An odd vest (called a waistcoat by the British) may add an additional layer of warmth and interest to a gentleman's attire. By adding some protection to an exposed shirtfront, an odd vest will extend the usefulness of a lightweight tailored jacket during cooler weather. Wearing an odd vest will also allow one the flexibility to remove one's jacket at the office, yet remain looking natty.
Probably the most useful odd vests for wear with worsted suits are ones in solid cream, light-blue and light-gray linen. For country wear a tattersall vest would be appropriate paired with tweed and flannel. Tattersall is a checked pattern that originated with horse blankets used at Tattersall's horse market in London in the 18th Century.
Odd vests may come in single or double-breasted versions, and with or without lapels. Double-breasted waistcoats are considered more formal. When it comes to the details of an odd vest, common wisdom dictates, as expressed by Alan Flusser in Dressing the Man, that "the louder its hue, the quieter its style should be." Therefore, a tattersall check would be most appropriate in a single-breasted vest.
When wearing a single-breasted vest, one should always leave the bottom button undone. It is said that this practice developed from imitators of portly King Edward VII whose tailors were unable to keep up with his rapidly expanding waistline.
Today's low-rise pants pose a problem when it comes to wearing odd vests. One may note from the illustrations that the vest should cover the waistband of the trousers; there should be no visible belt buckle. Such is a sartorial sin on par with exposed skin at the ankles. The bulk of a buckle under the vest is also problematic. The solution is to wear higher-rise trousers with braces. A side benefit to this practice is that it creates the illusion of a longer leg line.
During these cold winter months, inject a little interest into those navy and charcoal suits. Wear an odd vest.