Coats & Jackets

Four ways to wear a gilet

Four ways to wear a gilet

A gilet solves one of style’s thorniest problems; what to wear when it’s too warm for a coat, but too cold to go out in just a jumper. “They’re an essential layering piece,” says Thread stylist Luke McDonald. “Down or fill versions – which are stuffed with heat-trapping material – are especially flexible, as you can wear them even when it’s really cold.”

Originally, gilets had more in common with waistcoats than hiking jackets, says Luke. But modern versions are available in as wide a range of fabrics, shapes and styles as normal coats. “They range from sporty nylon versions that look great with sweats, to smart ones made from tweed and moleskin,” says Luke. “But whatever the aesthetic, they always tend to be quite practical. Which often means extra storage pockets for keys and phones, so you don’t have to ruin the lines of your trousers, or carry an extra bag.”

Although the lack of sleeves might make a gilet seem like a statement piece, they’re surprisingly simple to pull off. “They work best when they don’t draw too much attention to themselves,” says Luke. “It’s a layering piece, so to be super-versatile it should work under jackets as well as over knitwear. That means you’re best avoiding anything too bulky.” But restrained needn’t mean boring. “Gilets in jewel tones can look brilliant as a pop of colour in winter.” And because there’s no sleeves, you’ve got less fabric. So even bright tones don’t make quite so big an impact.

Below, Luke breaks down four of the most common styles of gilet and how to wear each well.

Workwear gilet

Workwear gilet

Photographed: Carhartt gilet (£125); MVP shirt (£22); OrSlow trousers (£269); Clarks boots (£110)

What is it? A gilet made from rugged, hard-wearing fabric like canvas or denim.

How to wear it well: “Workwear styles go brilliantly with other casual materials,” says Luke. “The entire outfit should have a relaxed feel – it can be a good way to balance looser fits. It's also a bit more contemporary and doesn't add too much bulk, so it’s great for layering or even for wearing indoors.”

Hiking gilet

Hiking gilet

Photographed: Penfield gilet (£125); Patagonia shirt (£125); MVP jeans (£40)

What is it? A gilet made from weatherproof nylon and stuffed with warm down. It tends to be a bit bulkier, but also has lots of pockets for storing torches, penknives, or just your phone charger.

How to wear it well: If you’re not actually up a mountain, it’s good to to nod to its outdoorsy roots without looking like you’ve just scaled Ben Nevis. “It’s a classic gilet look, with some 1970s hiking heritage,” says Luke. “It works well with thick flannel and chunky boots and, because it’s sporty, pairs best thicker, more casual fabrics. One for the weekend, rather than for work.” Unless you're a mountain climber, of course.

Smart gilet

Smart gilet

Photographed: Carhartt gilet (£99); Paul Smith blazer (£375); Nigel Hall rollneck (£99); MVP chinos (£30); Oliver Sweeney shoes (£199)

What is it? A slimline gilet that’s warm, but still fits under a suit jacket or blazer. Think of it as an unexpected alternative to a cardigan.

How to wear it well: “This is as smart as gilets get,” says Luke, “and it’s perfect for when you want to leave the coat at home – think days when it’s sunny, but still chilly. Look for something with little detail, so it doesn’t draw attention to itself, but still in a fabric like nylon, which contrasts with the formal wool of the suit and gives the outfit depth.”

Sport gilet

Sport gilet

Photographed: Adidas gilet (£79); MVP hoodie (£30); MVP t-shirt (£18); Reiss sweatpants (£85); Saucony trainers (£69)

What is it? A tough but lightweight gilet for wearing before and after exercise. It won’t weigh you down – or cook you – and the best ones pack away for easy storage in your kitbag or gym locker.

How to wear it well: “This is the most casual gilet style, so it works best with sporty looks,” says Luke. “Neutral tones like black or grey are best, as they’ll go with your tracksuit or a football kit.”