A Gentleman’s Guide: 8 Ways to Wear A Gilet

In the latest edition of A Gentleman’s Guide, we check out eight ways to embrace one of the season’s key trends – work or play:

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  • Photograph by YoungJun Koo/ Lickerish

After a long time on the periphery of what would generally be considered stylish, the much maligned bodywarmer has in recent years been ushered in from the cold and completely restyled as a fashionable gilet (otherwise known in the US as a down vest).

From performance-wear giants to Italian fashion houses, this season offers something for everyone, whether you prefer wool or nylon, slim-fit or quilted, a bold statement piece or a versatile basic layer. Whatever your style, here’s how to wear a vest to impress.


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  • Photograph by Tommy Ton/ Trunk Archive

These are the peak days of sports luxe when tailoring can be worn in high-low combination with sportswear, which serves to dress down the formality of the former and dress up the informality of the latter. Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than by the very Milanese pairing of tailored separates and a gilet. Here the gilet is worn underneath a peak-lapelled blazer, providing an interesting contrast in textures and instantly adding a softening layer to what might otherwise be a rather stiff ensemble. Styled this way, the gilet allows the wearer to dress for the office without looking like “a suit”. Popping the lapel is optional.


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  • Photograph by Billy Farrell/ BFA.com

By removing weight and puffiness and concentrating on cut, the flattering fit of a lightweight gilet means it can be worn like a waistcoat, without adding unnecessary bulk to your svelte silhouette. Styled underneath an overcoat, as demonstrated by model Mr Johannes Huebl, above, it’s also an easy way to bring the right amount of contrast colour and texture into what might otherwise be a muted autumn outfit. Eye-catching but not garishly so.


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  • Photograph by Tommy Ton/ Trunk Archive

On a mild day in autumn or spring, you can often get away with a gilet in place of a bulky coat, as demonstrated here by our own Contributing Style Director Mr Dan May, who caught Mr Tommy Ton’s zoom lens. A light synthetic-down gilet will pack into a ball, saving space and weight in a work or weekend bag. Performance brands tend to include practical elements such as insulated and protective pockets to keep your hands warm and your phone safe. For optimum versatility, the gilet should be plain and neutral in colour (navy, black or charcoal grey), so that you can easily incorporate it into various looks. A patterned gilet would clash with the plaid here, but a plain one complements it – and turns this brushed-cotton shirt into outerwear.


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  • Photograph by George Elder

A gilet’s lack of sleeves makes it very useful for layering without restricting movement. Anyone who has tried to wear a jacket on top of another jacket will know that it neither looks nor feels comfortable in the arms and shoulders. Wearing a well-insulated gilet from a specialist outdoor brand such as Patagonia will also enable you to get more wear out of lightweight jackets such as bombers or blousons, so you can mix up your look rather than wear the same winter coat(s) for months on end.


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  • Photograph by Adam Katz Sinding/ Blaublut-Edition.com

Some jackets, especially those that have been tailored or altered to fit, will not comfortably accommodate a gilet underneath. And a more substantial gilet, such as this shearling-lined, leather-panelled version worn by WWD fashion editor Mr Alex Badia, will need to be worn as an outer layer. Not all gilets need to look like performance apparel. But this on-trend example is still functional. The shearling collar will do the job of a scarf. One other point to add concerns the layering lengths. When worn on the outside, it’s OK if the gilet is shorter than the jacket underneath (and in such cases, the gilet would normally be worn unfastened). When worn on the inside, the gilet should ideally not hang down lower than the outer layer – it tends to look untidy.


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  • Photograph by Søren Jepsen/ The Locals

The more colourful, patterned and textured the gilet, the more of a statement piece it will be, but the less often you will be able to wear it. This busy ensemble works because the minor colours in the gilet are echoed in the rest of the outfit so it all co-ordinates. But, in diving parlance, this routine has a high level of difficulty. (Top marks to photographer/stylist Mr Dapper Lou.) As a general rule, we would suggest that if your gilet has a lot going on, keep everything else plain and simple.


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  • Photograph by George Elder

If technical fabrics such as nylon and synthetic down are not your style and you want to wear something that feels more luxurious and tactile, then look for gilets made from heavy-gauge wool, tweed, cord or suede. These understated and grown-up additions to your autumn wardrobe have a country feel to them. They would be perfect for walking the dogs on a crisp morning or for going on a weekend ramble without making you look like you’re about to ascend the north face of the Eiger.


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  • Photograph by IMAXtree

At this time of year, sudden temperature changes make people susceptible to colds. A key argument in favour of the gilet is its practicality; it keeps you warm but not uncomfortably so, regulating your body temperature with the sartorial thermostat known as a “zip”. This down-filled version from Moncler – which, along with Canada Goose, leads the way in technical yet stylish down-filled outerwear – is ideal for the man about town who doesn’t want to be forever faffing about putting on and taking off a cumbersome overcoat. Re: Mr Bruce Pask, above, men’s fashion director for a US department store that shall remain nameless. And if you need to squeeze onto public transport (or even a packed catwalk front row), you can easily remove your padded layer and use it as a cushion without worrying you’ll crush it.

None of the people featured in this story are associated with or endorse MR PORTER or the products shown


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