The male waistcoat
Published: Dec 30, 2009 03:44 AM Updated: May 25, 2011 01:12 PM

Lord of the Blings: a waistcoated JRR Tolkien.

Nick Cannon observes the bottom button rule. Photos: CFP 
By Leo Reece

The holiday period has naturally brought with it a fair share of gatherings for the expat community, determined to forget they're in Beijing's icy, smoggy grip. Those who care about what they're seen in have stepped up their e. orts to keep things fresh, aware there's a good chance they'll bump into the same folk at events throughout the festive fortnight.

Surprisingly, one such piece, which has been making a comeback for a while, is the male waistcoat, which has been sported on a number of occasions by the same fashion-conscious fellows. Depending on which side of the Atlantic you're on, the waistcoat, vest, gilet or whatever you want to call it, has been rejuvenated from its 1980's boy-chic hibernation and is once again available for everyday use. The item, once restricted to traditional tailor's shops, has never been as en vogue as it is right now in Beijing.


As little as a few months ago, the waistcoat was an item to be worn infrequently and with a due element of caution (a few years ago, it was purely the domain of suited bankers and characterless boy-bands) But recently, those donning the waistcoat have been throwing caution to the wind and mixing it up for the full gamut of clothing occasions. It's versatility, both from a fashion point-of-view and a practical perspective, may be the key to its revival. Waistcoats are perfect for men who are walking Beijing's frosty streets one minute and sipping on lattes in the office the next. They happily go over longsleeved shirts and t-shirts, and comfortably sit under heavy jackets.

Jonathan White, managing editor at The Beijinger magazine is one fellow who regularly pulls off the waistcoat with uncompromising levels of success. Chatting with a gaggle of Beijing's female fashionistas at a Christmas Eve drinks bash, I was told in no uncertain terms that White is the benchmark for men looking to carry the waistcoat off in a range of styles. "Waistcoats rip up the line between formal and casual," opines

White himself. "They're best worn with jeans, rolled- up sleeves and a loose tie." White does offer a few words of caution, though: "There are two things to remember: first, make sure it fits. If you can't breathe, then it's too tight; if the "V" plunges in a manner better suited to a starlet's red carpet dress, then it's too big. Secondly, never, ever fasten the bottom button. Ever."


Seeing as the beginning of 2010 is very much in sight, Lifestyle thought it would be appropriate to ask regular fashion adviser Ozan Ozdemir from Red Hero for his thoughts on what will be happening in fashion.

 "I think 2010 is going to be a big year for fashion. Expect shorter skirts and dresses. At the same time, skirts will be more airy. People will be doing interesting things with shirts. Flares will come back, not only in denim form, but also fabric pants. Regarding colors, the zebra look, influenced by the football World Cup in South Africa will be evident. We will see a big emphasis on black and white in 2010 as well as natural colors." 

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