Waistcoat Wednesday: Levis, ruggedly good looking

Another instalment of Waistcoat Wednesday is here for you to peruse in a sartorial light. This week I’m presenting a piece from the more mainstream garment industry in the form of Levis. Given how the menswear community has such an fetish for small production, quirky brands and fastidious Japanese reproductions of arcane workwear items, it may seem odd that I’m going out on a limb to look at something made by a Major Manufacturer, but bear with me, ok?

This is a waistcoat I’d noticed a couple of times before in Levis windows displays, but never taken a closer look at. To be honest, Levis has never really been my thing. A bit mainstream? While in Berlin at Xmas I found myself outside the Levis shop on Kudamm with time to spare and nipped inside to take a closer look.

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Waistcoats come in a range of forms for a range of functions, from skimpy silken numbers for the sophisticated gentleman to rugged and insulated vests for the woodland chap. From pure garnish to pure utility, indeed.

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So what is this one by Levis like? For starters, it’s in a rather decent grey wool material. Wool is good, wool is warm and wool looks nice. No complaints in this respect. And while 100% wool can have issues of wear, this one is only 65% wool, with some synthetics added in to firm it up a bit. This probably makes the fabric a bit cheaper as well, but I’ll cut them a little slack, this isn’t a super-expensive waistcoat.

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There is extra utility to be found here, as there is an extra layer of insulation added in, in the form of luxurious 100% polyester. Again, no issues about that, no need to spend the money on stuff you don’t see and a million sleeping bags will attest to polyester being a more than acceptable material for insulation. What this means is that this waistcoat is more than just a pretty face, it actually has real world use in keeping your torso toasty.

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One of the features that really gives this waistcoat a boost is the cotton lining. While not something you’d normally be showing off to others than your loving partner and possibly your mother, someone really selected a nice fabric for this one. Not only did they select a nice lining, they also did a quilted style pattern on it. Nice details, and details matter, even if no one will actually see them.

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Another nice detail on this one is the buttons. No standard issue generic cheapies here, but properly branded horn buttons (or a very good facsimile thereof). Three buttons up the front of the waistcoat, where I would have liked to see at least 4 or 5. This to get a more even pull and less spacing between the buttons. An odd design omission, and maybe the only real issue I have with this one. Two spare buttons are included, one of each size used.

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A design feature I really like (and I touched upon it on my recent post about the stupid design flaws made when designing the rear cinches of waistcoats, the truly nerdy may wish to read up on this here) is the rear cinch. Instead of using some crummy piece of hardware to try to provide the traditional tightening of the rear, or even using a really proper piece of hardware, they’ve gone for a very much less technological solution of a two-position cinch, by way of buttons. Buttons! How brilliant is that? Perfect symmetry, no slippage, and let’s face it, two positions is probably quite sufficient (and if you can’t make it work, just move the buttons). Excellent engineering.

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4 pockets on the front, two up and two down, symmetrically placed, decently sized and of a pleasing shape. Unlined, but in the same fairly thick wool as the rest of the outer. Also note that this one has the same fabric front and back, none of the silly silky back that only belongs on waistcoats that are part of a 3-piece suit. I very much prefer proper fabric on the back, either matching the front, or at least a similar weight and feel of fabric. Almost as bad as a silk back is the combination of a tweed front and a cotton back. To my eyes it gives the whole garment a feel of poverty.

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Construction wise this waistcoat is very well made. The sewing is almost flawless and the pattern used is a proper and well cut variation over the simple waistcoat. Even the button holes are perfect, and I know a thing or two about buttonhole problems. Considering the numerous labels on the inside telling us of where it has been made (India) and the fabric types in about 2 dozen languages, I was half suspecting that the product of a huge company producing in a low-cost country would be indifferent and of shallow value, but my prejudice was put to shame. It’s actually a really fine waistcoat.

If you would like to read about more superb pieces of armless attire, make you way over here!

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