Mar 152010

I still regret not buying one of these things, which E. Pluribus Gergely can attest to my nearly buying one day, many moons ago.

As I once stated, the vest may be the only unnecessary piece of clothing cooler – at least in concept – than the poncho. However, as with the poncho, the vest has proven extremely difficult to apply to rock ‘n roll fashion.

Although my posts are usually known for their diligent, thorough research, I’ll state up front that I haven’t taken the time to research the first instance of a rock ‘n roll artist featuring a vest. I would bet that vests first crept into rock fashion through country music. Cowboys in Westerns wear a type of vest, right? A highly unscientific stroll through my mind, however, tells me that vests first caught on among rock ‘n rollers in the mid-60s, possibly through American garage bands.

As I first thought about this piece, the following image of this famous rocker and His early band sprang to mind:


  23 Responses to “Rock’s Unfulfilled Fashion Ideas: The Vest”

  1. diskojoe

    Pretty good article, Mr. Mod, especially since I like to wear sweater vests to work when it’s cold out.

    Here’s a picture of the Stones wearning leather vests back in 1963

  2. Mr. Moderator

    How did I forget that shot, diskojoe? Good one! There are few things more satisfying than being corrected by a fellow Townsperson. That ensures much satisfaction in my life.

    I’m glad, too, you raised the issue of sweater vests, a Look I’m also a big fan of and find puzzling that some folks think sweater vests are NOT cool. I left them out of this discussion because I’m not sure that they’re really vests. I think a vest needs to have buttons and be almost completely nonfunctional. Perhaps the rock sweater vest will be the way to move beyond the creepy old guy with the tightly pulled ponytail in the sleeveless leather vest dead end.

  3. misterioso

    Dylan sported a biker chic/middle age crisis look with leather pants and sleeveless leather vest (often with sleeveless Triumph t-shirt underneath–I mean Triump the bike not the band) when he toured with Petty in 1986.

    Did I mention the fingerless leather gloves?

  4. BigSteve

    The sweater vest is different because it has a function, i.e., helping to keep you warm. In general a vest is pure adornment. It says “I’m wearing this solely in order to show you how cool I am.” If you’re wearing it without a shirt it says “My arms haven’t gone fat and floppy (yet).” It’s like one step beyond the sleeveless t-shirt, because it shows more cleavage.

    The only other functional vest I can think of is this one:

  5. hrrundivbakshi

    I am wearing a sweater vest as I type! Love ’em. Not sure they rock, though.

  6. mockcarr

    I always figured people wore sweater vests because sweater armlength is notoriously unreliable.

  7. Mr. Moderator

    Thanks for bringing Popper’s harmonica holster/deep sea fishing vest into the discussion, BigSteve. A bit like that thing Eric Burdon’s wearing, I wasn’t sure if that fell within our definition of a vest.

  8. alexmagic

    Among many other things, one of the shirtless vest outfit’s key problems is that everyone who wears one looks like he must reek. This is a problem that the Rock Poncho shares, but I bet the poncho could make a comeback thanks to the development of Febreeze.

    Burdon’s unique scarf/vest/shawl/poncho hybrid is interesting. I wonder if he invented that himself? I’m gonna go check some patent filings for his name.

    You brought up the two vest enthusiasts I immediately thought of, Bono and Bono (coincidence?). I never quite got what the whole furry caveman vest that Sonny Bono pioneered was all about, but it seemed to have a shortlived peak in California in the early 60s. I vaguely recall seeing it pop up on guest stars on Gilligan’s Island or The Monkees, or maybe in cheesy late ’60s biker movies.

    That photo of Bono on page five is very disconcerting. The shirtless vest, the lack of hat, the guitar, the wide-legged stance and that weird expression on his face…what was going on there? If I’m not mistaken, this would have been right before he remade his Look for the Achtung Baby era and entered his Crazy Sunglasses period. I bet this photo had something to do with that. And I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that the revamp in his Look led to some needed musical changes.

  9. shonuffnyesido

    Spot on Mr Moderator, but you forgot Mick Fleetwood:

    Burt Reynolds could have sculpted his chest hair into the shape of a vest. LOL!

  10. dbuskirk

    Not everyone can rock the vest like Clem Cattini…

  11. BigSteve

    In German Kutte = metal/punk vest

  12. Sweater vest fan here — unfortunately, the band that comes to mind is Haircut 100. They loved sweater vests (and sweaters in general).

  13. alexmagic

    Paul McCartney would like to remind everyone who the avant garde pioneer was in breaking the sweater vest into the world of rock:

  14. Mr. Moderator

    Welcome aboard, nanker! Boy, our friend Ronnie Wood sure likes his flair.

  15. Fun article and comments (especially “Bono and Bono!”). This might be what Mr. Mod was thinking of as per The Beatles.

    Now here’s a bloke who could pull off the vest-sans-shirt look.

    But he could also do it shirted. (Scroll down.)

  16. Mr. Moderator

    pplist, THAT’S the Beatles’ shot I had etched in my brain! Thanks for posting that link.

  17. You’re most welcome, Mr. Mod. It took awhile, but along the way I found a bunch of interesting others. I didn’t want to overdo it in the comment I posted, but if anyone’s interested, here’s a link to some of the other pics I found. Most are of John Lennon in an assortment of vests and sweater vests.

    When watching this video on John Entwistle last night, I noticed The Ox seemed to fancy vests as well.

    (I kind of feel like I’m wearing this topic out, but I’ve noticed the habitues of this blog seem to have a healthy tetch of the OCD.)

  18. Mr. Moderator

    FANTASTIC WORK, pplist. The compilation of Lennon shots truly sets the record straight, and really, isn’t that part of the reason we gather in these hallowed halls?

    Per your OCD comment, you’re spot on. I’m not sure we’ve ever met a dead horse worth beating. (My apologies to our animal lovers – I can assure you that horses are by far my favorite animals and I would never beat one dead or alive.)

  19. hrrundivbakshi

    Mod: in doing some online research for an upcoming Thrifty Music post, I came across this, which is REQUIRED VIEWING for anyone looking to, uh, flesh out the rock vest issue:

  20. Mr. Moderator

    THAT, hrrundi, may best uphold the ideal that Burt Reynolds set in Deliverance! Did Lou Christie sport rock’ best chest hair? I love “Lightning Strikes” – I hope your next Thrifty Music post contains some cheap, scratchy Christie!

  21. misterioso

    Holy Moses. Lou Christie, twistin’ by the pool, more or less. That’s something to see. “I’m Gonna Make You Mine,” “Lightning Strikes,” “Two Faces Have I”–this is the extent of my Lou Christie knowledge. But–I think–they are all great-ish.

    So I ask you: should Lou Christie be a subject for further research, or is this as good as it’s going to get and taking it further will only spoil a good thing?

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