Sorry, Rab. But as sales unravel, you can say goodbye to the string vest


Last updated at 02:22 07 December 2007

Building sites all over Britain will never look the same again.

The last of the open-weave string vests beloved of labourers, Rab C Nesbitt and Ricky Tomlinson of the Royle Family are about to vanish.

Asda has pulled the plug due to dwindling demand and chain stores throughout the country are expected to follow suit.

Modern man, when he's not mixing cement or laying bricks, apparently prefers white singlet-style vests.

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"They cling seductively to a well-toned six-pack, effectively disguising any extra waistlines and put unappealing, sweaty armpits where they belong - under cover," said Asda spokesman Ed Watson.

"The 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 every sense of the word."

String vests, developed by a Norwegian Army commandant, were a fashion item 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.

They 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 fashionable, with models, who wore outsized string vests in various lengths and colours, parading on the catwalk in Milan.

But sales tailed off in the 1980s and nosedived in the Nineties, wiped out by the popularity of ultimate slob Rab C Nesbitt, which ran from 1988 to 1999.

The series starred Gregor Fisher as an alcoholic Glaswegian who was rarely seen in anything other than a threadbare pinstripe suit, rotting plimsolls, a filthy headband and a string vest.

Asda says it has challenged designers to come up with a new shape and colours, but for now the vest is history.

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