Words by Nick Carvell
Once again, we’re at that odd crossroads of the seasons where the weather can flip at a moment’s notice. You can wake up to a balmy sunny morning but have been plunged into a crisp, blustery autumn day by lunchtime. In other words, it’s the time of year that’s the most frustrating to dress for and where failing to prepare for every meteorological eventuality can leave you sweaty one minute, chilly the next and totally flustered. The only way to survive is by ensuring you have smart layers that can work whatever the weather - and the gilet is one of the smartest.
Perhaps the reason it’s so smart is that it was originally invented for a very practical purpose. The sartorial roots of the gilet (the word French for cardigan or waistcoat) can be traced back to the 15th-century jerkin, a sleeveless leather jacket that was worn by working people that provided warmth without restricting their arms while they performed manual labour. At the dawn of the twentieth century, the item’s unrestrictive nature made it ripe for a revival amongst those getting in on the new leisure craze of shooting, allowing a full range of movement that wouldn’t hinder hitting a clay pigeon as it darted across the horizon.
Today, it’s these body-warming and arm-liberating qualities that still make it appealing in this awkward trans-seasonal period, most especially to a city man’s wardrobe. The reason for that is that an urbanite isn’t just dealing with the weather outside, but often a series of climates throughout the day: warm and stuffy on the commute, teeth-chatteringly chilled in the office air-con. Lighter than a coat, less stifling than a jumper and more substantial than an overshirt, the gilet helps you regulate your temperature throughout the day without creating your own personal sauna as you run between coffee meetings. In fact, it’s the versatility that led Julia Bedwell, Trunk’s Own Label Manager, to introduce a gilet into the brand’s collection for the first time this season.
“I think people are looking for their clothes to be adaptable and useful right now,” says Bedwell. “From going for a stroll in the autumnal outdoors or cycling to the office, a gilet will add that extra layer of warmth when you are not quite ready for a wintery coat. Or when the weather really turns you can pop it on underneath a winter piece without adding a lot of unsightly bulk.”
An added superpower for Trunk’s Park gilet is precisely this trim-ness of cut. Crafted from a soft-feel cotton-mix fabric (woven in Como, Italy), unlike many more traditional gilets, it is tailored closer to the body so it keeps you warm without the need for inches of padding. Its practicality is accentuated thanks to two internal zip pockets for storing your on-the-go essentials and a drawstring waist to guard against any sudden gusts, as well as a fabric panel behind the zip to stop any discomfort from cold metal on your neck when venturing out into a cold snap.
So what’s the best way to wear a gilet? Well, anyway you want really - that’s the beauty of it. Slip it under a suit jacket if you’re headed to work or over a loopback sweatshirt on the weekend and it’ll work, adding warmth and nonchalance to outfits for both work and play. “For a casual but elegant look I would suggest wearing it with one of our Seymour Oxford shirts and Berwick Shetland sweaters on top of a pair of our ivory Duke cords,” Bedwell advises. “Add a pair of boots or sneakers and you are ready to go.” In fact, I’d say the toughest thing is deciding whether you’ll go for the olive green or navy blue.