For those in-between days when the weather hasn’t quite made up its mind, it’s usually time for a gilet. Offering warmth and comfort without weighing you down, gilets are versatile and easy to wear, but they come in many forms.
From the tried-and-tested down gilet to more contemporary hiking designs, there are more options to choose from than ever, with different style tribes showing just how versatile they are. Gilets started life as workwear, but they’ve since been adopted by everyone from lairy rugby fans to tech and finance bros. It’s quintessential country attire, but also a practical layer for mountaineers, city commuters and everyone in between.
To help you get started, we’ve rounded up the best gilet brands as well as offered advice on how to wear this under-appreciated style staple. Here’s everything you need to know about gilets for men.
What Is A Gilet?
Sometimes known – quite confusingly – as a ‘vest’, a gilet is essentially a sleeveless jacket. It’s as simple as that. Ideal for transitional weather as part of a layered look, it provides extra warmth and practicality without being overbearing. Sometimes a coat is too much, and if you know you’re going to take it off they can be annoying to carry around.
That’s when a gilet is perfect – it provides all the warmth of a jacket for your mid-section while keeping your arms free and breezy.
The sleeveless design of a gilet makes it easy to layer under a coat or over some knitwear, and most outdoor and hiking brands offer chunky puffer styles for exactly this reason. Filled with down feathers or a man-made alternative, this is heavyweight insulation that also offers an interesting silhouette.
As well as technical labels, you’ll find streetwear brands and luxury houses offering this style, which can pair with anything from hiking trousers and combat pants to corduroy, denim or woollen designs.
Less Michelin Man in proportions but still offering a warm and practical layer, a body warmer works on the same design principle as thicker styles. Less padding means these can be worn under tailoring or slimmer overcoats in the autumn/winter months as they won’t ruin those tailored silhouettes. They tend to come without pockets and are often filled with natural goose down or a more sustainable alternative.
AKA the Han Solo gilet. Often cut with a V-line at the chest and featuring a multitude of pockets, utility vests are worn by hikers, soldiers and fishermen, as well as the odd intergalactic smuggler. While traditionally worn to serve a purpose, today this form of gilet is perfect for workwear-inspired looks, combining well with wide-legged chinos, hoodies and boots.
Typically associated with British country clothing (and sometimes US hiking gear), fleece gilets are often found as zip-in liners in Barbours and other waxed jackets. Favoured for their warmth, the best gilets made from fleece are nevertheless incredibly lightweight, and add a welcome bit of texture to your cold-weather looks.
They can also be worn with smarter attire – in 2019, the infamous banker’s gilet was so ubiquitous on Wall St that Patagonia confirmed it was moving away from selling its branded vests to investment firms to sustainable, Certified B Corporations instead.
Key Ways To Wear A Gilet
Thanks to Patagonia’s actions and some onscreen fun-poking in Succession, the corporate gilet look has become a little ridiculed in recent years. Fleece and quilted gilets remain a popular option for bankers and financiers, though, who often wear them under their suits or in lieu of a jacket.
If you want to update the look, move away from ubiquitous navy and dark grey gilets in favour of light greys/stone and warmer browns. Also look for sleeker versions or those with a matte finish.
Many offices have relaxed their dress codes now, so try it with cords or tapered trousers and an Oxford shirt. You could even switch the blazer for a chore jacket for an easy, smart-casual look that doesn’t scream ‘banker’.
Country With A Twist
A gilet will always be at home under a waxed jacket. It’s a classic British countryside look, with fleece, tweed and wool adding texture that can also work well for cold afternoons in the city.
Subvert the look slightly by combining these traditional fabrics and outdoorsy attire with contemporary pieces such as roll necks, tapered trousers, sneakers and hoodies. This juxtaposition stops things from straying too far into fox hunting territory and will bring a modern feel to your outfit.
Tap into some of the gilet’s workwear heritage and opt for a hunting-style vest. Perfect for combining with carpenter trousers, wide chinos or jeans, the hunting gilet is ideal for those who value practicality as its pockets can store your phone, wallet and other possessions with ease. Layer it under a technical parka or over a flannel shirt and complete the outfit with a pair of vintage running shoes or worker boots, for a fit well placed for weekend ‘hikes’ to the pub.
As well as outdoor pursuits like hiking and fishing, gilets can work as conventional exercise gear with brands like Nike selling them for winter running or park-based workouts. More commonly, however, gilets and sportswear come together in high-end lifestyle looks that blend comfort and practicality.
Ideal for travel, shopping days and general city admin, pick out a midweight body warmer and layer it over luxury sweats or matching tracksuits. Aim for something tonal with a gilet that chimes with the sportswear beneath to nail the celebrity-in-the-departures-lounge look.
Tonal dressing is modern and versatile, allowing you to create smart-casual outfits easily and with little thought. However, you have to land on the right blend of light and dark shades to really make your outfit sing, which is where a gilet comes in handy.
The extra layer is an opportunity to add a greater depth of contrast across the look, especially if it’s in a different material, too.
The Best Men’s Gilet Brands
A Day’s March
A Day’s March started out as an elevated basics brand, but having consistently added to its collections over the years, it now offers everything from luxurious outerwear to beautifully made leather boots. Its gilets are made with exacting attention to detail, from the well-designed pockets to the materials, which includes RDS-certified duck down.
Much like with the rest of its ever-expanding collections, Uniqlo’s gilets represent the best in value and understated design. If you’re in the market for slim-fitting quilted down gilets then look no further as Uniqlo’s boast the finest value-to-quality ratio around.
For a more elevated take on the quilted gilet, you could do far worse than head to Reiss. The British brand knows a thing or two about refined detailing, and as such you can expect to find staple designs upgraded with zipped or flap pockets, all made in highly wearable, classic colours such as navy, stone and black.
It’s fair to say Barbour has perfected British country classics, and its highly functional, expertly designed gilets are no exception. Available in a range of classic styles and fabrics, expect to find everything from quilted designs to waxed hunting vests.
For gilets on the more sustainable end of the spectrum, Patagonia is your best bet. Known for its bold political statements and anti-consumerist marketing, Patagonia’s gilets are crafted from responsible materials including down, nylon and polyester that have all been recycled. And they look good too.
Italian brand Brunello Cucinelli proudly makes all of its clothes at its factory in Solomeo, ensuring it has total control over the quality and output of its garments. As such, the brand’s gilets – which are made from some of the world’s finest fabrics – are amongst the most luxurious you’ll find anywhere.
Known for its down-filled jackets and high-end snow-wear, Canada Goose is well placed when it comes to producing its exceptionally designed gilets. While on the pricier end of the spectrum, the brand should be your go-to if you’re after warmth above all else.
The workwear specialist based in Detroit, Carhartt is well regarded for its classic American wardrobe staples, including its chore jackets and durable trousers. Its gilets are often overlooked, but with a number of unique designs in the mix, including multi-pocketed zip-up vests as well as simple designs made from its cotton Duck Vest, the brand is well worth a look.
For something a little more standout, a Moncler gilet is an ever-popular option. Similar to Canada Goose, Moncler’s gilets are at the higher end of the price bracket, but they’re incredibly functional, offering plenty of warmth and water-resistance. Quilted and down filled, they come with the brand’s signature logo emblazoned on the chest.
Known for its innovation with technical fabrics, as well as its ingenious design, Stone Island’s iconic styles are much lauded by fans of the Italian brand. Its gilets come with handy pockets and zip-up fronts, as well as lightweight, waterproof fabrics that will keep you dry through winter and beyond.