Dress codes don’t go away. They just change shape.
So goes the story of the vest.
With the “power suit” all but passé, today’s business world pressed this formerly informal garment into princedom. But what may have been intended as a move away from starched-shirt rigidity has merely replaced flannel with fleece.
Relaxing of rules? Far from it. In cities all over the world, the unmistakable look of “vest over long sleeve” has merely become Suit 2.0. Call it the “Midtown Uniform.” Blame it on Silicon Valley. Or simply tell it like it is.
Thanks to corporate culture’s love affair with vests, layering anything short of a jacket with sleeves risks exposure to the ultimate modern whackness: looking like you use the word “Humpday.”
But all is not lost! Venture outside the cubicle farm and you’ll find a world of stylish, practical layering pieces, none of which scream “yuppie approved.” Looking for cold weather heat everywhere but your arms? Here’s our picks.
Snow Peak Takibi Vest
A classic from Japan’s first name in camping gear, the Snow Peak Takibi Vest is a piece so cool it’s flame-retardant. Seriously. It’s 98% aramid fiber. That’s the stuff used to make firefighting suits. Chill, right?
The Takibi was designed for campsite use (including time spent ‘round the fire), but its wealth of tool loops and other functional features also make it one of the more striking examples of the “tactical vest” trend around. For those seeking heat – both literally and figuratively – Snow Peak’s Takibi is an ice cold choice.
NemeN Guard Vest
Most know Stone Island. Some know C.P. But NemeN? In the world of tech sportswear, the Milan-based workshop is almost a best-kept secret. Founded in 2012 by Leonardo Fasolo and Fabio Cavina, NemeN continues the legacy of the late Massimo Osti (Stone Island’s founder) by placing fabric innovation at the core of the brand.
Fasolo, a former Stoney designer himself, isn’t shy about the comparison: his goal for NemeN is to keep Osti’s “perfect” archival designs intact, but introduce them to “the next generation with a new language.” The Guard Vest, a military-inspired tac unit, is a perfect example of that ethos brought to life.
Mammut Alvra Light
Whether for watches, fonts, or army knives, Swiss design could best be described as precise. Take that exacting mentality, surround it with The Alps, and you get Mammut: a 156-year-old outdoors brand known for excellence at altitude.
Mammut’s Alvra Light IN Vest is a windproof, water-repellant gilet heated by 850 fill goose down. While designed as a layering piece, the vest’s Pertex Quantum Pro face gives it better all-weather performance than some shells – another reason not to hide the Alvra’s bold lines. Best of all, the warm, versatile Alvra Light weighs in at a mere 245 grams (8.6 oz) Quite “light” indeed.
Mission Workshop The Northmar Vest
Hailing from a city known for its mild weather, San Francisco’s own Mission Workshop makes slick, technical apparel designed around versatility. Case in point: the Northmar Vest.
Full of breathable Primaloft Gold insulation but built for layering, this is as close to an all-seasons piece as it comes. Plus, with hidden inside pockets, it’s also one of the most minimal insulated pieces around. While Mission may not come off as “tacticool” as a brand like Arc’teryx, the Northmar is a sleek, functional mid-layer as capable on a hike as it is on a commute.
Arc’teryx Cerium SL Vest
Speaking of Arc’teryx, there’s the Cerium SL. A “Superlight” vest designed for aerobic activity, the piece weighs an anemic 125 grams (4.4 oz) yet is stuffed with 850 fill goose down. Wear it for climbing. Wear it for hiking. Wear it because a Costanza-style puffer is best left on Seinfeld. However you wear it, this wispy, ultralight vest punches well above its weight class. Just make sure to pair it with a shell should the weather turn wet. The Cerium’s featherweight construction is wind-resistant, but won’t keep drops out.
Junya Watanabe Oxford Check Vest
While it is technically “workwear,” there’s nothing nine-to-five about Junya Watanabe. The Japanese designer’s latest includes the Oxford Check Vest, a crass-meets-class utility piece that blends the two sides of the vest game into one wild statement. Need to bring a few camera lenses to your polo match? Pockets. Fly fishing at 6, but a dog show at 7? Oxford check. While most short jackets claim “versatility,” there are few that do it with such flair.
Kapital Primal Stripe Bonding Fleecy Beach Vest
One of the most famous names in Japanese menswear, pure product inspiration has powered Kapital through nearly 30 years of life. Named after Kojima (Japan’s “Denim Capital”), the brand fuses handicraft roots with modern touches to create an aesthetic so idiosyncratic, it names vintage hunting vests after the beach. Case in point: the Primal Stripe Bonding Fleecy Beach Vest. How’s that for a name?
The Primal Stripe Bonding Flee- well, you know – is a bold, modernism-inspired cotton vest inspired by vintage outdoors gear. Snap closures and a four-pocket layout turn up the wild factor, making the Primal Stripe a piece unlike any other. To escape the office life, just think of the Beach.
C2H4 Reversible User Interface
C2H4 is a lot of things. For one, it’s a chemical formula. If you’re wondering why one bad banana spoils the bunch, it’s because it’s releasing ethylene (2 Carbons-4 Hydrogens). For another, it’s an LA-based clothing brand dabbling in all things retro-future. If you’re wondering where to find bananas garms, they’re all right here.
Part of the brand’s latest collection (one chemically-titled “SYSTEM ON CARBON”), the Reversible User Interface is an overtly-adjustable down vest overloaded with cord pulls. From the arm holes to the pocket flaps, nearly every part can be modified for fit. And yes, as the name implies, even the color of the vest can be changed. On one side is tonal grey nylon; on the other, an electrifying red-blue circuit print.