The Most Iconic Waistcoats in Cinema

The Most Iconic Waistcoats in Cinema

Being purveyors of fine waistcoats here at Favourbrook, we feel that this beautiful garment rarely gets the credit it deservers, especially in these days when menswear has taken a turn for the casual. It wasn’t all that long ago that a man would not leave him home without a waistcoat beneath his jacket and a hat atop his head! Naturally, we’re big fans of the sartorial virtues of a waistcoat, from the pure functionality of helping to keep oneself warm, to the degree of vibrant embellishment, personality, and sophistication it can provide. In the annals of cinema, there have been a great many iconic suits and outfits, but not all that many waistcoats. That’s understandable given that the waistcoat is a garment that is usually tucked away beneath a jacket or blazer, but there are, nevertheless, some great examples of excellent waistcoats that have made their mark on the big screen, for better or for worse! Here are just some of our favourites…


Robert Redford  - The Great Gatsby

We could have chosen any number of the waistcoats worn by Robert Redford in the cinematic interpretation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, but the one that we always fall in love with every time we see this film is the white one that forms part of Gatsby’s three-piece white linen suit. Gatsby, looking to make an impression on Daisy, opts for an unapologetically ‘look-at-me’ suit which is so white it practically glows on-screen. With a single-breasted, notch-lapel suit jacket worn pleated trousers with turn-ups, Gatsby opts for a stunning double-breasted matching waistcoat, beautifully offset by a grey-blue shirt and vibrant gold tie. It’s a punchy look befitting the arch fraudster.

Beige Gabardine Wool Double Breasted 8 Button Shawl Lapel Piped Waistcoat

Beige Gabardine Wool
Double-Breasted Shawl
Lapel Piped Waistcoat

Dusk Halton Silk Double-Breasted Shawl Lapel Piped Waistcoat

Dusk Halton Silk
Double-Breasted Shawl
Lapel Piped Waistcoat

Ivory Randwick Double-Breasted Shawl Lapel Piped Waistcoat

Ivory Randwick Double-
Breasted Shawl Lapel
Piped Waistcoat


Joaquin Phoenix - The Joker

Perhaps not a look to emulate, but Joaquin Phoenix’s turn as the desperate Arthur Fleck in The Joker sees him in an oxblood red polyester suit straight out of the 70s, paired with a rich green shirt and that inimitable orange single-breasted waistcoat. Phoenix is vegan, and as such, the entire look is made from synthetic fibres (which wasn’t all that unusual in the 70s), which just adds to its anarchism and sadness. The waistcoat’s sunny hue and soft nap belies the chaos of its wearer, who chooses to do up all of the buttons, so of course he must be insane! 

Butterscotch Wool Double Breasted 8 Button Shawl Lapel Waistcoat

Butterscotch Wool
Double-Breasted Shawl
Lapel Waistcoat

Red Winnington Silk Single-Breasted Waistcoat

Red Winnington Silk
Single-Breasted
Waistcoat

Red Bees Silk Single-Breasted 6-Button Waistcoat

Red Bees Silk
Single-Breasted
6-Button Waistcoat


Steve McQueen  - The Thomas Crown Affair

In a film tripping over itself with navy blue three-piece suits, it’s actually a grey three-piece suit with a muted glen plaid check pattern that takes all the plaudits in The Thomas Crown Affair. Made by the masterful Savile Row tailor, Dougie Hayward, the suits has hints of blue throughout the check and lining, which makes for a wonderful tone overall. McQueen’s waistcoat is single-breasted with no lapels, creating a sharp finish. The five horn buttons are as standard but what is interesting is the square finish, something one rarely sees today wit single-breasted waistcoat, but which was quite en vogue back then, in part thanks to some of 007’s wardrobes. The square-off finish also gives McQueen a few extra invisible inches in the height stakes by making his legs look that little bit longer than they really were. 

Tartan Lindsey Double-Breasted Waistcoat with Lapel

Tartan Lindsey Double-
Breasted Waistcoat
with Shawl Lapel

Belmont Black/Ecru Double-Breasted 8-Button Waistcoat

Belmont Black/Ecru
Double-Breasted 8-Button
Waistcoat

Blackwatch Tartan Wool Single-Breasted 6-Button Waistcoat with Ticket Pocket

Blackwatch Tartan Wool
Single-Breasted Waistcoat
with Ticket Pocket


Ed Harris - Apollo 13

The brilliant Ed Harris plays NASA’s flight director Gene Kranz in the film Apollo 13, throughout which he wears a white waistcoat. The real life Kranz did indeed wear waistcoats. In fact they became his trademark, not least because his wife Marta made them for him.  

“All the wives sewed, and I began making vests for Gene,” Marta Kranz recalled in an April 2010 article by Owen Edwards for Smithsonian Magazine. “Gene wanted some kind of symbol for his team to rally around. I suggested a vest… There were three Mission Control teams—red, white and blue—and Gene’s was the white team, so his vests were always white.”

Kranz would wear a new waistcoat on the first shift of every mission he took charge of.  While several of his mission waistcoats have subsequently been sold off, you can still find the white faille Apollo 13 one hanging at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. 

Parade Cream Single-Breasted 6-button Waistcoat

Parade Cream Single-
Breasted 6-button
Waistcoat

Cream Belvoir Cotton Single-Breasted 6-Button Waistcoat

Cream Belvoir Cotton
Single-Breasted 6-Button
Waistcoat

Ivory Davenport Silk Single-Breasted 6-Button Waistcoat

Ivory Davenport Silk
Single-Breasted 6-Button
Waistcoat


Al Pacino - The Godfather

In Francis Ford Coppola’s epic, The Godfather, we see Michael Corleone - played by Al Pacino - as a young man at home in Sicily, wearing humble rustic attire. In a pale blue collarless shirt and a tweed flat cap, Corleone is very much the country bumpkin, accentuated by his single-breasted striped waistcoat with no lapels. The waistcoat is remarkably simple and perfectly circumscribes Corleone’s humble heritage. The striped pattern is very similar to the cashmere stripe of morning suit trousers. With a five button fastening (Pacino leaves the bottom two undone) and four pockets, it perfectly exemplifies the waistcoat’s utilitarian heritage, in stark contrast to some of the styles Corleone comes to wear later in the Godfather opus, as his wealth and power swell.

Black Duchesse Satin Silk Single-Breasted 4-Button Shawl Lapel Waistcoat

Black Duchesse Satin Silk
Single-Breasted 4-Button
Shawl Lapel Waistcoat

Grey Gabardine Wool Single-Breasted 6-Button Waistcoat

Grey Gabardine Wool
Single-Breasted 6-Button
Waistcoat

Black Gabardine Wool Single-Breasted 6-Button Waistcoat

Black Gabardine Wool
Single-Breasted 6-Button
Waistcoat


Clint Eastwood - The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly 

We had to include the Clint Eastwood in his turn as the Man with No Name in the spaghetti western, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, because this is a waistcoat we’re not likely to see being worn in our time! Rugged and rustic, Eastwood’s shearling number looks to have been cut with his own teeth it’s that asymmetric! (Actually there’s method to that madness - the right side is higher tan the left so as to not impede access to his gun holster). Purely functional to keep the big man warm through the cold desert nights, Eastwood wears it with aplomb, paired with denim jeans and his iconic poncho. The waistcoat is thought to have been acquired by Eastwood himself and once had sleeves. You can see from some of the close ups that it’s a raggedy patchwork, which makes it all the more brilliant on Eastwood’s shoulders.

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