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How To Wear A Short Sleeve Shirt With A Waistcoat

Waistcoats are a classic piece of men’s clothing; however, they are typically worn with a long sleeve shirt. So, can you wear a short sleeve shirt with a waistcoat?

Wearing a short sleeve shirt with a waistcoat can look good but isn’t common. White short sleeve shirts would be the best option here. Leave the top button of your short sleeve shirt undone unless wearing a tie, and always tuck it in when wearing a waistcoat. 

While that’s the gist, there’s much more to explore.

So, let’s dig deeper.

short sleeve shirt with waistcoat
Image From Deposit Photos

1. Go For A White Shirt

While it may be tempting to go for a patterned or brightly-colored short sleeve shirt with a waistcoat, it’s best to avoid this.

Wearing a short sleeve shirt with a waistcoat isn’t very easy to pull off. 

A patterned or colored shirt would further contribute to the difficulty. 

This can look awkward or clumsy, especially considering the typically formal nature of a waistcoat.

Therefore, sticking to a white short sleeve shirt is your best bet when wearing it with a waistcoat.

White shirts are traditionally worn with waistcoats, meaning that the controversy of this outfit is somewhat balanced out by the classic color of a white shirt.

Although wearing a patterned or colored shirt isn’t recommended, it is possible. However, you have to be incredibly careful when doing so.

If you go for a colored shirt, colors like light blue and light pink work best; sticking to lighter colors is the optimal thing to do.

On the other hand, if wishing to wear a patterned short sleeve shirt with a waistcoat, it’s essential to keep the pattern subtle.

A bold pattern, such as a bright, colorful floral pattern, will stand out far too much. On top of this, it’ll make the waistcoat seem incredibly out of place.

Instead, opt for a subtle pattern on your shirt. Patterns like small polka dots look great.

Having said this, just because it’s possible doesn’t mean it should be done; white shirts are always the better choice for this outfit.

2. Tuck Your Shirt In

Tucking your short sleeve shirt into your pants is an important thing to do when wearing it with a waistcoat.

An untucked shirt with a waistcoat can appear scruffy and – in some cases – disrespectful.

It can be difficult to know whether or not to tuck in your short sleeve shirt because, typically, short sleeve shirts aren’t designed to be tucked in.

Regardless of this, however, when worn with a waistcoat, it’s essential to tuck your short sleeve shirt into your pants.

While there are a few different tuck options, the only one that’s appropriate for this outfit is the full tuck.

The full tuck is the easiest tuck to pull off and the most traditional tucking-in method.

Simply tuck in your short sleeve shirt all the way around the waistband of your pants.

When tucking in your shirt, it’s important to avoid any shirt bunching as this will look unflattering in addition to being uncomfortable.

Not all short sleeve shirts will be long enough to tuck into your pants. If this is the case, avoid wearing that shirt altogether.

To ensure you can tuck in your short sleeve shirt, it’s worth trying it on before buying it.

When tucking in your shirt, it’s also essential to have a belt. A standard, leather belt with a silver buckle works best.

If it’s too slim or skinny, it can look like a dress belt, which is best avoided with this outfit.

3. Color-Match Your Pants Correctly

When you wear a short sleeve shirt with a waistcoat, color-matching your pants with your waistcoat is a crucial thing to think about.

If your waistcoat and pants are poorly-matched, the outfit can appear clumsy and very informal. This is something that you should avoid as much as possible. 

Picking the right pants to match your waistcoat can be challenging; however, there are some straightforward guidelines that will help you succeed every time.

Firstly, if possible, pairing your waistcoat with pants of exactly the same color is a great and simple way to add a sense of continuity to the outfit.

It isn’t essential but works well. 

The whiteness of the shirt alongside the monochromatic look of a matching waistcoat and pants looks incredibly sophisticated.

However, you should only do this if you can guarantee the pants are an identical color to that of your waistcoat.

Alternatively, if you can’t get pants and a waistcoat of the same color, a good rule of thumb is to wear pants that are darker than your waistcoat.

For example, if wearing a gray waistcoat, charcoal pants look great. 

Lighter pants can work, but darker pants are generally the safer option, so stick to them as much as possible.

4. Leave Your Top Button Undone

Generally, when wearing a waistcoat with a short sleeve shirt, it’s best to leave the top button of your shirt undone.

A done-up top button looks out of place without a tie or bowtie and can be very uncomfortable.

Additionally, wearing a short sleeve shirt with a waistcoat is pretty informal – as far as waistcoat outfits go. 

Therefore, leaving your top button undone can help maintain the relaxed vibe of the outfit. 

While keeping your top button undone is highly recommended, if you decide to wear a tie or bowtie with your outfit, your top button must be done up.

5. Consider A Tie

Wearing a tie is possible with a short sleeve shirt and waistcoat and should definitely be considered.

It can help add a hint of extra formality to the waistcoat outfit dressed down by a short sleeve shirt.

If you do wear a tie with your waistcoat and short sleeve shirt, it’s important to leave the top button done up, stick to a plain tie, and ensure your tie is the right length.

While your top button should be undone for this outfit when wearing it without a tie, you should do it up if you go for such neckwear.

Doing so reinforces the formal nature of a tie and makes the neckwear more comfortable.

Stick to a standard tie (of width 3.5 inches) and ensure its length is enough to reach any point between the top and bottom of your belt.

It’s also important to stick to a plain tie: one with no patterns or bright colors. 

A block-colored tie works best – particularly a black or navy one. However, it’s possible to experiment with different colors, provided they aren’t too flamboyant.

Generally, you should avoid wearing a bowtie with this outfit. Instead, stick to the traditional necktie.

6. Ensure It’s Appropriate

When wearing a short sleeve shirt with a waistcoat, it’s important to ensure that it’s appropriate for the situation.

Because this outfit is primarily formal, you might expect it to be appropriate for formal situations.

However, this is not the case. The fact that your shirt is a short sleeve shirt means that this outside is only acceptable in semi-formal situations at most.

This is because it deviates so much from the norm that – in a formal situation – it could be seen as disrespectful.

The only potential exception is if you’re in a tropical climate – somewhere the weather is extremely warm.

In this case, it may be acceptable to wear a short sleeve shirt with a waistcoat.

If you’re ever unsure whether or not this outfit is appropriate, it’s best to avoid it altogether and go for something more traditional.