The Corporate Fleece Vest Look

I would be remiss if I didn’t cover what has become an excellent trend: the fleece vest look, especially at the office.  It has taken over.  I’m on board.  You are on board.  We are on board.  It’s a great look that started in the VC world and has made it way across corporate America.

The extra pockets are useful, and it’s an extra, 3-season layer of warmth.  It’s a sporty, serious piece that billionaires employ.  These guys love the vests, but they are doing it wrong:

These vests act as a replacement for a sport coat.  Why is that cool?  It’s a lot easier to wear, and it makes the statement “yeah, I dress well, but I don’t take myself too seriously”.  It’s become part of a uniform.  Walking around Atlanta and most urban cities, I’m seeing the vest-dress shirt-pants-bit loafer look.  Since this look has taken hold, it’s important to understand how to do it right.

The vests are the important part.  The first rule: it has to be a sweater vest, NOT a nylon vest.  Nylon vests are fine, but they are noisy.  Avoid noisy.  Go with the sweater material (top tier) or tight fleece (mid tier, but acceptable).  Puffers are great, but aren’t part of this look- they are a bit too much.  Second, the vest should be a subtle color.  A loud vest makes you a show off, and sucks all the attention away from your awesome bit loafers (we’ll get to those).  Lastly, the vest needs to fit.  It shouldn’t be tight, but it should fit comfortably.  Here are the good guys:

1. Patagonia Better Sweater:  The standard bearer.  These are the king of the jungle.
2. Orvis Sweater Fleece Vest:  A great option for the non-Patagonia guy, and a great price point.
3. Holderness & Bourne Riegal Vest:  A dressy version, which transitions well to the course.
4. Kuhl Interceptor Vest:  Outdoorsy, but a good option.  Perfect base layer under a waxed cotton jacket.
5. Arc’Teryx Kyanite Fleece Vest:  Included because it’s black.  A black vest is OK.

In the Corporate Fleece Vest Look (CFVL), a dress shirt makes the ‘business’ statement.  You’ll want to wear one that is dry cleaned (no starch) or well ironed.  Think about the shirts that you’d wear with a tie…solids, stripes, maybe a gingham…in colors that fit the dress shirt color triad: blue, white, and pink.  Logos should be at a minimum, but they aren’t a deal breaker.  A subtle plaid for casual Friday is a must in the rotation.  You wouldn’t want to be seen as a stiff.  Here we go:

1. Brooks Brothers Original Polo Shirt Oxford:  The best oxford cloth deal out there.  Must iron, good fit, and perfect roll.
2. Ben Silver White/Royal Gingham Button Down:  Gingham is the power player in the shirt lineup.
3. Brooks Brothers Original Polo Shirt University Stripe Oxford:  Same as #1, but striped.
4. Finamore 1925 Pink Oxford: A super high-end pink dress shirt is the power move of power moves.
5. Fish Hippie Haywood Tattersall Shirt:  A great place to take advantage of that shirt you got from your better half.

In the CFVL, the belt is the fashion statement.  It’s the subtle opportunity to add a little flare to an otherwise bland color pallet.  And the belts doesn’t have to be flashy, but textures or symbols give the look a little personality.  Collect as many as possible, and enjoy wearing them.  Wrap it up:

1. Custom Needlepoint Belt:  Anything obscure that will start a conversation.
2. Martin Dingman Joseph Alligator Belt:  Nothing better than an alligator belt.  Add a monogrammed buckle for extra icing.
3. Single Shot Belt From Onward Reserve:  The classic…continue the fun as a post grad.
4. Oyster Shell Buckle from Redfish Brand:  A celebration of the region…and oyster roasts.
5. JT Spencer X Peter Millar Embroidered Belt:  Tons of options, including universities.

The pants should all be interchangeable – specifically from a color perspective.  In terms of style: lots of cotton and a good pair of jeans.  The key with the pants is the fit.  Little to no break, a strait-to-slim fit, and a medium rise.  Low rise skinny pants are an absolute no-go here.  Feel free to add in a pair of wool dress pants every now and then, as the delta between dress pants and a fleece vest may be too great to pull off on the reg.  Here’s what’s good:

1. Badge Khakis from Harrison LTD:  Essentially tailored khakis.  These will see a ton of wear, so buy them right.
2. Onward Reserve 5-Pocket Pants:  Five pocket pants have taken over, and having a few pairs make this look easy.
3. Ball and Buck 6-point Duck Cotton Pants:  Duck cloth is a bit tougher and patinas well.  A great look when dressed up.
4. Epaulet Olive Rivet Chinos:  Olive is the stepchild of pants color, which is weird.  The work great in the CFVL, just don’t clash with the vest.
5. Raleigh Denim Jones Raw Denim Jeans:  If your office is jeans-friendly, get the right jeans.  These are right.

Bit loafers complete the CFVL, and for good reason.  They are the dressier version of the penny loafer, but not as formal as tassel loafers.  They go with just about everything, and can be dressed up or down.  Look for a loafer with a higher vamp…they shouldn’t look like loafers you borrowed from your mom.  Please keep these bit loafers polished and looking sharp.  Dull, scuffed, or scratched shoes are immediately noticed, and kill the look.  Don’t forget shoe trees.  Socks optional.  The top shelf:

1. Onward Reserve Pace Bit Loafers:  A very handsome bit loafer with a cool, non-strap look.  Extremely high value proposition.
2. Rancourt & Co Horsebit Loafers:  For the Made in the USA/Trad/Ivy crowd.  It’s all good.
3. Allen Edmonds Verona II Bit Loafers:  Because Allen Edmonds go on sale all the time.
4. Salvatore Ferragamo Mason Bit Loafers:  A little Italian flare, but perfectly acceptable and encouraged.  Cultured.
5. Gucci 1953 Horsebit Loafers:  What started it all, and still holding court.

Wear in good health.

Images: Google Image Search



  1. JSP
    01/25/2018 / 8:48 AM

    Awesome post! Dont forget the Peter Millar merino wool quarter zips. A fine option as well. 

  2. MSM
    01/25/2018 / 8:52 AM

    Great timing. Our CFO just gave out company vests for Christmas to the guys as a joke so he wasn’t the only one in a vest 5 days a week.

    I’m on board.

  3. Tcb
    01/25/2018 / 9:26 AM

    Holdnerness and Bourne is silly expensive.

  4. Landy
    01/25/2018 / 10:42 AM

    My office attire is less casual than yours so I opt for a nice quarter zip or quilted vest in place of a fleece vest

  5. BR
    01/25/2018 / 1:48 PM

    Oakstreets didn’t make the cut for the loafers?

    • GWM
      01/26/2018 / 11:49 AM

      Oak Street stopped making them. No longer available.

  6. Daniel
    01/25/2018 / 2:45 PM

    What are your views on actual company branded vests?

    • JRS
      01/26/2018 / 1:31 PM

      I don’t have any problem with it, as long as it’s the company you work for…

  7. Sam
    01/25/2018 / 5:47 PM

    What do you think of a black vest from Drake waterfowl?

    • JRS
      01/26/2018 / 1:32 PM

      I like, but it’s pretty casual…depends on your office environment.

  8. GoPokes
    01/25/2018 / 7:21 PM

    I always starch my shirts, is there something wrong with this I need to know about?

    • JRS
      01/26/2018 / 1:32 PM

      Personal preference.  I’m a no starch guy, but I’m not anti-starch.

  9. MGW
    01/25/2018 / 10:38 PM

    What do you think about Patagonia Nano Puff vest? 

    • JRS
      01/26/2018 / 1:32 PM

      Outstanding vest, but noisy in this look.  

  10. Drew
    01/29/2018 / 8:45 PM

    May I suggest a lighter-weight Shetland sweater (Alan Paine makes a good one) between the vest and the shirt and some sort of loafer with a Dainite sole for colder climes and commutes that involve salted sidewalks? I have a pair of C&J Harvards from Ben Silver that are my winter loafer standbys. Not quite deal sleds, but I take the train and walk  to work in Boston. They’ve stood up well to a couple of seasons of abuse (on “nice days”).

  11. Paul
    06/15/2018 / 10:07 AM

    On the belt issue, check out Bull & Briar. You are welcome.

  12. Roger Guilian
    11/15/2018 / 8:33 AM

    Zipped or not zipped? 

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