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Last Updated: Friday, 7 December 2007, 14:26 GMT
Unravelling string vest sales
Rab C Nesbitt
Rab C Nesbitt was one of the garment's champions
In their heyday, in the 1950s, string vests were an essential item in every man's wardrobe. Now Asda and Tesco have decided they will no longer sell them.

But Marks and Spencer claims it sells 25 vests a minute and the string variety is as popular as ever.

The design came from a Norwegian army officer in 1933 who joined fishing nets together. The large holes trap air to keep the wearer warm.

The string vest has been championed by Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, Kylie Minogue, rapper 50 Cent... and Jimmy Savile, who says he has a "snazzy line" in the undergarment.

But its image has not been helped by television characters Rab C Nesbitt, and the Royle family's Jim.

Gregor Fisher's character, the slovenly Rab, was often seen wearing a jacket over his stained, tatty vest, adorned with braces.

The string vest reveals too much flesh when things begin to sag
Ed Watson, Asda

The retailers cannot agree on whether it should be a staple part of every man's underwear collection.

Asda and Tesco say sales have ground to a halt, and the trend is towards the singlet style vest.

A spokeswoman from Tesco said: "I would love to say there are a lot of holes in this story.

"But the truth is that we don't sell them any more... I haven't seen anyone wearing one for a long time."

Asda's Ed Watson said the string vest only looked good on a man "when he is fit, slim and well muscled.

"It reveals too much flesh when things begin to sag" he added.

Marks and Spencer will continue to stock the string vest - it says the mesh model remains an underwear drawer staple for men in the UK.

The vest had something of a revival in the 1980s when the fashion was to wear one over a T-shirt - a trend that re-emerged briefly over the summer.

Asda says it is putting the emphasis into designing new shapes, colours, materials and patterns for its vests.

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