The gilet has garnered some rather unfashionable attention in recent years. The very functional garment was pumped up by unattractive outdoorwear brands in the early Noughties and since then ‘practical’ tourists and dad-ish men have been parading the hiking-appropriate, puffer vest as an acceptable fashion piece.
But the gilet – as an under garment or top layer, will help combat frustrating tran-seasonal weather, now’s the time to befriend the sleeveless jacket.
Breaking It Down
Like most active, outdoor or sports pieces, the gilet has very much evolved over the last 15 years. While it’s still designed to keep you warm, the gilet is no longer just oversized and puffy – it’s slimmed down quite a bit. Add to that an increase in more fashionable gilet colours and patterns – and a shift for glossy quilting to matte shells – and the gilet is a go-to fashion piece for men this season.
#1 Evaluate Your Needs
Before you buy, evaluate your fashion needs. What type of gilet is both practical and aesthetically in tune with your style? Like a topcoat or blazer, gilets come in many forms today. From heritage matte styles (think woollen, tweed, cord or denim) to more technical shiny kinds (satiny nylons and water-resistant fibres), let the ‘style’ and ‘finish’ of the gilet be suited to your lifestyle. As well as pleasing to the eye.
#2 Keep It Versatile
Having said that, fashion pieces should be interchangeable and serve a purpose in a few different outfit genres. This requires a gilet that is versatile. An easy way? Keep it neutral in tone, slim fit and not too puffy. Workable hues include black, grey, navy or forest sliding on over a casual polo shirt and chino combination or in between a topcoat and tailored suit; style that works.
#3 Say It With Layers
That last line flows in this next one: layers. This is the gilet’s new found role in being: in between, under and over other fashion pieces and to flesh-out a winter look. So, don’t be shy with experimentation, mixing together creative layering combinations for on and off-duty occasions.
Fashion-savvy men are looking to textured, quilted gilets and wearing them over blazers or in contrast coloured vests under neutral overcoats. Some are even working the gilet as a quasi-waistcoat, opting for ultra thin varieties under a blazer. Play around with combinations take inspiration from fashion icons. The best way to know if the gilet works for you is to try.
Need more inspiration? Here are four foolproof ways for rock the gilet:
As a waist coat, the gilet needs to be trim and slim; coming in a lighter quilting and with a focus on the cut. This way, the gilet is a stylish alternative to the waistcoat and some much needed warmth under a suit jacket in the winter months. In a streamline fit without sleeves, the gilet won’t bulk out your jacket (especially in the chest and arms) – a problem most men have when layering chunky knitwear under a blazer.
Style tip: Opt for a contrast coloured-gilet to add a splash of colour to an otherwise sombre two-piece suit. Or keep the colour on par and adopt a different material like cord, tweed or denim for a textural lift.
Another way to wear the gilet with tailoring is to place the vest over the suit jacket. This look, despite the other tailored elements, is more smart-casual than formal, unless you remove the gilet once you’ve arrived at work. The gilet doesn’t need to be super trim, but keep the fabric a matte finish so it plays more a top coat role than a high-vis jacket – all glossy and bright. And keep the gilet open to refrain from stifling the suit.
The gilet over a shirt, cardigan or knit is one of the easiest ways to wear it. The rules are simple: keep the bottom layer in a neutral tone (black, grey, navy, maroon or green) and then place the gilet over the top for extra insulation.
Play around with fabrics and contrasting panels or collars on the gilet itself, letting the undergarment play the role of a blank canvas with the gilet bringing all the life and texture onto the space. Wear it open or closed – depending on the weather.
Leaving the most complex look to last, the winter cold is where the gilet vest really heats up. For a heritage look, select a plaid shirt and neutral-toned tie – opting for a silk woven for the first burst of depth to feature around the neck.
Then, layer a slim cashmere cardigan, followed by a vibrant gilet piece, worn open to expose the under layers. A cropped topcoat should then be layered over the gilet, opting for something woollen or tweedy to cement the heritage feel. Now, you’re ready to face even English weather.