When I was assisting an acquaintance with attire for an upcoming wedding, I made the point of telling them my thoughts on cut. Notably, the cut of the trousers and waistcoat. “If you go for a low rise trouser with your waistcoat” I said “you’ll see the waistband and perhaps even some shirt; go for a high rise trouser (worn on the waist) so that the waistcoat will cover the top of your trousers.” And what, he asked, if he goes for a low-rise trouser with a low cut waistcoat? “Then” I argued “your waistcoat would be too long.”
For off-the-rack shoppers, particularly those who look beyond morning dress hirers and suppliers for their costume, the common modern cut of trouser (low rise, worn on the hips) does no favours for the traditional aesthetic. Seeing the waistband of the trouser is not a sartorial taboo for nothing; it looks untidy and leaves the formal appearance looking unfinished. However, covering it up with a low-cut waistcoat is an unhappy compromise as it ruins the proportions. The ideal, in my opinion, is a high-rise trouser and a high-cut waistcoat.
When I proposed the high-rise, high-cut approach to Russell at Graham Browne, he indicated his surprise; high-rise trousers are expected but a high-cut waistcoat is, in his view, a very old fashion, unlikely to make a significant return.
The ‘modern’ look therefore, is that of a low-cut waistcoat with low-rise trousers. The problem with an elongated waistcoat is that it lengthens the torso and shortens the legs. For men of average and below average height, nothing could be worse; the wearer looks shorter, dumpier and significantly less elegant. The ‘old fashioned’ or ‘classic’ look (illustrated by the DoE on the left) might be unusual in an age when everyone seems to wear their trousers on their hips but instead of making you look older, it actually has the effect of making you look younger – and taller.
The problem is, high-cut waistcoats (particularly double-breasted) are nearly impossible to find off the rack. I was forced to go bespoke to achieve the proper proportions. The trousers are easier. Stores such as Austin Reed will have houndstooth and ‘spongebag’ striped trousers; just make sure to select a pair that you can wear high on the waist comfortably, even if braces are required.
The most important thing to remember is to avoid the slovenly horror of the exposed waistband (illustrated by the model on the right).