There aren’t too many pieces that have caused the commotion the gilet (or body warmer) has, especially within the FashionBeans community. Years of style saturation arising from high street overuse has seen a stigma attached to the piece; its merits often overlooked for fear of being associated with a certain (unstylish) crowd.
However, modern reworks of traditionally unflattering body warmers have seen the style cement a place within many style-conscious gents’ wardrobes and become an essential part of brand collections and campaign lookbooks.
Adopting a fresh outlook and steering clear of sartorial tunnel vision is key when reassessing the sleeveless situation – it’s about time we gave the gilet a second chance.
A Smarter Take
The gilet has developed significantly from the oversized, shapeless puffa versions that the aforementioned high street crowd had a penchant for. As the focus continues to shift towards clean lines and streamlined fits within the industry as a whole, lightly quilted, tailored gilets have been pushed to the forefront by brands such as Lavenham, He By Mango and Massimo Dutti.
By removing the weight and concentrating on cut, these contemporary takes fit more like a waistcoat, meaning they won’t add unnecessary size to your frame or ruin your slimline silhouette.
Its sleeveless nature also gives the gilet a layering edge – providing much needed warmth for your core without bulking out your arms. Those of you who have tried layering a shirt and knit under your blazer/outerwear will already know that it is almost impossible to fit another piece comfortably in the sleeves of your jacket, especially if it fits you properly. The gilet negates this problem entirely, allowing you to introduce another layer or pop of colour with consummate ease.
Even sartorially-inclined brands such as Suitsupply and Hugo Boss have made the body warmer an intrinsic part of their AW13 collections. Utilising them in an altogether more refined way, they are layered over and under blazers, adding some modern texture to the heritage fabrics and traditional suiting.
- Allsaints Kasa Gilet
- Samsoe Samsoe Quilted Gilet
- Selected Gilet
- French Connection Marine Quilted Gilet
- Williams & Brown Quilted Gilet
- Wool Gilet
- River Island Dark Grey Quilted Utility Gilet
- Hackett Quilted Gilet 164503
- Burberry Brit Quilted Padded Gilet
- River Island Mustard T. Lipop Wool Gilet
- Doriani Cashmere-lined Quilted Gilet
- Polo Ralph Lauren Epson Vest
The Casual Alternative
On the other end of the scale, those who want a more substantial gilet that offers true warmth and protection against the harsh winter elements can opt for high quality, textured styles this year. Tweed, heavy gauge wools, cord and herringbone versions will inject a tactile element and a touch of character into any heritage- or workerwear-inspired outfit.
Again, opt for slim-fitting versions and keep your eye out for detailing that will effortlessly separate yours from the mass-produced crowd: shoulder yokes, contrast panelling, fur/shearling collars and unusual fastenings are all currently available on the market.
Of course, with the industry’s current obsession with prints, checked, Fair Isle and seasonally-appropriate Nordic patterns can also be considered. Combining a classic check with a premium fabric such as wool is a particularly desirable option for those who want a versatile statement piece that can be dressed up or down to suit the occasion.
- New Look Herringbone Gilet
- Allsaints Alloy Gilet
- Bellfield Gilet With Woollen Yoke
- Fluid Mens Gilet Burgundy
- Marc By Marc Jacobs Leather-trimmed Quilted Gilet
- Boston Crew Quilted Gillet
- Brave Soul Mens Oldham Gilet – Tobacco
- Grey Check Wool Blend Gilet
- Ted Baker Bunail Gillet With Wool Yoke
- Slowear Montedoro Reversible Padded Wool-blend Gilet
- White Mountaineering Patterned Trim Quilted Gilet
- Brave Soul Mens Burnley Gilet – Burgundy
Re-evaluating your entire styling approach to the gilet is the best way to get to grips with it and begin to realise its full potential.
Forget all about the ensembles that previously fuelled disdain and instead search for modern inspiration – something we aim to provide in abundance…
Look One: Dressed Up
Blend textures and styles to create a layered outfit that is full of depth and completely practical. A textured blazer over or under a lightweight, down-filled gilet creates an exceptionally well worked contrast and smacks of continental style.
Keep the base colours neutral for ultimate versatility, using the gilet to inject a pop of colour and make a real statement.
A bright pocket square in the breast pocket, if the gilet is layered underneath, helps to individualise further and concludes a master class in smart-casual layering.
A plaid shirt and textured tie helps to dress the outfit down, whilst wool trousers link the casual and formal elements.
Finish with slimline brogues for an ensemble that balances texture and formality without sacrificing comfort or aesthetic:
- J.crew Check Cotton Button Down Collar Shirt
- Reiss Bonnivelle Speckled Blazer Grey
- Uniqlo Men Ultra Light Down Vest / Gilet
- Emma Willis Two-tone Woven-cashmere Tie
- Topman Brown Donegal Smart Trousers
- Base London Nutmeg Brogues
Look Two: Sleeveless Denim
The denim jacket has become much more than a simple piece of outerwear. Having undergone a tough time prior, the style has emerged as a true menswear essential and is fast becoming a layering go-to.
A sleeveless version falls gently into the gilet category and possesses many of the strong characteristics of its jacket counterpart, without the dreaded sleeve bulk that can instantly ruin a layered ensemble.
Make use of your denim gilet as a middle layer, sandwiched between a single-breasted overcoat and roll neck. This contemporary three-piece is ready to take on anything Mother Nature throws at it, and will keep you looking sharp in the process.
Chinos are a wardrobe staple and complement the top half perfectly – keep them seasonally-appropriate in heavyweight cotton. Complete with brown leather boots and a knitted beanie for a look that will keep you warm and experiments with the concept of silhouette:
- Jeff Banks 24:7 Roll Neck Wool Mix Jumper
- Topman Light Wash Denim Jacket
- Allsaints Serpent Coat
- Browns Soft Cotton Poplin Chinos
- Allsaints Arlberg Beanie
- Maison Martin Margiela Brushed-leather Boots
Look Three: Off-Duty Weekender
The gilet doesn’t have to be hidden as a middle layer; it may have been spurned in the past due to the stigma it carried, but with the right styling there’s no reason it can’t be used as the top layer in an off-duty ensemble.
This borg collared take fits into one of the season’s biggest trends, with the two-tone navy and brown palette providing additional detailing. Underneath, an Oxford shirt and sweater combination is perfect for a casual day running errands.
Denim is a real no-brainer for the bottom half, although chinos are a suitable alternative. Finish with a pair of minimal trainers that are comfortable, cool and totally on point – their burgundy colouring offers something a bit different and pairs well with the navy block of the gilet.
The backpack has become the bag du jour over recent seasons, and its popularity shows no signs of wavering. Offering a practical way to transport your daily essentials, it will save your silhouette and pockets from any unnecessary bulk:
- J.crew Button-down Collar Cotton Oxford Shirt
- Cheap Monday Neil Grey Crew Sweatshirt
- River Island Navy Tokyo Laundry Borg Collar Gilet
- Allsaints Memoko Iggy Jeans
- Asos Canvas Backpack With Contrast Straps
- Common Projects Men’s Oxblood Original Achilles White Sole Leather Sneakers
Gilet, body warmer, vest… whatever you call it, the piece is going through an earned period of reinvigoration. It’s fighting back against its damaged image after years of poor styling and association, and looking to cement its place as a true winter wardrobe staple.
A prominent component of many brand lookbooks for AW13, the gilet has much more potential than its use by the masses suggests.
But not we want to hear your view:
- Have we changed your mind on the gilet?
- Or have you always had faith in this sleeveless piece?
- Will you be trying out any of the looks above?
- Or will the gilet forever be a sartorial wasteland for you?
As always, we would love to hear your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below…