Grandpa-Chic Sweater Vests Are in the Midst of a Fashion Renaissance

The next time you’re rifling through your dad’s closet to re-up on some of your favorite gender-fluid staples — novelty baseball caps, desert boots, oversized pinstriped button-downs — be sure to grab a couple of sweater vests. Yes, the somewhat dweeby knits, much beloved by Steve Urkel, Carlton Banks, Mister Rogers and high school history teachers alike, are in the midst of a serious sartorial renaissance.

Sweater vests at Gucci Spring 2016 and Prada Spring 2016.

Gucci Spring 2016 (left), Prada Spring 2016 (right); Images: Imaxtree

In 2015, we spotted them everywhere from Miu Miu resort to Christian Dior pre-fall. For Spring 2016, Gucci and Prada made the case for geek-chic dressing. Alessandro Michele, champion of in-the-know librarians and cool grannies the world over, paired a fuzzy, flower-embellished button-down vest with a sheer, bubble-sleeve pussybow blouse and a flouncy, bronze scallop-hemmed skirt. At Prada, colorblocked sweater vests partially obscured striped sleeveless turtlenecks and clashed with semi-sheer pleated skirts. And yet, somehow, it all totally worked.

From left: Gucci Spring 2017, Michael Kors Spring 2017, Prada Spring 2017

From left: Gucci Spring 2017, Michael Kors Spring 2017, Prada Spring 2017; Images: Imaxtree

Cut to Spring 2017 and the grandfatherly trend is still going strong. Prada and Gucci did not back down. This time around, Miuccia Prada (sort of) stuck with a citrus color palette, pairing a tangerine-tinged plaid sweater vest with a geometric button-up scattered with orange blooms. A silky, yellow ostrich feather-accented midi (slit practically to the waist) finished off the look. Michael Kors, more concerned with wearability, matched a floral baby blue V-neck with a similarly patterned skirt and button-down. Meanwhile at Gucci, Michele restricted himself to two patterns. A mushroom-printed sweater vest came layered over pink and purple polka dots. The designer’s signature schoolboy necktie made a cameo, natch.

We know what you’re thinking: These looks are, well, a lot. That which comes down the catwalk doesn’t necessarily translate to the sidewalk. How does one make the nerdy staple look cool IRL without laying out a small fortune at Prada or Michele’s feet?

It’s simple, really. First, layer over a patterned blouse, turtleneck or button-down that bears at least a touch of similarity to your quirky topper. (When in doubt, stick with black.) Secondly, show off some leg. Pair your sweater vest with a mini A-line skirt (denim or 70s suede is always a safe bet), (patterned) short shorts or a high-slit midi. For those in the thick of fall, ward off the shivers with a pair of (ideally ripped) black nylon tights. And to those not so into the baggy look, a waist belt is key.

The finishing touch? In warmer months, strappy sandals. In cooler ones, pointed-toe T-strap flats (for optimal librarian vibes).

Below, a few options to invest in.