There’s a lot of power in a sleeve. Leather jacket? Cool. Leather vest? Put down the Sons of Anarchy box set. The same applies to padded jackets. Slice the arms off an otherwise on-point garment and you may as well accessorise with a combine harvester and the smell of pigs.
But leave Britain and the gilet shakes off its bumpkin airs. Slot one under an unstructured blazer at Pitti Uomo and you’re a layering don, a man who knows warmth needn’t bulge what’s tailored to fit. Italians may do it better, but you too can inject some sprezzatura into the chinless wonder’s go-to garm.
1. Layer Takes The Cake
A gilet is a statement. So don’t double up with mouthy shirts. In fact, feel free to ditch collars entirely (which also ensures you’re not tempted to pop yours) by opting for a long-sleeve tee or unfussy knitwear instead. Then just add an overcoat when your thermometer begins to frost up.
Puffiness does no favours for your now streamlined silhouette; down is your friend here, keeping your torso toasty without lumps. Uniqlo’s so-warm-you’ll-swear-it’s-magic Ultra Light Down vest is full of air-trapping feathers, but still so slim it packs into a dedicated carry bag. Which ensures you boss those awkward in-between days.
Ultra Light Down Vest, available at Uniqlo, priced £39.90.
2. Put It On Mute
Rugby songs go hand-in-muddy-hand with coruscating colours. Unless you know the words to Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, neutrals are a better bet. Brights are as ill-advised on a gilet as on your f*cking red trousers.
Subdued tones like black, grey, navy and stone are visually less punchy and have the added advantage of mixing well with the rest of your wardrobe (a useful characteristic, unless you fancy developing a deep gilet rotation). Officine Generale’s Crosby gilet couples that muted hue with a matte texture, so won’t clash with nubby tailoring. The double-zips and baseball jacket collar also ensure no one corners you to chat crop rotation.
Mango Man AW14
Officine Generale Crosby Wool Flannel Padded Gilet, available at Mr Porter, priced £375.
3. Keep It Casual
As those Pitti peacocks prove, you can wear a gilet with a suit. But it’s a power move. Approach it like a relaxed take on the waistcoat, one that sits well under equally chilled-out tailoring. Your jacket should be unstructured – don’t double-down on padding – and the gilet’s fabric and colour should complement, but not match. It’s not about pretending you’re in a three-piece.
Jigsaw’s lambswool gilet will offer some contrast to worsted wool or flannel, without clashing. Just make sure you keep the texture thing going. A knitted tie and cashmere pocket square sit better with your sleeveless mid-layer than silk.
Tommy Hilfiger AW15
Waxed Lambswool Padded Waistcoat, available at Jigsaw, priced £139.
4. Be Season-Appropriate
Leave ruddy cheeks to rural pubs. Deployed right, the gilet is a layering godsend that helps you hit that sweet spot between numb fingers and a sprinkling forehead.
In winter, opt for densely padded versions that keep heat in, but won’t have Bill Murray coming at you with his proton pack. Belstaff, masters of battling indeterminate weather, have you covered with a quilted gilet (£195) that’s ideal for buttoning over a cashmere sweater.