Invest in a vest: the latest fashion trend

And it's not just men who are buying them; women are pushing sales up too

Barack Obama often sports one, David Beckham has designed one, Marlon Brando wore his with style, while Bruce Willis's became his Die Hard uniform. In fashion circles, the humble vest is being touted as the Next Big Thing – and not simply to keep winter chills at bay.

Beckham's Bodywear range was launched at H&M last Thursday, while vest sales have risen over the past year for the Jockey underwear brand; and it is predicted that sales of the notoriously difficult-to-pull-off-with-style (think Rab C Nesbitt) garment will rise even further.

H&M's Chloe Bowers said: "The vest has become cool, with old-fashioned granddad styles worn under clothes, and as a top itself. Women have also been buying them for themselves; it appeals to both teenagers and 40-year-olds."

Ruth Stevens, marketing manager for Jockey Europe, said: "We are seeing a massive fashion following, with magazine photo-shoots concentrating on vests. Vogue recently did a shoot with women wearing Jockey vests."

Last year, Jockey sales rose by 5 per cent. "It's for fashion, not just keeping warm," Ms Stevens said. "Traditional-style underwear is gaining in popularity, with a resurgence in popularity for Y-fronts in 2010, and a 15 per cent rise in long-john sales this year." Jockey introduced coloured vests last year, though white tank vests remain the classic.

Across the UK, the men's vest market has grown from £49m in 2005 to £54m in 2010, according to Mintel. Sales of women's vests are rising too, with lingerie – excluding bras, pants and hosiery – increasing from £325m in 2005 to £368m in 2010.

Marshal Cohen, of the NPD market research firm, said: "Sales growth is now in undershirts. Men have recognised they can't do shabby chic and look like they just rolled out of bed."

Rana Reeves, of the John Doe consultancy, said: "There used to be two sets of men wearing vests as fashion: gay men showing off their bodies in clubs, and Afro-Caribbean guys. Fashion is obsessed with both, and their styles have been appropriated as they offer a form of masculinity the fashion world likes to emulate."

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