Style and practicality comes to Norwich this autumm as a classic winter warmer gets a fashion makeover
Men's fashion has become practical for autumn and winter, paving the way for a much-mocked garment to take the fashion limelight, says Emma Harrowing.
The gilet is an essential piece of kit for those who like the great outdoors. It provides insulation against the elements when out hiking or walking and has become a symbol of male prowess, proving that you are an action man and a lover of the great outdoors. Bear Grylls wears one after all.
It's practicality was never a fashion statement, unless you count the spate of puffed up and brightly coloured body warmers worn by boy bands such as 911 in the 90s. However, last autumn the gilet was featured in high fashion collections on the catwalk and this year it has become a staple piece in many menswear collections on the high street.
It's all part of fashion's insistence that a 90s revival is long overdue. First, it was the combat trouser and then the parka which are still on the fashion circuit this autumn. Then came the rucksack, which was sported by the fashion-forward crowd last year and which has become the unisex bag of choice this year. Practicality has become the new buzzword in men's fashion and the gilet fits this ideal perfectly.
It's an item of clothing loved by former rugby union player Phil Vickery. His new fashion collection, Raging Bull, now stocked in House of Fraser in Chapelfield, features the gilet layered over striped rugby shirts, T-shirts and hoodies.
Step off the main high street and into Norwich Lanes and you will find that the gilet features heavily in many of the local, national and international brands stocked in the independent menswear shops.
Scotch and Soda at Elements on Lower Goat Lane has some 90s inspired ones and the recently refurbished menswear department in independent department store Jarrold has many in its new collections. The gilet, it seems, has become the next biggest fashion item since the quilted Barbour jacket became a must-have two years ago. It's easy to see why this is so. The gilet offers men an easy way to create this season's stylish layered look. It can be layered over a T-shirt, knitwear, a long-sleeved top and under or even over a jacket.
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And there are many options to choose from.
The traditional puffa style gives a 90s spin on this season's style; padded colourful ones gives this summer's sporty look an autumnal edge and knitted waistcoats layered over a check shirt and worn with chinos or jeans creates this year's heritage look.
But while the gilet is becoming a must-have fashion item, it still keeps you warm when it's a little chilly outside.
Of course you don't need me to tell you that, you already know, and now that the body warmer has become a fashion trend, nobody needs to know that you are quietly rejoicing that for once you can wear something practical and stylish.
Find out how men's fashion has got balls in Norwich this autumn and winter on the fashion pages in your Evening News tomorrow (Thursday October 18).