The waistcoat has been a staple of men's wardrobes since the 17th century when Charles II decreed they be worn at court. They evolved from flamboyant, decorative vests inspired by foreign lands, into austere companions to a frock coat before finally becoming the waistcoat we are familiar with today. As the modern suit began to develop in the late 19th century, waistcoats (so called because they were now cropped at the waist) were used to create shape in a similar manner to a woman's corset. They were also used to hide braces and keep the shirt from coming untucked.
They were such commonplace in mens fashion that a gentleman was considered to be in a state of undress without one. But then in the 1930's disaster struck! Companies like Daks begun to produce self-supporting trousers, negating the need for braces and encouraging a newly informal style of dressing. Terrible news for the waistcoat!
Worse still, during WW2 the government introduced the Utility Clothing Scheme, which rationed fabric.
With rationing lifted, the waistcoat had a brief revival in the 1950's as teenagers began to rebel against post-war austerity with their teddy-boy fashions (named because they were inspired by the Edwardian era) and oversized Oxford bags.
Unfortunately this was short-lived and the final nail in the traditional waistcoat's coffin came in the form of central heating. Suddenly all those layers of hard-wearing wool were just too hot. They had to go.
But fear not! The vest is finally having a renaissance. With three-piece suits being seen regularly on the guests of London Collections: Men and Pitti Uomo, the West End is struggling to find enough trained waistcoat makers to keep up with the demand.
Stand-alone waistcoats have also seen a rise in popularity as grooms clamour to get in on the couture action at their weddings. A tailor-made waistcoat is a great way of getting something made especially for you without using up the honeymoon budget.
One groom, with forethought, has requested a backless waistcoat for his impending nuptials. With the adjustable elastic straps at the waist and neck it won't require any alterations to be made to accommodate his midlife waistline.
Some opt for fun bright colours to make sure they stand out, others choose something classic that they can cherish for years to come, either way you can wear it to the next wedding without so much as a second thought. Can your bride say the same?
In closing, I'm relieved to say that the waistcoat has finally returned to the modern man's wardrobe. Lets hear it for this stalwart of style.