UCL News


UCL in the News: The death of the string vest

8 December 2007

Like the bowler hat, braces and the waistcoat, a cornerstone of the British male wardrobe is passing into obsolescence.

At least, that's what the business brains at Tesco and Asda believe, as this week they announced that the string vest will be withdrawn from sale. …

It has been British men who most enthusiastically adopted the vest, with popularity peaking in the 1950s. While civilian men appreciated that the string vest's unique construction kept them both cool in the heat and warm in the cold, these attributes eventually came to the attention of the British government. …

Dr Mark Lancaster [UCL Physics & Astronomy] says: "All these fancy materials used to make sports underwear now are really just glorified string vests; Michael Hunt went up Everest in a string vest and a shirt, so they can't be that bad. The holes in the fabric channel out the sweat, while the remaining fibres trap warm air next to your skin.

"Any clothing has got fibres in it, which keep you warm by trapping the air between them. On a string vest, the fibres are further apart, so it only works if you wear a shirt on top. Rab C Nesbitt had it wrong when he wore one on its own, but with another layer, the warm air can be trapped in the holes between the strings.

"The advantage of a string vest over a normal close-weave one is that you don't overheat: whilst a conventional vest keeps you warmer, because the holes in the fabric are small, it is less good at transferring sweat away from your skin." …

Esther Walker and Susie Rushton, 'The Independent'