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How The Sweater Vest Became An Unexpected Menswear Hero

Sweater vest, sleeveless jumper, knitted tank top – whatever you want to call it, cutting the arms off your knitwear (preferably without your limbs inside) is swiftly becoming the style move of the season.

It all started with Donald Glover and Ryan Gosling, two A-listers who’ve built their style rep on the ’70s lounge lizard look that the sweater vest neatly slips into. Glover was first seen looking all shades of fly in a chunky Gucci number under a matching suit (sans shirt no less), while Gosling rocked the living earth out of a Lacoste one over a ragged white tee for a scuzzy take on the style.

More recently former One Direction man Harry Styles joined the Chandler Bing appreciation party, breaking the internet in the process with a sheep-laden Lanvin sweater vest.

“Knitted tank tops or sweater vests as they are currently being referred to are one of the most practical items a man can own,” says Chris Hobbs, senior style editor at MatchesFashion. “There’s a real ’70s vibe to them as they first came to true prominence in that decade, accentuating the torso against the wider silhouette of flared trousers.

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Ryan Gosling

“What’s interesting [now] is how they have been turned into real statement pieces – Harry Styles’s Lanvin vest a case in point. It was an additional layer on an already vibrant outfit and speaks to the more maximalist trend seen at the likes of Gucci.”

How To Wear A Sweater Vest

“I’d definitely say that if you are unsure of this trend then approach with caution,” warns Hobbs. This warning all rests upon which sweater vest you decide upon, of course.

A plain, thin gauge knit in a neutral navy or black won’t be striking enough to steal the show by itself. It’s the sort that will slip coolly underneath your office suit though – no caution necessary. If it’s cut a little more boxy, it could also work with some stripped-back Scandi styling and a plain white tee underneath.

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Donald Glover

But if you’re wanting to follow sweater vest Messrs Styles, Glover, Gosling, then you’re going to have to lean into this jumper style in an old-school, maximalist way. Think wide-legged pleated trousers that channel either the ’20s or ’70s, and nothing underneath. Try a ragged denim jacket over the top.

If you’ve got your eye on one of the more statement versions to slip into your tailoring rotation, simply make sure you match the shades to each other and don’t go too chunky on the knit.

The Best Brands For Sweater Vests

Sefr

Sefr started life as a vintage shop in the city of Malmo, Sweden before expanding into its own range in 2016. Retro beauties pared down are its specialty, with an intriguing take on the nostalgic sweater vest that comes in a typically spacious Scandi fit, and a rib-knit made out of wool and alpaca fleece.

Buy Now: £160.00

SÉFR Bob rib-knitted vest

Wooyoungmi

While it feels like other designers are taking its sweater vest cues from the more garish ’70s, the sweater vests at luxury Korean brand Wooyoungmi have their foot firmly planted in the elegant ’20s.

It’s all in the way it fits tight to the body, especially around the back, that sees it sit nicely alongside a pair of wide-legged pleated trousers. Jay Gatsby eat your heart out.

Buy Now: £385.00

WOOYOUNGMI Stripe-intarsia sweater vest

Marks & Spencer

The ever-dependable department store Marks & Spencer is one of the best places to pick up basics on the high street, and off. Simple and lightweight, its sweater vest isn’t meant to steal the show, but it slips easily under a suit jacket and is made out of lambswool given the stamp of approval from quality assurance body, Woolmark, so for the price you can’t better it.

Buy Now: £29.50

M&S COLLECTION Pure Lambswool Sleeveless V-Neck Jumper

John Smedley

A spot as the oldest knitwear manufacturer in the world (235 years old and counting) and a royal warrant to match, are just desserts for the sublime knits offered by John Smedley.

The brand calls its classic version of the sleeveless knit a waistcoat, which signals its intended purpose providing a mid-layer in your tailoring, with a crisp set of buttons down the middle. The slipover style is similar in its simplicity, minus the buttons, all spun in one of the finest merino wools you can find.

Buy Now: £145.00

Hadfield In Orion Green

John Lewis

We’re big fans of all the menswear brands on show at John Lewis, and that magic formula very much includes the department store’s in-house line.

Keeping it simple with two vests in charcoal and navy, quality is the name of the John Lewis game with a heat-regulating merino wool knit that will keep you cool and collected.

Buy Now: £45.00

John Lewis & Partners Extra Fine Merino Tank Top, Charcoal

Gucci

Leader of the renaissance, thanks to its place on the torso of one Mr. Gambino, Italian fashion house Gucci has been firmly in ’70s mode for quite some time now, and that vibe is firmly reflected in its sweater vests. The all-over double-G motif might be a tad gauche for some tastes but wearable navy and camel colourways tone proceedings down nicely.

Buy Now: £610.00

GUCCI GG-intarsia wool-blend sleeveless sweater

Our Legacy

Swedish label Our Legacy takes the minimalist Scandi manifesto and adds its own subtle additions for pieces that don’t shout for your attention, but deservedly win it nonetheless.

The brand’s sweater vest is a case in point. A fairly relaxed fit makes way for the main attraction – a melange of multi-coloured threads running through the knit – for a handsome, but subtle touch of colour, without making it hard to pair the vest with the rest of your outfit.

Buy Now: £240.00

OUR LEGACY Melange wool sleeveless sweater

Cos

Futuristic Scandi wear is the style at premium high street store Cos. It makes for a sweater vest quite unlike any others on this list, with a subtle texture coming from the bouclé knit and a ribbed mock neck providing a welcome change-up, even if it might look like something Kirk and Spock would don in a galaxy far far away.

Buy Now: £45.00

TEXTURED KNIT VEST

Gramicci

Ever looked at the sweater vest collection of Gosling and co. and thought, ‘Could use more pockets’? Well, workwear warriors rejoice, as uber practical outerwear brand Gramicci enters the ring with its take, a storm-proof sweater vest made out of comfy fleece with a chest zip pocket and two side pockets. The sweater vest, but make it utilitarian.

Buy Now: £130.00

Gramicci Green Storm Fleece Sweater Vest

Ralph Lauren

One of the kings of the sweater vest scene at the minute, pioneering preppy label Ralph Lauren has one of the widest ranges to boot.

On one side you can pick up one of its simple neutral shaded versions with just the brand’s logo as an adornment, and on the other, there are the statement fair-isle pieces that will have you looking like a wise art professor huffing on a pipe. Choose your path wisely.

Buy Now: £210.00

POLO FAIRISLE JUMPER 92

Acne Studios

Luxury fashion house Acne Studios stands apart from its Scandi counterparts with designs so bold they’d give your hygge instructor a heart attack.

No blushing bride, its sweater vest is one of the punchiest around, with an acid-wash fair isle pattern that’s as punk rock as the sweater vest could get. And there’s quality backing up the punch too, with the vest having been jacquard-knitted in Italy with both wool and mohair, for a jumper that’s as cosy as it is rock and roll.

Buy Now: £320.00

ACNE STUDIOS Slim-Fit Fair Isle Jacquard Sweater Vest

Dries Van Noten

Renowned for its dazzling prints, Belgian fashion house Dries Van Noten, takes a more refined approach to its sweater vest.

Spun out of sleek Italian merino wool, it’s an understated beauty in an elegant shade of camel with a vintage wide trim along the V-neck and some simple but effective stripes around the hem. Pair it with a black suit to devastating effect.

Buy Now: £285.00

DRIES VAN NOTEN Striped Merino Wool Sweater Vest

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