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What is a Gilet? A Guide to Body Warmers5 min read

What is a Gilet?

The Gilet, pronounced “Jee-Lay” or “Gee-Lay”, is a sleeveless jacket also known as a vest or a body warmer primarily worn for extra warmth on chillier days. The Gilet was originally worn as more of a decorative vest during the 19th century in France, embodying style more than warmth unlike how we see body warmers today. Despite the major change in functionality to a more practical purpose; the styling of this piece of clothing hasn’t changed much over its history retaining popular features such as its smooth and tight fit.

What is the difference between a Gilet and a body warmer?

It is a common misconception that there is a difference between a Gilet and a body warmer, however, for the most part the names are interchangeable and relate to the same thing. Although, some may argue that there are slight differences between the two:

The Gilet – usually a more streamlined fit and often with a fur trim:

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The body warmer – usually in the puffa and padded style with a heavy focus on warmth:

However, these rules are far from set in place and as previously mentioned, both “Gilet” and “Body Warmer” can relate to the same thing. You may also have heard of the word “vest” being used to talk about “Gilets” or “Body Warmers” and again this is another interchangeable word for the same apparel. For the sake of keeping things simple here we will refer to all three as a gilet.

What are the benefits of wearing a Gilet?

For many people, the gilet may seem pointless. After all, it appears to just be a jacket with its sleeves missing, so you would assume that whilst it may keep your torso nice and warm it would leave your arms out in the cold. However, the great thing about a gilet is its versatility as a piece of clothing. You can wear just about anything underneath a gilet whether it’s a long sleeve shirt, knitwear or if you’re heading down to the beach you can always go topless with your Gilet.

Alongside the versatility, Gilets see much wear in many outdoor pursuits including cycling, shooting and fishing. This is due to the practicality of providing extra warmth without restricting your arms (which you may guess is very helpful for sports and hobbies). With the introduction of pockets from their 19th century French counterparts, you can carry any small sporting accessories in your Gilet or simply keep your hands warm whilst you are enjoying the fresh country air.

If you’re the outdoor type who enjoys camping, hiking or exploring then a Gilet is the perfect lightweight addition to your gear. Easier to carry and pack than a quilted jacket, the gilet provides a happy medium between warmth and weight.

Types of Gilet

The Quilted Gilet. The quilted Gilet usually refers to externally visible quilting which has insulation in pockets that are separated by stitching. This helps to keep you very warm even on the coldest of days because the air remains trapped. The quilted Gilet is a perfect choice to really keep you warm if you’re spending long periods of time out in the cold.

The Fleece Gilet. The fleece Gilet is, as you can imagine, made of a fleece fabric and tends to be more lightweight and a slimmer fit. This means the fleece Gilet works great as both an outer layer and a mid-layer worn underneath a jacket or a coat. You may find that some fleece Gilets can be zipped in to special interactive jackets to function perfectly as a mid-layer.

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The Technical Gilet. A technical Gilet can refer to anything that was made for a specific purpose such as a sport, hobby or something else. For example, you’ll find Gilets specifically designed to help compliment shooting and hunting, these will usually have added features that you won’t find on other Gilets. The Schoffel Shooting Jacket as shown below has deep open pockets which allow for easy access to cartridges.

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There’s a wide range of Gilet brands including Schoffel, Barbour, Joules, Jack Wolfskin, Canterbury and many more. Different brands offer different Gilets featuring specific functionality and varying materials. Now you know what a Gilet is and the various purposes and benefits you will know which Gilet is suited to your needs to make sure you get the most our of your Gilet as you shop for the perfect one for you.

Check out our range of Gilets here

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