@justjimei Hmmm, I see where you’re coming from, and I understand that you’re saying that it could be a sign that Jean is just slightly better off than his fellows in the corps, rather than that he’s really rich (the specific fanon trope I was taking issue with). I think maybe in another manga Jean’s vest would indicate something about his class, and I think there are certainly some outfits that tell us something about the characters in SnK–Connie’s tunic and cropped pants, the fact that Hange and Ymir wear trousers in their casual attire instead of skirts, Levi and Oluo’s cravats, Sasha’s fringed shawl–but I actually don’t think vests are one such piece of clothing. Rather, I think certain characters wear vests to break up the white shirt + pants monotony. They’re just a little too ubiquitous.
For instance, Marco and many other recruits to the 104 wear vests in the manga. Here’s a wide shot of the gang crowded around Eren to hear his stories about the titans in chapter 15.
Not only are many of them wearing vests, but all of their vests are pretty much exactly like Jean’s. Nothing about his vest seems distinctive or designed to separate him from the others. I also don’t think the large number of vests indicates that they’re in a slightly more affluent training corps, considering they are primarily training in Trost. Vests just seem like commonplace attire to me.
Additionally, Sasha, one of the poorest members of the 104, often wears a vest with her casual clothes.
I suppose this could be a sign of her trying to fit into society more; she doesn’t wear a vest before going to train with the military, so it could suggest that she’s “cleaned up a bit”, so to speak. However, I don’t think it indicates a particularly high move.
Similarly, Armin, who is probably on the poorer end of the spectrum as well, also sports a vest from time to time, in addition to his spiffy jacket in the picture above.
In fact, Armin, Sasha, Eren, and Mikasa all have more outfit changes than Jean in the Uprising arc, acquiring and then shedding various sweaters and other such accessories. Jean, in contrast, always appears in his vest and pants (except for in chapter 70 when he gets his cool new coat, but every one is wearing new clothes then, so I read that as a sign of the uprising’s success rather than a comment on their individual class statuses). I don’t know if we should read too much into that (maybe Jean just has a lot of the same type of vest? maybe the fact that he always wears his vest indicates a desire to look relatively presentable at all times? not sure), but I think if Jean were supposed to be particularly affluent there would be more focus on his clothes.
So I think the vest is less telling in SnK than it might be in other contexts! Given, as I’ve discussed elsewhere, that Jean’s attitude and motivations seem to indicate a lower class background, I don’t think the vest on its own is enough to convince me that he’s supposed to be a of higher station to the others! In fact, in an original draft of the first chapter, Jean gripes at Eren for being a higher class than him, suggesting to me that even if Isayama changed some details in the published version, Jean is solidly in the category of common man.