Although I’m not a huge proponent of following the rules of style to the letter, there are certain rules and/or traditions that I like to adhere to. One of those traditions is always leaving the bottom button of your waistcoat undone. Like always having one button unbuttoned on your jacket cuff it’s hard to trace the origins of the practice, but somehow it just looks “right”.
Leaving your waistcoat completely unbuttoned, however, is another matter entirely. There may have been a time not too long ago when this look might have been a no-go for me. But style is a journey and my tastes continue to evolve in certain areas. There were two things that impacted my decision to try this look out.
| WEARING | Michael Andrews Bespoke waistcoat and trousers, Neiman Marcus shirt, A. Lange & Söhne watch, Homero Ortega hat, Belgian Shoes NYC loafers | PHOTOGRAPHY | by Rob McIver Photo
First, the influence of my good friend Ken Himmelstein, who prior to his retirement, had the best damned men’s shop in the entire Baltimore, DC and Philly area. Ken’s quite a rakish man and I can vaguely recall a trip to his shop and seeing him decked out in a RRL Canadian tuxedo–par for the course–with an unbuttoned grey herringbone tweed waistcoat perfectly askew.
Second is the fact that I’m older and more experienced. With age comes a certain confidence, especially if you’ve actively explored the best and (regrettably) the worst that menswear has to offer. We all make mistakes when we’re starting our style journeys and one of those is adhering too rigorously to “the rules” to the detriment of cultivating actual style. When you’ve “been there, done that” it imbues you with a certain carefree, devil may care, attitude, which I believe leads to true style and that aspect of sartorial nirvana known as sprezzatura.
There is a third, much more practical, factor in play here as well. And that is the summer heat. Wrap your core in fabric, no matter how breathable the cloth, and you’re going to get hot. (During my bicycle racing days, I actually had a custom-tailored ice vest to keep me cool during my hour-long warm ups for crits and TTs.) This was probably the biggest factor that led me to first try this on our honeymoon in Paris. Walking around Saint-Germain in 90-plus degrees, while attempting to look put together for dinner, unbuttoning the waistcoat became pretty much obligatory.
Completely unrelated, but always asked: yes, you can wear black shoes with brown pants (and vice versa).
Chime in: What are your thoughts on leaving a waistcoat completely unbuttoned?