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The Sweater Vest

Jack Bettridge
From the Print Edition:
Armand Assante, Mar/Apr 2008

T. S. Eliot might have called April the cruelest month for breeding lilacs out of the dead land, but for those of us who are simply concerned with dressing appropriately to the weather, it may be the month's penchant for offering up sunny skies and balmy temperatures one moment and then retracting them in the next that makes it so mean. That's why the sweater vest is such a potent weapon for every man's style arsenal. You can leave your coat at home, yet stay warm with the vest's protection under your jacket when the wind whips up. When the sun decides to shine, strip off in layers, jacket first and then the vest.

The forerunner of the sweater vest was the British jumper—an unfortunate term, which for obvious reasons even you Anglophiles should avoid. It was the uniform of cricket and later tennis players, and afforded a measure of warmth without being too cumbersome to move around in, nor too hot. The earmark of the original model is the bright stripes around the yoke against a white background (sometimes the stripes also come around the armhole). Translated to day-to-day fashion, it's a nice look that also spiffs up the outfit in the same way a traditional vest does, but with a jauntier air. The downside comes from all those uniform snobs with their "tennis, anyone?" comments.

But try the newest wrinkle on the sweater vest horizon—the zippered sweater vest—and you'll avoid the hectoring of sticklers for form, while making an insouciant fashion statement. Usually offered in a fine cotton, they make a nice border-season garment as they don't become overly warm (the vests shown are from Raffi, which describes its cotton fabric as "cashmere like"; the shirts are from Zachary Prell). The zipper, while providing its own cheeky charm, also has the practical advantage of letting you get out of it with ease when the temperature is appropriate for stripping down. Wear these vests right and we think you will agree that April can be the coolest month.

Visit www.raffionline.com and www.zacharyprell.com.

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