The Compass  /  Style  /  How To Wear A Vest The Modern Way

How To Wear A Vest The Modern Way


A three-piece suit says a lot about the guy wearing it. At a wedding it usually signifies that you’re the groom or a groomsman. At the office it often signifies that you’re the boss or one of the bossmen. Basically any time there is a guy who has official himself-men, a three-piece suit is appropriate.

But adding an alternate vest to a suit says something different. It’s a less intimidating look (read: you shouldn’t be intimidated about trying it) and a modern way to remix a three-piece suit. Pulling it off is quite simple, just be sure the vest and the suit are connected in some way. Here’s how to wear a vest the modern way:

Color Harmony

Nothing adds a touch of color to a black suit like a patterned vest. Just be sure to do it subtly. Here we used the windowpane pattern in the vest to echo the deep, dark red tones of the tie, socks and shoes.

how to wear a vest the modern way, black suit with cobble hill houndstooth vest

Cobble Hill Brown with Burgundy Windowpane Custom Vest

Black Custom Suit

White Solid Broadcloth Custom Dress Shirt

Shop Vests

Everybody Chill

This vest quiets down and grounds the strong plaid of this suit. The suit has a few features that can be intimidating, the plaid pattern and the burnt orange overcheck. Don’t go overboard by adding another strong color or a loud patterned vest. Keep things simple, like we did here with a charcoal gray vest that anchors the whole look.

how to wear a vest the modern way, brownstone glen plaid suit with highbridge charcoal houndstooth vest

Highbridge Charcoal Houndstooth Custom Vest

Brownstone Brown Glen Plaid Custom Suit

White Solid Broadcloth Custom Dress Shirt

Classic Colors, Timeless Style

Blue and gray are backbone of any well-dressed man’s closet, especially when it comes to suiting. Outfits like a navy blue blazer and gray pants are traditional and easy pairings. To update this color combo, try mixing a gray vest into a blue suit. As noted above, a solid vest provides a simple backdrop on which to apply some pattern, like a check suit and a striped knit tie. When the vest is a neutral gray you can pair it with almost anything, but we still love the timelessly elegant blue and gray combo.

how to wear a vest the modern way, flatiron blue fine check suit with cool gray vest

Cool Gray Custom Vest

Flatiron Blue Fine Check Custom Suit

White Solid Broadcloth Custom Dress Shirt

These are only a few ideas on how to wear a vest in a more modern way than just wearing a uniform three-piece suit. Need some remixes of your own?

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39 thoughts on “How To Wear A Vest The Modern Way”

  1. Happy says:

    Hey there,

    I am looking to update a black tuxedo for an evening event by using a different coloured vest. Which colour/pattern would be recommended? Are there better ways to make a tux stand out?

  2. Zach says:

    would a champaigne tie work with a navy/blue suit and grey vest?

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Hey Zach, champagne ties are usually saved for weddings, what occasion are you looking to wear it?

  3. Jonny says:

    Hi there,

    I’ve wanted to wear vests with my suits for a long time, but haven’t been able to since I was a kid. However, I recently acquired a few more bow ties, and that has renewed my desire to get vests to go with my suits. I’m not worried about ties–I have an arsenal of 50-some-odd ties at my disposal–but I would like to know your thoughts about vests. I have a black suit with black pinstripes (I use the term loosely–the stripes are merely glossier black), and I have a charcoal wool suit. What colors would generally go well with those suits? And if there are any colors of ties that typically go better with those combinations, I’d appreciate that information as well. Thank you!

    1. Jonny says:

      I also have a white shirt and a yellow shirt. I know the white shirt is versatile, I’d love to know your thoughts on the yellow shirt and other colors of shirts so I can keep my eyes out for possible additions to my wardrobe

    2. Black Lapel says:

      Hey Jonny!

      So let’s just run down the info here. You want to get some vests to work with your black (with glossier pinstripes) and charcoal suits. You also want to add some bow-ties to your wardrobe to match. You have tons of ties, but that’s not the sole focus. You also want to know what general colors work best with those suit combos.

      Okay, so first, your black suit. First, your options are pretty limited here, and we’d say no vest at all due to the fact that black suits are generally on the formal end, especially when you add the glossy pinstripe to the mix, making it even more formal. If you want to wear this suit in a non-formal occasion, that’s fine, we would just skip the vest and add a colorful bow-tie like burgundy/maroon. The reasoning for the colorful bow-ties are to create a playful contrast to the black. To make it even more playful, you can opt for a patterned bow-tie if the pinstripe is very subtle.

      Your charcoal suit lends you many more options. In this scenario we’re going to assume your charcoal suit is solid, meaning your vest options are aplenty. Keep in mind that you will want to be creating contrast, so light gray, burgundy or brown (if you’re wearing brown shoes) vests are great options. With these vests, you can also play with patterns since your suit is solid.

      As far as to tie colors that work with these suits, your options are pretty expansive. With the black or charcoal suit, you can incorporate most colors and be perfectly fine, our advice is only to stick to lighter hues to create that contrast.

      As far as your second comment (we’ll just reply to it here!), you’re right, the white shirt is far more versatile and it’s great you have one in your arsenal. We’ll be honest, a yellow shirt isn’t our top choice to wear with a suit. That’s not to say you can’t do it, if it’s light and the weather is warm it could be a good way to brighten up a darker suit, however, we would primarily advise against it. Our favorite shirt colors are light blues, pinks, purples and light green/grays (as you can tell from our dress shirt options). These shirt colors can work with your wardrobe on any given day.

      We hope this helped you! If you need more help/clarification feel free to reach out and we’ll be happy to continue conversation!

  4. Ray says:

    Wanted suggestions… I have a High School Boys Basketball Program. Our Pre-game attire is Khaki Pants, Black Blazer, Black Shoes, Black Belt, White Shirt, and Gold Honey and Burgundy Striped Tie. I’m interested in offering a Vest (optional) for the outfit. Can you give me a suggestion for vest color and/or colors?


    1. Black Lapel says:

      Hey Coach!

      First, kudos to you for having your team look fresh. Second, the vest may be a little too much. You’ve got a good pre-game look going, don’t get us wrong, but when it comes to vests, it’s usually viewed as a pretty formal addition. Now, pre-game attire can definitely have that formal look, it only hits a snag with khaki pants. That is, khaki pants are usually best paired with more casual additions, so that is the only problem we see with the vest addition. Though that’s not a definitive opinion, just ours, and we’re not the head judge of the style-court. So, if you want to have that vest, go with either a khaki to match the pants (our choice), or a black to match the rest of your get-up.

  5. Salman says:

    Very nice and comprehensive article
    Want to ask if i can wear a medium grey wool vest (having collars) with a solid black fabric suit?


    1. Black Lapel says:

      Hey there, Salman. The medium gray and black color combination works well together—bravo! (Most guys screw up a black suit.)

      One thing to be aware of is the fact that you’ll be wearing a vest with a collar under a suit jacket with lapels. Doubling up like that is seen as an odd but statement-making menswear look. More often, a vest with collars is work without a suit jacket and instead with, say, jeans and a white dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up. However, if you’re going for the more formal, sprezzy look, just make sure you look the part and that your style can handle this move.

  6. jprife says:

    I have a big business meeting and needed to update my suit options. This article is EXTREMELY useful, since I’m now adding a grey vest to my new navy wool suit. THANK YOU!

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Glad to be of service! Subscribe to The Compass and we’ll give you a regular dose of style intel every week.

  7. David says:

    I have my “last” class reunion in May in south Texas. Going to be hot! I would like to wear my white cotton blend 3 piece suit. However the cleaners could not totally remove a stain on the trousers seat. Not a big deal if I don’t remove the suit jacket or if the ballroom is dimly lit. Question I have is: short of dying the entire suit white again, would black trousers look good? What color shirt and tie.
    I’m returning to Texas from New Orleans where the suit was made and where I’m retired. Want to make a last good impression!

    1. Black Lapel says:

      The thing about a white 3-piece suit is, it’s a statement piece. With more versatile colored fabrics like grays and blues and browns, you can mix and match the pieces pretty easily but a white suit is pretty much one unit. The jacket can probably be used more casually with a pair of jeans and an open collared shirt, but that doesn’t sound like the kind of look you’re going for at your reunion.

      We suggest going with a different suit. You’ll find plenty of options for warm weather suits in more versatile colors like these blue and gray suits in fresco wool (an open weave wool that allows for ventilation and stays cool in hot weather). These kind of suits can be broken up and worn for all sorts of occasions long after the reunion.

  8. Kenneth Geathers says:

    Hi there,I just couldn’t help reading this article about vests! I would like to know can I wear a blue wool vest with a charcoal herringbone sports jacket,and navy wool trousers with a black/grey bow tie with a grey French cuff shirt? Or is there any other suggestions I really appreciate it. Just to let you know these are the sport jackets I own,and I’m not a business man. 1) navy,(2) brown(3)blue plaid,(4) light blue tropical blend (5) charcoal herringbone,and I navy blazer. Thanks!

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Glad we could inspire you, Kenneth. Sounds like you’ve got a lot of the pieces and just need help putting them together. We’d love to help, but without knowing what you look like and having access to your closet, that’s a bit tricky. However, we’ve figured out a way. It’s called dressing from the inside out.

      Dressing from the inside out means never worrying about whether your clothes match each other again. Why? Because when you dress from the inside out you follow the rule that all stylish men follow, you match your clothes to yourself, not each other. So instead of wondering if this tie matches that shirt and this jacket, you just fill your closet with clothes that match your skin tone, hair color and any other distinguishing features. If done properly, it guarantees that all your clothes will match each other. It’s not rocket science. In fact, we’ve written about this extensively in articles like How to Choose Your Clothes and Pick Shirt Colors That Match You. Give those a read and you’ll be able to build outfits around every item in your closet.


    What are the rules to wearing striped or shirts with different patterns with blazers and vest? I have a charcoal vest. Im just entering into the dapper fashion world.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Welcome to the world of dapper, Dakota… Dapper Dakota has a good ring to it. You should probably claim that Instagram handle asap.

      Anyways, about wearing different patterns together: tread carefully as a dapper world newbie. A good rule of thumb to dress by is only one bold pattern at a time, but we do outline a few more rules about mixing patterns here. If you’re specifically looking for rules on matching striped shirts, head here instead.

  10. Ahmed says:

    I am looking to pair a light gray suit with a charcoal black/gray vest. I want to wear dark brown shoes but don’t know if that will go with the rest of the outfit, should I just go with the black shoes?
    And any suggestions on shirts and ties would be appreciated. I was thinking a lighter colored shirt (white with light grey stripes) and dark grey tie. In my mind it works, I’ve read a lot of the articles you guys have and those have helped a lot. Just wanted a second opinion.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      To answer the question about the shoes, if the vest is really that dark, black shoes are probably your best bet. Another option, though, is a pair of oxblood shoes, which work well with all shades of gray. For more, check out our article on shoe and suit combinations.

      For shirt and tie combinations, our advice is always not to focus on making your clothes match each other, but make sure they match YOU. How do you do that? We wrote a whole article about it. Check it out: Pick Shirt Colors That Match You Even If You Have No Eye For Matching. There you’ll find a simple system for coming up with endless shirt and tie combinations.

  11. Jung says:

    Hi – This is the exact inspiration I needed. I am getting married in November and I’ve bought a light grey suit (2 piece). However, I am looking to add a vest but couldnt find the exact match. With that said, I thought of going for a more modern look and have a mis match vest. The suit is a light gray from Brooks Brothers.

    What vest would you recommend that would hold everything together? Any help would be appreciated!


    1. Black Lapel says:

      We’re sorry to break it to you, but you could have gotten a light gray suit tailor made to your exact measurements (so you don’t have to pay for any alterations) from us (either the Cool Gray suit or the Light Gray Fresco suit would have done the trick).

      But you could still get a great looking vest to go with your outfit. We recommend either a color contrast, like a Navy Blue Saxony vest or creating tonal contrast by wearing a Charcoal Gray vest set against the lighter gray in the suit.

      These are just general recommendations, since we don’t know what you look like or the look you’re going for in the wedding. Since you can make any of our suit or blazer fabrics into a vest, there are plenty of other options. For more personal recommendations, take advantage of our free concierge service by emailing a Black Lapel stylist at concierge@blacklapel.com.

      We can custom make you a vest out of any of the fabrics you see made into a suit or blazer.

  12. Atif Jalil says:

    I will attending a wedding on the 25th of September. I’m planning to wear a charcoal grey double breasted suit. What color shirt and tie should I wear with it. I would something out of the box and no plain ties and shirt.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Bad news, good news, Atif. Bad news is, we’ve got no idea what color shirt and tie you should wear. There are two reasons for that: 1) Charcoal gray is a neutral so the possiblities are endless and 2) we don’t know what colors look good on you. What colors look good on you is the name of the game. Forget about trying to devise some algorithm to come up with the “perfect” combination, and just focus on what looks good on you.

      The good news is, all the information you need to figure out what looks good on you is looking right back at you in the mirror. You’ve just got to know what you’re looking at. We call it dressing from the inside out and we’ve covered the topic extensively in our articles on Mastering Men’s Fashion and Picking Shirt Colors That Match You, Even If You Have No Eye For Matching. Give those articles a read and you’ll never wonder what shirt and tie to wear again.

  13. Amanda says:

    My husband and I are going to an outdoor wedding this weekend which starts at 4. He is wearing a pair of gray/ bluish chinos with brown shoes. What color shirt and vest should he wear ??

    1. Black Lapel says:

      A white shirt always works. Just be sure it’s freshly pressed and clean as a whistle. As the last section above points out, blue and gray are pretty much the Romulus and Remus of a man’s closet and either will work as a vest color with blue gray chinos. Since you’re looking for something to wear in a few days, ordering a made-to-measure vest from us is not an option, but a vest like the Cool Gray would work for this situation.

  14. par-t says:

    Different big wigs have different needs for to totally get your rear end handed to you.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Big wigs are tough cookies. A lot of times they set the dress code standard in an office. If you think you can wear a three-piece suit remix without getting your rear end handed to you, we still encourage it as office-appropriate!

  15. Lenny says:

    I currently only have two-piece suits without the vest. Is it at all possible to successfully wear a separate vest with a two-piece suit?

    Also, what kind of vest do you recommend for a guy who is a bit broader? I think three-piece suits are gorgeous but most models are rather slim and the vest seems to accentuate that.

    These are some awesome combinations though!

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Yup, Lenny, the three-piece remixes you see above are simply two-piece suits with nonmatching vests. Click on any of the links to see the products and you’ll see that the suits and vests are separate pieces that we put together into outfits.

      As for a vest for a broad guy, use slimming patterns to get the job done. A solid swath of color across your front (like the last photo featured above) can accentuate a larger chest/belly. A windowpane pattern (like the one in the vest shown at the top of this article) features boxes that are shaped like windowpanes. Those boxes are taller than they are wide and have a slimming effect on the wearer.

      The fabrics we chose to highlight above are just a few of the many options you could choose. Since we make all Black Lapel clothes to order, you could, theoretically, combine any of our fabrics into a three-piece remix like the ones above. If you’d like more specific advice, email us at concierge@blacklapel.com and one of our stylists will help you get the look you’re after.

  16. James says:


    1. Black Lapel says:

      That’s the idea, James. Glad we could help kickstart your style imagination.

  17. Lovemore Ruwende says:

    This is just too good. It’s amazing. I am impressed. I have the suits in different shades can I use my VISA Card to get those vests? I must point out though I am a 5’5″ person and therefore don’t really know how I will look like in the public eye.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Glad you like them. Click on any of the links above and you can shop from there.

      Since we make all of our clothes to your measurements, you need not worry about your height. Anything you get from Black Lapel will be cut specifically for you.

  18. Clay says:

    If you currently don’t own a vest and are interested in adding one to your wardrobe, what’s a good color/pattern to start with? Most of my suits and dress pants are solid blue or gray with some subtle patterns.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Since your suits are solid or subtly patterned, vests with more spaced out patterns (like the Cobble Hill Houndstooth Vest above) provide a little more contrast and can really make the outfit pop. Another way to do that is through color. Lighter colors (like the Cool Gray Vest seen above) create contrast with darker blue and gray suits.

      Whether patterned or solid, choose a vest with neutral color(s) like gray or tan, and you’ll be able to mix and match it with a wide range of suits.

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