The 1900s and Onward

Although the waistcoat was still deemed fashionable at the beginning of the twentieth century, its popularity soon began to wane. Rather than being worn as a show of wealth or decadence, the waistcoat was considered little more than a functional item to house a pocket watch or to finish off a formal evening wear outfit. With suits becoming softer and men opting for the growing trend of the wristwatch, the waistcoat was deemed less than essential for the male wardrobe.

That is not to say that the waistcoat simply died. Many men continued to wear a knitted waistcoat in the winter and a lighter version in the summer; however, it was now seen as an item simply to accompany and harmonize the rest of the outfit.

After World War II, few businessmen were wearing waistcoats to work, and right up to the Peacock Revolution in the 1960s, they had become all but extinct except with the more conservative dressers and those of an older generation. The waistcoat began to revive among fashionable young men, however, who associated themselves with style tribes such as Neo-Edwardians and Teddy boys.

The 1960s also saw the waistcoat move away from being a formal item when it was adopted by the hippies and incorporated as part of their ethnic-inspired or countrified look. The hippy version of the waistcoat still followed the contours of the body, but it tended to be longer than the waistcoat of a business suit; some were knee-length and featured heavy floral embroidery, fringing, and patchwork; some were tie-dyed (a look that would be recreated for the spring/summer 1993 collection by Dolce & Gabbana).

In the early twenty-first century, the waistcoat is seldom worn, except by businessmen trying to show some form of individuality or personality with a suit. Among conservative members of some professions, such as corporate law and banking, a three-piece suit (i.e., trousers, jacket, and matching waistcoat) is still regarded as the most appropriate business attire. But aside from designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier and Dolce & Gabbana reviving waistcoats for men during the 1980s and early 1990s, they are now more likely to be worn as novelty items than to be part of a classic tailored look.

See also Dandyism; Jacket; Trousers; Uniforms, Occupational.


Amies, Hardy. A, B, C's of Men's Fashion. London: Cahill &

Company Ltd., 1964. Byrde, Penelope. The Male Image: Men's Fashion in England

1300-1970. London: B. T. Batsford, Ltd., 1979. Chenoune, Farid. A History of Men's Fashion. Paris: Flammarion, 1993.

De Marley, Diana. Fashion For Men: An Illustrated History. London: B. T. Batsford, Ltd., 1985. Keers, Paul. A Gentleman's Wardrobe. London: Weidenfield and

Nicolson, 1987. Roetzel, Bernhard. Gentleman: A Timeless Fashion. Cologne,

Germany: Konemann, 1999. Schoeffler, O. E., and William Gale. Esquire's Encyclopedia of 20th Century Men's Fashions. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1973.

Tom Greatrex

WATCHES Watches are portable timepieces, used to measure time and intervals. Historically, watches were worn as decorative pendants or carried in the pocket. In modern times, they are branded accessories most frequently worn on the wrist.

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