Press Centre

End of the line for string vests

It’s the end of a great British institution – the string vest has finally been declared extinct.

For decades it was the ultimate symbol of raw, unreconstructed masculinity, beloved by builders, miners and the likes of Ricky Tomlinson in The Royle Family.

However, sales have plummeted to zero as today’s new generation of men prefer a groomed, sensitive, metro-sexual, white T-shirt look, says supermarket Asda.

Said Asda spokesman Ed Watson: “ The once familiar sight of a butch man with his stomach bulging in a string vest, looking like a whale caught in a fishing net, is now a thing of the past. “ Building sites all over the UK will never be the same again.”

String vests were invented by a Norwegian Army commandant and became extremely popular in Britain in the 1950s. They were seen as the height of sophistication – a scientific approach to keeping warm – and a welcome alternative to the rough cotton tops prevalent in Post War years.

The vest worked by trapping pockets of still air – an effective insulator – close to the skin keeping the wearer cosy even in the coldest weather. They even became common in the world of high fashion, with models wearing outsized string vests in various lengths and colours parading on the catwalk in Milan.

However, sales began to stall in the late 1980s, nose dived in the 90s before finally grinding to a virtual halt two years ago.

Now Asda has decided to stock only t-shirt vests. Ironically, it looks like men may have had little say in the matter. Asda’s research suggests that women’s sense of good taste may be to blame. While a string vest looks good on man when he is fit, slim and well muscled, it simply reveals too much flesh when things begin to sag.

The un-obscured view of bulging waistlines, hairy chests – and, worst of all – sweaty armpits, placed prominently on display by the baggy, open-structured string vest was too much for many wives and girlfriends to bear.

Said Asda’s Ed Watson: “ By contrast, T-shirts perform a multitude of functions, no matter what shape your man is. “ It clings seductively to a well-toned six pack, effectively disguises any extra waistlines and puts unappealing, sweaty armpits where they belong – under cover.

“The few remaining string vests being worn regularly in Britain today probably date from the mid 1990s.

“This explains why many specimens on display are now both torn and a suspicious colour of leaden grey.

“The owners may have become quite attached to them, in both the metaphorical and physical sense.”

However, Asda hasn’t given up on string vests entirely. It has asked designers to find new ways to make the garment more appealing.

New shapes, colours, materials and patterns are under consideration, because string vests are so effective at keeping the wearer warm. With Government urging everyone to reduce their carbon footprint by turning the heating down, clothing warmth may become an important factor once again.

Posted in Press Centre on 07 December 2007