Waistcoat Wednesday! Whillas and Gunn, for the card sharps

A week appears to have passed since last Wednesday, a fact which must mean it’s time for another Waistcoat Wednesday here at Well Dressed Mansion. Observing the rack of superb armless attire, my eyes alight on an item of striped goodness all the way from Whillas and Gunn in Australia. Whillas and Gunn are no newcomers around these days, having made on of the finest waistcoats ever, and also participated in the run of Trouser Tuesdays this Spring.


What we have here is the Charles waistcoat. Readers with a reliable memory will no doubt recall that this was the name of the trousers made of the same fabric. Those of less fortuitous faculties will have no such recollection and will allow me to reiterate the description of said fabric as being  a densely woven cotton of low weight. It is described as “mattress ticking canvas”, which in olden times have been used to cover a mattress, with the fabric dense enough to prevent feathers from poking through. This is not a thick twill or wool fabric, but more of a summer weight.


For our purposes though it is a pleasingly striped cotton twill, and we do like our striped waistcoats! After the wabash-stylings of Pike Brothers and Levis, Whillas and Gunn fit right in.

Style-wise this makes me think Deadwood more than anything. Vintage riverboats, card-sharps and women of negotiable affections. At a first look you may think this looks very like the sort of waistcoat you would have as part of your three-piece suit. And, I suppose you could, as there is a jacket available to match the trousers and waistcoat.


The rear and lining is of a black cotton fabric though, so not the sort of silk-like fabric you would expect from a waistcoat belonging to a suit. This is really more of a waistcoat that would look great with a pair of jeans.


And we have some pockets. Obviously there are the two at the lower front side. About 4″ deep and almost as wide, they are quite handy for a deck of cards or suchlike. Then there is a so-called “fob pocket”, just above the left hand side pocket. With a button to keep it closed and secure, it is in fact just big enough to squeeze an iPhone 5S into, so quite a handy size. All three of these pockets have nice welted edges adding a bit of visual flair.

more pockets

Then there is the pocket that I initially missed. Over the right hand side pocket there is a vertical 6″ slit that opens into a fair sized pocket suitable for secret documents, an iPad mini or a tweed cap. On the inside there is also a single pocket suitable for a phone or notebook. So not quite as many pockets as their epic earlier efforts, but still some nice design details.


The collar also has a throat latch, or storm closing if you like. Certainly a nice feature if you’d like to close up against the elements. There is also a second, almost identical piece, buttoned on the inside. This one had me stumped, so I asked W&G what this was. “That’s the riding tab, mate”. Which left me none the wiser, to be honest.

I can only imagine it’s a sort of extension-piece to join the waistcoat to the trousers to ensure that the waistcoat doesn’t ride up while, well, riding. Does this seem like a plausible explanation? Do let me know.

cinch hardware

Round the back we of course find the adjustable rear cinch. My other W&G waistcoat was totally bare bones in this respect, having no hardware at all to adjust. On that one it’s a case of tieing a knot to adjust the cinches, and that actually works superbly, as usually it’s a case of fit and forget. This one though has a metal buckle, and to be brutally honest, it’s not a good one. It has no teeth and in fact would be a good contender for my strongly worded post on the awful state of waistcoat buckles. To ensure ongoing happiness I would suggest tieing a proper knot on this one as well.


Whillas & Gunn make no secret of producing their garments in China at the moment and for the most pair I don’t see any problems with this. This waistcoat has a few buttons that need restitching to ensure they won’t be lost, but apart from the metal buckle the quality is as it should be.


If I could ask one thing of the good folks at Whillas & Gunn for a future season it would be to bring back their older design as well. It’s an epic piece and would fit right into the current trend for rugged menswear!



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