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Can a man get away with wearing a vest sans jacket?

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The question

Vests and suspenders: Can a man wear these without a jacket without looking like a displaced casino employee?

The answer

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Because Britain, for various historical reasons, has such a disproportionately large impact on masculine sartorial conventions, tailors usually refer to vests in the British manner as waistcoats. If you are really old-money, you will pronounce it as "weskit." Lexical matters aside, a non-matching waistcoat without a jacket is now a popular and accepted part of casual wear. It's a great way to dress up jeans. (I am particularly keen on tweed waistcoats: Nothing says "intellectual interests" like that one small garment.)

Such an outfit is appropriate for anywhere but those places where one would wear a business suit. The pieces of a suit, on the other hand, are meant to be worn all together. There are no public places in which a guy wearing a suit should remove his jacket ( especially in a restaurant. Keep it on; don't hang it on the back of your chair). This goes for two-piece and three-piece suits. The waistcoat of a suit is not meant to be seen from behind: That's why the back of it is usually made from satin. And walking around with your jacket off and your suspenders on display is like walking around in your underwear.

Russell Smith's latest novel is Girl Crazy. Have a fashion question? E-mail

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