I used to think vests/gilets/body warmers (especially warm ones) to be an odd thing. Why would you want your body to be warm but your arms to be cold? I have since seen the light. Sometimes all you want is that bit of extra core warmth without the ungainly sleeves, especially if you are doing some manly activity like chopping wood, or wrangling your baby. It’s a great layering option if the weather can’t make up its mind.
I have a Crescent Down Works “Italian” vest I bought last season which is getting a lot of use during the colder months. The outer shell is made of ripstop cotton so it’s pretty tough, while the inside is a nice pillowy nylon lining. The lining is also a contrasting orange colour which gives the vest a bit of character. It’s also got cool details like leather reinforced buttons so I’m hoping it will see me into the next decade. The filling is goose down so it is very toasty if you zip it up. You can wear this vest under a shell-type jacket but I find it too bulky/puffy so I usually wear my vest on top of a jumper/sweater, cardigan, or a casual shirt like a denim or flannel shirt. I dig the outdoorsy woodsman look (even if the lumbersexual look is a bit tired these days).
I also really like the Christy vest from Rocky Mountain Featherbed. This American heritage company has been revived by the Japanese recently and they are very expensive but there aren’t many brands doing the leather yoke thing at the moment. Vintage versions and secondhand vests can be found on eBay for a bit less but you have to be patient. The leather on the yoke ages very nicely and the vintage ones come pre-patinated. They also make a thinner vest called the “six month vest“.
A thinner vest is pretty versatile and can be worn inside a piece of outerwear or jacket for a bit of extra warmth. It also can dress down a blazer/sportcoat. I like the nano puff vests from Patagonia and the quilted vests from Belstaff for this type of look. The Italians do the whole vest inside a sportcoat look very well but I like the more casual look of field jackets or hunting jackets such as a M-43 or a Barbour waxed jacket. Post overalls makes a really cool olive Cruz vest which would work with the military vibe.
Puffy/down vests give maximum warmth to weight ratio but I also like some of the other materials which are a bit more old school. Filson makes a vest liner in moleskin (not as warm) and wool (warmer) which actually looks really good either worn on top of flannel by itself, or layered inside a jacket. But I am yet to find a stockist for Filson vests/liners which ship to Australia for less than a million bucks (Filson shipping to Oz is brutally expensive for some reason). For a cheaper option, Carhartt’s vest looks pretty good too.
I am also a convert of knit cardigan vests. It’s a nice alternative to wearing a cardigan inside a sportcoat, which can be a bit uncomfortable when you have a shirt sleeve under a cardigan sleeve under a jacket sleeve. It can look a bit odd if you take the jacket off though so I tend to only do it on a really cool day. It looks a bit like a casual version of waistcoat, and I tend to go for a different colour to the jacket. Add a textured tie and I’ve got the whole grandpa/uni professor look down pat.
Still not sure if I can pull off one made out of gorilla chest though…