What is a Gilet? Gilet vs. Vest

What is a Gilet? Gilet vs. Vest

What is a Gilet

A gilet, also known as “what is a gilet,” is a sleeveless jacket that functions as a versatile layering piece. A quilted gilet features insulation held in pockets by visible outer stitching. It provides insulation and freedom for your arms, making it a practical choice for various outdoor activities. This article will guide you through the design, uses, and selection of gilets, ensuring you understand their role in both fashion and function without overwhelming you with excess detail.

Key Takeaways

  • A gilet is a versatile, sleeveless garment that keeps the core warm without restricting movement, ideal for layering in various outdoor activities and weather conditions.

  • There are differences between a gilet and a body warmer; gilets are lighter and suitable for layering, while body warmers are bulkier, offering more warmth for lower-intensity activities.

  • Choosing the right gilet involves considering material and design features for specific activities, and proper care is essential to maintain its performance and longevity.

Certain fashion terms can sometimes be used in various ways by different cultures, and may also be used as shorthands for wider categories of clothing. 

For example, in the United States, “pants” most often refers to trousers. In the United Kingdom, briefs, boxers or other underwear are referred to as “pants”, creating an amusing cultural clash.

But what about vests? Well, in the United Kingdom, a vest can be an undergarment worn over your torso to provide more warmth. In the United States, this is referred to as a “tank top.” 

You may also hear people refer to gilet-like apparel as a “vest.” But are they the same thing? If not, what are the differences?

It’s important to note that, as TCA is a British brand, we have a “UK perspective” on this. “Gilet” is a French term, meaning "waistcoat." That’s not to denigrate other cultures who may hold a different understanding, but this advice should help if you’re shopping through UK outlets like ours:

In this post, we hope to clear that up once and for all. We’ll also go into the fitness benefits of ordering a gilet and wearing it atop your usual running apparel.

What is a gilet or sleeveless jacket?

A gilet is a type of sleeveless jacket, enjoyed for both its versatility and comfort. It can be worn in all weather types because it neither overheats nor allows the cold to bite. They can also be tailored for those pursuing an active lifestyle, as this refined garment can be cultivated for many different purposes.

At TCA, we craft our gilet range with meticulous attention to detail, ensuring they provide optimal comfort and flexibility, empowering you to conquer your fitness goals. Many modern gilets use synthetic insulation for its durability and performance in wet conditions.

You may think that a gilet is a large, puffy overcoat, but that’s only one variant of the jacket style. A gilet can be sleek, zip up, host a number of functional pockets, and provide just enough padding to keep you warm running in cold weather while also remaining light and breathable enough to stop you from overheating.

Beyond performance, our gilets showcase contemporary British style, offering the streetwear smart appeal that’s become so popular in London and our major cities. Available in a wide range of designs and colours with additional functions like rain and windproofing, each gilet is a testament to the fusion of cutting-edge fitness technology prioritised by TCA.

How is a gilet different from a vest?

We tend to think of a gilet as a sleeker sleeveless jacket, most often seen in European cuts. Of course, there’s no standard definition of how a gilet can be cut and designed, but it’s mostly designed to keep you comfortable and also to help you with daily activities, sometimes even refined for fitness.

A vest is more straightforward, usually an American term for a sleeveless jacket with a practical focus, most often worn for warmth and popular for outdoor activities like hiking or even hunting and other survivalist efforts. A vest in some interpretations can also refer to a suit vest, which is worn in the traditional three-piece suit.

Both styles are similar to one another. If you go out to purchase a gilet but come home with a more traditional vest, you’ll still be happy with the purchase. However, if you’re looking for a more fitness-oriented gilet garment, it’s wiser to purchase from athletic brands like TCA to fulfill your workout needs.

The Anatomy of a Gilet: Understanding Its Design as a Mid Layer

What is a gilet

A gilet’s snug fit is crucial to effectively trap air and provide extra insulation to keep the core body warm in cool temperatures without compromising on layering space. Think of it as a wearable hug, a personal cocoon that keeps you warm while allowing you to move freely!

Zippers on gilets offer you the ability to regulate body temperature by adjusting ventilation as activity levels or ambient temperatures change. So, whether you’re taking a leisurely stroll or conquering a challenging hike, a gilet can accommodate your needs, serving as a versatile piece in layering systems, able to act as breathable, insulating mid-layers or as protective outer layers against the elements.

For a functional fit, a gilet should mirror the cut of a waistcoat, close-fitting yet allowing for comfortable movement and additional layers.

The Role of Armholes and Shoulders

The design of armholes in a gilet is crucial to ensure they do not restrict movement and allow a full range of motion. This means you can perform any activity without feeling constrained, making it perfect for those who love to stay active outdoors.

The fit around a gilet’s shoulders should be snug without overlapping or overhanging to prevent any discomfort or restriction of movement. The shoulder fit of a gilet should align properly with the body, mirroring the hem or stitch line where a traditional sleeve joins the top to avoid overhanging the shoulders. This design aspect ensures comfort while preserving the overall aesthetic of your outdoor attire.

Length and Hem Considerations

When it comes to the length of a gilet, the rule of thumb is this: it should not exceed the length of the top it’s paired with. It should be similar to a waistcoat, ending at the waist for men. This ensures a neat appearance and warmth retention, especially when layered.

But don’t worry, there’s still room for personal style! Gilets come in a range of lengths, from waist to knee-length options, accommodating personal style preferences and comfort needs. So, whether you prefer a short, sporty look or a long, elegant style, there’s a gilet for you.

Why are gilets so useful in running, fitness, and outdoor activities?

Women's gilet


So, why are gilets so popular as activewear for running and other workouts in the first place? Surely, the first piece of fitness apparel that comes to mind isn’t a jacket?

Well, think again. A gilet is not only comfortable, but it’s the perfect thinner layer to wear on top of a running shirt. This helps you stay warm, provides you with the utility of many zippable pockets, and looks stylish.

This means you can easily throw one on over your workout gear, providing an extra layer of insulation when it's chilly without the bulk of a full jacket. However, they also allow heat and moisture to escape, if a little more slowly, which means they remain breathable too.

In other words, if you’re running in colder temperatures, a gilet won’t impede your movement at all but will help you stay warm. This means your body expends less energy on temperature regulation, and more on your sporting performance.

Layering for Extra Warmth and Functionality

Layering is a fundamental principle of outdoor clothing, and gilets fit right into this concept. They serve as a versatile layer that can be worn:

  • as an outer layer on cool days
  • as a mid-layer beneath a jacket for maximum warmth when temperatures drop further
  • in very cold conditions, a gilet can be efficiently layered between a base layer and a down jacket as part of a hiking layering system for extra warmth.

The hem of a gilet should fit snugly to effectively trap air and keep the torso warm, while ensuring it is not so tight as to hamper breathability and moisture wicking, essential for active outdoor activities. The sleeveless design of gilets is integral for maintaining comfort and freedom of movement, making it a suitable layer for all seasons and various activities.

The Seasonal Appeal of Gilets

One of the best things about gilets is their seasonal adaptability. They can be added or removed with ease, making them particularly suitable for seasons like spring and autumn with unpredictable weather. In colder climates, insulated gilets either down or synthetic, serve efficiently as an outer layer.

During the colder times of the year such as autumn and winter, gilets can be stylishly paired with jumpers or checked shirts for men or with striped sweatshirts or knitted jumpers for women. Gilets are also a practical addition for children’s outdoor apparel, pairing nicely with jeans and a t-shirt or jumper for that extra layer of warmth during cooler weather walks.


In the realm of outdoor clothing, gilets have proven themselves as a versatile and essential piece. Their ability to provide a waterproof layer, warmth, comfort, and freedom of movement make them an ideal choice for various outdoor activities and pursuits. From their design to the materials used, gilets have been crafted to cater to your specific needs, making them a valuable addition to your outdoor wardrobe. So, whether you’re a seasoned adventurer or just love a cozy walk in the park, it’s time to embrace the gilet!

Why not check out TCA’s excellent stock of gilets today?

Our inventory of refined products aims to empower you to achieve all your fitness goals in 2024 and beyond.


Frequently Asked Questions

What's the difference between a gilet and a vest?

A gilet and a vest are essentially the same thing, but a gilet is more commonly used in European fashion while a vest is the preferred term in the US.

What's the point of a gilet?

The main point of a gilet is to provide an added layer to keep you warm by trapping air on your chest, so it should fit snugly to avoid letting a draft in at the hem.

Is a gilet the same as a bodywarmer?

Yes, a gilet and a bodywarmer are the same piece of clothing. The names are interchangeable, and they both refer to sleeveless jackets designed to keep the body insulated.

How to wear a gilet?

Wear a slimline gilet under other layers with a snug fit and high arm holes, and pair it with a windbreaker or waterproof jacket for winter. Choose subtle color tones for a stylish look.

Torna al blog