Alliteration aside, waistcoats are fucking great. I spent a considerable part of my adult life working and living in the UK. While living abroad certainly had an impact on my world view, politics, and even how I speak and write, it most obviously had an effect on how I dressed.
My 9-5 in the UK had me wearing suits most days, and in an attempt to blend in and gain acceptance among my customers and peers, I found it best to try and emulate the style by which I was surrounded. One such change to my wardrobe was the introduction of the three-piece suit and, subsequently, the waistcoat.
OK, no, we aren’t talking about formal or businesswear in this article. In fact, I literally promise to never subject this audience to such things. That said, the casual waistcoat is something worth looking at within rugged wear. Aside from having the ability to be practical as fuck, waistcoats tie an outfit together in a dapper-ass way.
Oh, what’s that, you want a brief-as-hell history on waistcoats? Fine, Let’s dig into that for a moment. Waistcoat origins go as far back (roughly 400 years, y’all) as the Persian Empire and sleeveless jackets that were worn due to the high average temperature. They were decorative while providing adequate protection against the elements and storing or concealing items if need be.
Later, the waistcoat was adopted by King Charles II as a fashionable garment that would help distance himself and his court from the 17th-century French-style extravagance and make him appear more “of the people,” due to the waistcoat’s “dressed-down” effect. The hope and belief were by implementing a more casual appearance, King Charles II might appear more accessible to his subjects.
Through the centuries, waistcoats became more commonplace, not only reserved for those looking for a smarter look, and eventually ended up as a workwear staple for frontiersmen. This is all well and good, but right about now, I’d guess you’re probably wondering what the fuck this has to do with denim or rugged wear for that matter. Fair enough.
While they weren’t the first, and certainly won’t be the last, I’m sure, SoSo recently released a new custom garment option on their website. If you haven’t guessed it by now, I’ll clue you in: they released custom waistcoats! I know, I know, you’re shocked, and that’s my fault, I should have prepared you better for the information that was coming.
Having only ever worn a waistcoat in formal or business settings and loving the drawn-together look a waistcoat provides, I was very keen to try out their newest offering. Following a similar process to the “custom way” for jeans, jackets, and shirts, I set off to create my very first bespoke denim waistcoat.
One final piece before we jump into the review, there are some things to consider when buying and wearing a waistcoat. First, think fit; waistcoats are not meant to be worn loose or baggy. They shouldn’t be friggin’ corsets either. Waistcoats should fit close to the frame, with the back belt cinched, where appropriate, so that the opening of the vest is equally well-fitting; not hanging open. Suffice it to say, you aren’t buying this to fit like a jacket or outerwear, but more like a well-cut, tailored shirt.
There is, naturally, some debate as to the appropriate fastening of the bottom button. Like with suit-coats, it is believed propper to leave the bottom button of a waistcoat unfastened. Wearing a vest in this manner was made famous by another British monarch, Edward VII, whose portly belly prevented him from being able to do so. Others, however, will argue this is not the case, and waistcoats should be buttoned to the bottom.
Which way is correct? Who the hell cares. Wear it how you feel comfortable and whichever way you look best because the wolf does not concern himself with the opinion of the sheep. Just make sure the damn thing fits appropriately, so you don’t look like you’re playing dress-up in Dad’s clothes again.
Right, so, let’s get on with the review of my SoSo Custom Waistcoat. Remember, the rules of The Arcuate way of reviewing; the three main focal points: Aesthetics, Quality, and Value. The first two points impact the third, to give us an overall recommendation of “Must buy,” “Nice-to-Try,” or “Oh, God, Why?”
SoSo Custom Waistcoat: Aesthetics
It’s hard to argue against the aesthetics of a piece that was custom designed; that is to say, if I bitched about appearances here, it’d be my own damn fault. Some nice call-outs here: selvedge iD on the top left pocket, the antique copper buttons, and matching rivets, the dirty weft, and burgundy (I have a thing for this color, especially when combined with deep indigo) stitching. I do wish the clasp on the back belt could have been matched to the color of the buttons and rivets, but I think availability might have been the issue there.
The light blue iD line, deep indigo Japanese selvedge and the dirty weft make this piece look sophisticated and refined. I have found it easy to pair with short-sleeved micro-print button-ups as well as short and long-sleeved henley style shirts. Simply put, you can actually dress this denim up or down and feel confident in both applications.
SoSo Custom Waistcoat: Quality
The quality is excellent. The stitching and finishes are all top-notch. We are talking about Japanese denim, and I can’t complain. SoSo works with smaller mills across several countries, which allows them to be able to purchase smaller quantities while simultaneously offering a wide variety of choices. It’s part of what I love about them. There is also, like the rest of their products, no heavy branding, which I love.
I always find that fit is as much a part of aesthetics as it is quality, and I tend to file fit in the latter. I know I have read reviews and comments about fit discrepancies and SoSo as a brand. While these remarks span several years, I have yet to experience them myself. When a SoSo package arrives, I drool, I measure and confirm, and then I try on. I do this, not just because I am an anal-retentive bastard, but because, as a reviewer, I have to remain objective about this stuff and not be a fan-boy.
The waistcoat is no different from the rest of my experiences, the fit is excellent. After messaging with Johan and getting his advice on sizing, I ended up going with size Large. The waistcoat fits about as perfectly as I’d hope; it is snug but comfortable through the chest, with just a little space to be sured up by the back belt through the abdomen. The waistcoat ends just above the beltline, which is perfect for showing off your Pigeon Tree double-prong quick-release belt, or your Craft and Lore Mountain belt! (no favorites!).
SoSo Custom Waistcoat: Value
Based on overall appearance and high quality, I’d rate this piece a “must-buy,” if you are in the market for a waistcoat. For a custom made garment, with as many details as you could ever possibly want to change and personalize, SoSo offers a top-quality product at an accessible price. If you act quickly, the boys are still offering their 30% off custom wear deal, making it even more attractive to dive in and expand your wardrobe with a waistcoat!
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