn as everything from casual to formal wear. There are tons of ways to style vests. But if you’re going to wear them with short sleeves, it helps to have an idea of which style sare going to look good when you bring these two classic fashion items together.

Vest and Short Sleeves Outfit Ideas

While it is an idea that works in principle, actually mixing a vest and a short-sleeved shirt can be tricky to put into practice. And depending on which gender you dress for, the way you wear a vest and even the type of vest you wear is subject to change.

Vests for Women

Wearing a vest as a woman can be stylish but it can also look pretty dated. Styleblueprint recommends neer pairing a vest with short sleeves when you’re female, saying “Stick to sleeveless tops beneath your vest or long sleeves…it just looks better to avoid the short sleeve nine times out of 10.”

But as for that rare 10th time when it is okay to pair a vest with short sleeves, you can create a pretty classic and totally stylish look when you do it the right way. Luckily, there’s more than one right way to enjoy this classic combo.

The Sophisticate

Columbia Womens Benton Springs Vest, Charcoal Heather, Small

Wear a longer vest, one that reaches hip-length at least, with a shorter short-sleeved top. The top should be no longer than waist length and you can experiment with cropped lengths if you like. Wear the vest open so that your shirt is still visible underneath. A plain white T with jeans and a vest in any color will create a great casual look that’s perfect for all sorts of day or night activities. This is an especially cute fall look when paired with skinny jeans and knee-high boots. 

The Outdoor Gal

MixMatchy Women's Drawstring Lightweight Loose Fit Sleeveless Vest Utility Jacket Light Olive 1XL

Create a military-inspired design with a utility vest and jeans or khakis. A hip-length utility vest that has zippers and pockets pairs well with a waist-length short sleeve shirt. Mix and match colors. Try olive green and black or olive green and gray to really hit that military style. 

Sugar and Spice

JAYEFO Alpha Leather Motorcycle Vest for Men Riding Club Black Biker Vests With Concealed Carry Gun Pocket Cruise Vintage

Pair a leather or denim vest with a short sleeve dress to create some great fashion contrast. The leather or denim vest will have more of a rock and roll vibe, which contrasts just right against the softer look of the dress. This look can be worn in all seasons, depending on the type of dress you wear, and it looks amazing as casual or semi-formal wear. Pair it with high heels, dark sunglasses and plenty of attitude and you will capture head-turning style. 

Vests for Men

It was men who first popularized the vest look and for centuries, this was a male-only fashion garment that was worn with suits. But vests have broken away from the suit and now, they can be worn in all kinds of different ways. Men can still use a vest to add an extra touch of style to their looks and show the world that they pay attention to detail and to how they look. What’s that they say about a sharp-dressed man? He’s usually wearing a vest? Whatever the saying is, it’s true that a ma who looks stylish is going to inspire confidence in others and be more attractive overall. So start styling your vest and short sleeves like someone who truly knows fashion.

The Fall Guy

Gihuo Women's Vintage Slim V Neck Sweater Vest Uniform Cable Knit Sleeveless Sweater (Black, Medium)

Slip a sweater vest on over a T-shirt to create a classic fall look that’s perfect as casual or semi-formal wear. Over a plain white T or a T in a solid color, a sweater vest works incredibly well to add an extra layer and a little bit of warmth in weather that’s chilly but not so chilly that you want to wear a jacket. Don’t match the colors. The vest and the T must be two different colors for this to work. Pair this with khakis or dark jeans and you will be ready for a host of daytime or evening events. Finish this off with tennis shoes and complete your style.

The Sexy Guy

VATPAVE Mens Victorian Suit Vest Steampunk Gothic Waistcoat Medium SU14 Black

Wear a short sleeve shirt that fits ell, particularly around the arms. You want the sleeves to fit very close to your biceps…because you’re trying to get people to look at your biceps. Put on a vest over a short sleeve, button-up shirt with a collar. Add a tie and now you’ve got a super hot look that is perfect as semi-formal wear when paired with dark jeans or slacks. Wear it with slacks and you can even get away with this look at the office. Because who says you can’t be sexy at the office? Don’t forget your belt, your loafers or your oxfords and your swagger. You want to put that on every time. To pull off this look, make sure both the shirt and vest fit well on your body and keep that shirt tucked in.

The Hard Worker

COOFANDY Mens V-Neck Sleeveless Slim Fit Jacket Casual Suit Vests,X-Large,Black-02

Create an amazing vest look any time but not wearing a short sleeves shirt. Put on a standard long sleeve button-up shirt with a collar and roll the sleeves up to just past the elbows. Tuck the shirt in, add a vest and be ready to be impressed with your look. Make sure you wear a belt with your jeans, slacks or khakis and finish your look with cowboy boots, sneakers or oxfords, depending on the type of casual, semi-formal or office style you’re trying to capture. Keep the vest buttoned up to keep the look very sleek and fitted and you will definitely impress with your look everywhere you go. 

Vests and Short Sleeves

Wearing a vest with short sleeves is a modern look, even though the vest has been around for centuries. Fashion is meant to change things up, to move things forward, to become a tool for people to express their creativity and their personality. And when it comes to fashion, there’s almost nothing that you can’t do. So wear your vest with short sleeves. Wear it with no top at all. Play around with different ways to wear it and have fun, because this is what fashion is really all about.


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