My lifelong affair with vests began on picture day in first grade. The look I helped pick out (which, by the way, is now iconic in my family) involved a brown cotton vest embroidered with bears and flowers. It was perfect.
After that, my relationship with vests lay dormant, until it was rekindled my freshman year of high school. That's when my best friend's mom let me borrow one of her black linen button-up vests, and I ended up keeping it.
When I was in college, I fell hard for a navy-and-olive pullover vest that was so precious to me I barely wore it. It now sits in a closet at my mom's house in Virginia.
Vests are a staple for sitcom nerds, bikers, elementary school teachers, and cowgirls, which proves their versatility. Is there another item of clothing that such wildly different aesthetics can agree on?
The right vest can really change an outfit. I'll layer a denim style over a long black dress or a T-shirt, or pair it with a sleeveless tank in the summertime. A leather vest is perfect for cool nights, when I want to wear a white button-down, black pants, motorcycle boots, and bold red lipstick. Puffy vests, once basic, are now acceptable winter accessories, thanks to Drake. So, you can pretty much wear vests anytime, anywhere these days.
Speaking of Drake, vests are part of our pop-culture history! Below, you'll see Diane Keaton as Annie Hall, setting a standard for menswear-as-womenswear that's still relevant today.
Will Smith, as The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, used vests as an instrument for power-clashing.
Even our lord and savior, Beyoncé, wore a furry deconstructed vest on the cover of her album 4, a record that happens to have the best song ever: "Countdown." (Countdown till you finish reading this article and buy a vest?)
Once I moved to New York, I ventured to thrift stores in search of the perfect non-stretch jeans and posh winter coats. But as I flipped through racks upon racks of stale-smelling clothing, I would find myself coming away with armloads of vests. Vintage shopping quickly became the fuel to my vest obsession.
One man's ripped sleeves are another woman's vest.
During one of those consignment-store treasure hunts, I found a leather jacket-turned-vest with frayed sleeves that gave it even more badass appeal. When I couldn't find a cropped denim jacket in my size, I thrifted a '90s-era Banana Republic jean vest that came with a belt.
My more recent appreciation for old vests has more to do with the emotional connection the clothes hold. Who decided to rip the sleeves off a perfectly good jacket? What did they toss it over on their way out the door?
I like to add my own flair (pins! patches!) to my collection of vintage vests. That means that each new vest I buy ends up being a sort of momento of whatever I was thinking and feeling around that time. So, as my family and friends gently poke fun at me for being so dedicated to this one article of clothing, I know that it's not just a run-of-the-mill fashion obsession—I'm also using them to catalog a new chapter in my life.
What's the one clothing item you can't live without? Let me know @chanelinezp!