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Pick Up One of These Lightweight Vests for the Extra Pockets Alone

The best vests reference utility, fisherman, and streetwear styles, making them something uniquely their own.

light layer vests
Gear Patrol

The vests below are by no means tactical vests. Aesthetics are the primary focus for each selection — although some have handy pockets that I'd happily put my phone, keys and wallet in over my cramped pant leg. Instead of wearing one of when you're out fishing or hunting, opt for one of these lightweight vests to add layers to otherwise flat outfits. I'm not saying a T-shirt and chinos is a boring look, but the two topped off with a utility vest has a certain je ne sais quoi unfounded in other late summer/early fall outfits.

Yes, you read that right, I'm recommending you add another layer to your outfit (even in warmer climates). But all of these are unlined, and constructed from organic cotton or cotton canvas, breathable wool, or lightweight nylon, meaning you can wear them without melting. The vests on this list are also rather practical, albeit not quite as functional as a fisherman's vest with fishing-focused compartments or hooks. Stuffing your pockets with EDC and whatever other extras is not only uncomfortable but it interferes with your outfit's defining lines. Sure, an outfit comprising of a plain T-shirt and simple shorts doesn't have a sultry silhouette like that of a well-tailored suit, but every curve counts. I'm not big on prescribing clothing to particular body shapes or heights, but the vest, especially in thin cotton, is a flattering top layer for all types of men.

Plus, there are lots out there to choose from. Some in eclectic patterns and colors, others with pockets in places you never knew you needed them, and even more with water-resistant finishes capable of keeping (most of) you dry. Shop our favorite lightweight utility vests below.

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Best Overall Light Layer Vest
Summerisle Canvas Vest
End Clothing

Albam's lightweight Summerisle Canvas Vest is constructed in Portugal from 100-percent organic cotton. Think of it as a chore coat with the sleeves cut off (and with those split hems tidied up). Two bucket pockets populate the front, a smaller chest one sits above them, and four buttons form the front closure.

Best Upgrade Light Layer Vest
Cadero Vest
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The North Face

The North Face's Cadero Vest takes obvious cues from the company's outdoor gear. (And technically, this vest is considered outdoor gear, too.) Cut from a blend of 57-cotton and 43-percent nylon, the vest features pockets six front pockets and ultra-breathable mesh inserts around them. It's a versatile option capable of fitting into your hiking rotation or adding interest to a simple outfit.

Best Affordable Light Layer Vest
Utility Vest
A Day's March
A Day's March

A Day's March admits that their Utility Vest references vintage fisherman versions. It's obvious. The usual four pockets — one of which is equipped with a D ring – sit on both sides of the chest and below it; it zips shut in the front; it's cut from soft, yet durable, 100-percent cotton.

Shadow Project Utility Vest
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Stone Island

Although other entries on this list at least reference streetwear style vests, which differ greatly from generic Patagonia ones, Stone Island's is a streetwear style vest. How so? Well, there's the eclectic "future camo" that covers the entire thing, the translucent front pocket, and the contrasting zippers. Plus, it's from Stone Island, a venerable veteran of both Italy and the UK's streetwear scenes.

Harriman Utility Vest

ONS' Harriman Utility Vest bears the closest resemblance to the types of vests you'd as part of a three-piece suit. However, its rich indigo hue and its hefty pockets — there are three — separate it from those styles, and make it something worth wearing on its own — with something on underneath, of course.

Elmwood Vest
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Carhartt WIP

The ultra-heavy canvas vest might be the only Carhartt one you can name — or at least identify. But its British counterpart, Carhartt WIP, makes more of them. Namely, ones that are both lighter and better looking. Look at the Elmwood Vest, for example. It's made from 100-percent stretch mechanical polyester, features eight pockets, and a 100-percent water-repellant finish. 

El Museo Vest
Hermanos Koumori
Hermanos Koumori

Constructed from 100-percent raw cotton denim, Mexican streetwear brand Hermanos Koumori's El Museo Vest is super simple yet undoubtedly unique. The neckline is far higher than others on this list and the contrasting Japanese snap-on buttons contribute to the top's natural feel.

Tropical Chore Waistcoat
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Universal Works

Just like there are all-season wool suits, Universal Works' wool vest — aka the Tropical Chore Waistcoat — can be worn well into the peak of summer, if you're feeling up to it. With acetate buttons, adjustable side straps and angled pockets, it may be the most formal on our list. 

Nylon Approach Vest

Of course a bonafide streetwear brand would have its own take on the tactical utility vest. Dubbed the Approach Vest, this version's cut from nylon and lined with polyester mesh. There are five pockets on the front and matching shorts should you be interested in buying them, too.

Traveler Vest
The Wasted Co.
Wasted Collective

Wasted Collective leans into the fisherman aesthetic by finishing their Traveler Vest with buttons made from recycled fishing nets. The body's made from 98-percent organic cotton and 2-percent polyurethane, and eight pockets can be found on the front, sides and back. There's a duck pocket back there just in case.

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