For those in-between days when the weather isn’t quite decided yet, it’s usually time for a body warmer. Gilets provide warmth and comfort without weighing you down, are versatile and easy to wear, but they come in many shapes.
From the tried-and-true down gilet to more contemporary hiking designs, there are more options to choose from than ever, with different style strains showing off just how versatile they are. Gilets started out as workwear, but have since been adopted by everyone from lairy rugby fans to tech and finance brethren. It’s quintessential country wear, but also a practical layer for mountaineers, urban commuters and everyone in between.
To get you started, we’ve rounded up the best gilet brands and offered advice on how to wear this underrated piece. Here you will find everything you need to know about body warmers for men.
What is a waistcoat?
Sometimes known – rather confusingly – as a ‘vest’, a gilet is essentially a sleeveless jacket. It’s that simple. Ideal for transitional weather as part of a layered look, it provides extra warmth and functionality without being overbearing. Sometimes a coat is too much, and if you know you’re going to take it off, they can be a nuisance to carry around.
Then a body warmer is perfect: it offers all the warmth of a jacket for your waist and keeps your arms free and airy.
Down/padded body warmer
A gilet’s sleeveless design makes it easy to wear under a jacket 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 heavy insulation that also offers an interesting silhouette.
As well as tech labels, you’ll find streetwear brands and luxury houses that offer this style, which can be paired with everything from hiking pants and combat pants to corduroy, denim or wool designs.
Less Michelin Man in proportion but still with a warm and practical layer, a gilet works on the same design principle as thicker styles. Less padding means these can be worn under tailored or slimmer overcoats in the fall/winter months as they won’t ruin those tailored silhouettes. They usually have no pockets and are often filled with natural goose down or a more sustainable alternative.
AKA the Han Solo waistcoat. Often cut with a V-line on the chest and with a myriad of pockets, utility vests are worn by hikers, soldiers, and fishermen, as well as the occasional intergalactic smuggler. While traditionally worn to serve a purpose, today this gilet is perfect for workwear-inspired looks, pairing well with wide-leg chinos, hoodies and boots.
Usually associated with British country wear (and sometimes American hiking gear), fleece gilets are often found as zip-in liners in Barbours and other waxed jackets. Loved for their warmth, the best fleece gilets are nevertheless incredibly lightweight and add a welcome touch of texture to your cold-weather looks.
They can also be worn with smarter clothes — in 2019, the infamous banker’s vest was so ubiquitous on Wall Street that Patagonia confirmed it was no longer selling its branded vests to investment firms to sustainable, certified B Corporations.
Main ways to wear a body warmer
Thanks to Patagonia’s actions and some on-screen jokes in Succession, the business waistcoat look has gotten a bit ridiculous in recent years. Fleece and quilted gilets, however, remain a popular option for bankers and financiers, who often wear them under their suits or instead of a jacket.
If you want to update the look, move away from ubiquitous navy and dark gray gilets and opt for light grey/stone and warmer brown. Also look for slimmer versions or those with a matte finish.
Many offices have now relaxed their dress codes, so try it with drawstrings or tapered trousers and an Oxford shirt. You could even swap out the blazer for a handyman jacket for an easy, smart-casual look that doesn’t scream “banker.”
Country with a twist
A body warmer always feels at home under a waxed jacket. It’s a classic British country look, with fleece, tweed and wool adding texture that also works well for chilly afternoons in the city.
Slightly undercut the look by pairing these traditional fabrics and outdoor wear with contemporary pieces like turtlenecks, tapered pants, sneakers and hoodies. This juxtaposition prevents things from straying too far into the fox hunting area and gives a modern look to your outfit.
Take advantage of the workwear tradition of the gilet and opt for a hunting style vest. Perfect for pairing with carpenter’s trousers, baggy chinos or jeans, the hunting waistcoat is ideal for those who value functionality, as the pockets can easily store your phone, wallet and other belongings. Wear it under a technical parka or over a flannel shirt and complete the outfit with a pair of vintage running shoes or work boots for a fit that works well for weekend ‘walks’ to the pub.
In addition to outdoor activities like hiking and fishing, gilets can work as conventional workout clothes, with brands like Nike selling them for winter running or park workouts. Usually, however, body warmers and sportswear come together in high-quality lifestyle looks that combine comfort and functionality.
Ideal for travel, shopping days and general city administration, choose a mid-weight gilet and layer it over luxe sweats or matching tracksuits. Go for something tonal with a gilet that matches the sportswear underneath to nail the celebrity-in-the-departures lounge look.
Tonal dressing is modern and versatile, allowing you to create smart-casual outfits with ease and without thinking. However, you need to land on the right mix of light and dark shades to really make your outfit sing, and that’s where a waistcoat comes in handy.
The extra layer is an opportunity to add a greater depth of contrast to the look, especially if it’s in a different material as well.
The best waistcoat brands for men
One day in March
A Day’s March started out as a premium basics brand but has been consistently added to its collections over the years and now offers everything from luxurious outerwear to beautifully crafted leather boots. The gilets are made with great attention to detail, from the well-designed pockets to the materials, including RDS certified duck down.
As with the rest of its ever-expanding collections, Uniqlo’s gilets represent the best in value and understated design. If you’re looking for form-fitting, quilted down gilets, look no further as Uniqlo’s are the best value for money out there.
For a more elevated take on the quilted gilet, you could do a lot worse than go to Reiss. The British brand knows a thing or two about fine detail, which is why you can expect staples upgraded with zip or flap pockets, all made in highly wearable, classic colors like navy, stone and black.
It’s fair to say that Barbour has perfected Britain’s country classics, and the 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 durable end of the spectrum, Patagonia is the best choice. Known for bold political statements and anti-consumer marketing, Patagonia’s gilets are made from responsible materials, including down, nylon and polyester, all of which are recycled. And they still look good.
Italian brand Brunello Cucinelli proudly makes all of its clothing at its factory in Solomeo, ensuring full control over the quality and output of its clothing. As such, the brand’s gilets — which are made from some of the world’s finest fabrics — are among the most luxurious you’ll find anywhere.
Known for its down filled jackets and high quality snow gear, Canada Goose is well placed when it comes to producing exceptionally designed gilets. On the pricier end of the spectrum, the brand should be your go-to if you’re looking for warmth above all else.
The Detroit-based workwear specialist, Carhartt is well-regarded for its classic American wardrobe staples, including jackets and durable trousers. The gilets are often overlooked, but with some unique designs in the mix, including multi-pocket vests and simple designs made from the cotton Duck Vest, the brand is definitely worth checking out.
For something more noticeable, a Moncler body warmer is an always popular option. Like Canada Goose, Moncler’s gilets are at the higher end of the price range, but they are incredibly functional and offer plenty of warmth and water resistance. They are quilted and down filled and have the brand’s signature logo on the chest.
Known for its innovation with technical fabrics, as well as its ingenious design, Stone Island’s iconic styles are much acclaimed by fans of the Italian brand. The gilets have handy front pockets and zips, as well as lightweight, waterproof fabrics that will keep you dry all winter and beyond.