Although it is still cold outside in most parts of the northern hemisphere, you may already yearn for sunny spring days and with it a change of wardrobe. While a trench coat is often the right topcoat, the shorter quilted jacket is also a popular companion for the outdoors during spring. No matter whether you are in the city running errands, or if you go fishing and hunting in the country, quilted jackets are nearly always
appropriate. Hence, I would like to elaborate on this outer garment today, starting with its history, followed by a picture series of different variations and finally, a how-to-buy guide so you can find the perfect jacket for you.
History of Quilted Jackets
Before I focus on the quilted jacket as we know it today, it is important to understand what quilting is and how it developed.
Quilting refers to any run of stitching – either decoratively or just in a straight run – that combines at least two layers of cloth. Often, you will find a third padding layer or interlining between the cloth, which provides the popular, three dimensional look on diamond quilted jackets. The term ‘quilt’ seems to have originated in England in the 12th century and derives from the Latin word cucita, which means cushion or bolster.
Although quilting became particularly popular in the 17th century, its roots go back to the middle ages. Interestingly, it was not just used in Europe, but also in India and the Far East. In the beginning quilting was mostly used for bed covers but also for clothing that was supposed to be light weight and insulating at the same time. Technically, the advantage of layering is the addition of trapped air which acts as an insulator; quilting also keeps insulating material such as down from moving around. Apart from that, it was also used under armor to make the metal suits more wearable. People who could not afford a suit of armor would often just wear the quilted undergarment.
Steve Guylas & the Husky Quilted Jacket
Considering the long standing tradition of quilting, it seems surprising that the quilted jacket as we know it today was just invented in 1965 by Steve Guylas and his wife Edna. Mr. Guylas was born in Pennsylvania and retired from the US Air Force in 1960 with an eye disease and so he felt that the only thing left for him was to become a business owner. Since he was an anglophile he moved with his wife to England, where he started three businesses: First, Husky Ltd in Tostock, Suffolk (which later became Husky Inc.) produced thermal outerwear and the infamous quilted jackets that he even supplied to the British Royal family. Second, Husky Riding Center Ltd. just outside of London which served as an indoor jumping center and lastly, a tackle shop.
All of the Guylas businesses started with the name Husky. As a country, fishing and hunting enthusiast Guylas would go out with his husky dog for a walk and hence he chose the name.
The first quilted garment Guylas designed was a waterproof, quilted vest made of polyester for shooting. It soon became popular with his club colleagues and so he made a quilted jacket. Initially, they were only available in pale olive green and navy blue,but with increasing demand, the product portfolio grew as did the color palette for the jackets. Probably the most important factor in popularizing the jacket was the British Royal family. The Queen would wear a quilted husky jacket with a brown corduroy collar for riding, and soon celebrities in Britain and Europe followed. In the 1980′s it also became a wardrobe staple of the sloane rangers in the UK and then swapped over to the US.
In the 1980′s Guylas moved back to the US and operated an English Antiques business out of the Evergreen Plantation in Duncan, South Carolina together with his wife and son Steve Guylas Jr. In the 1990′s he sold Husky to the Italian Saviero Moschillo, who now produces the Husky jackets.
The Original Husky Jacket
The original Husky jacket was all made in Tostock, England of 100% Nylon with polyester filling ! It was very basic, with a square rather boxy cut, single breasted, with five snap buttons (pressed studs) on the front; side vents could be closed with snap buttons as well. It featured two angled patch pockets and a corduroy collar and pocket trims. Later, there was also a collarless version with corduroy trim on the outside, and the inside was not lined.
The sleeve ends features flexible cuffs that grip your wrists tightly to keep out the cold air.
Where & How to Buy Quilted Jackets
Obviously, the first choice would be to go with a jacket from the original manufacturer. However, since the company has been sold, you can only snatch the originals in second hand shops or on ebay. Every once in a while, you can find a new one but chances that it fits and is a color you like are slim. Furthermore, an original was constructed of 100% nylon with polyester filling, which isn’t very desirable.
Luckily, there are probably hundreds of companies out there that manufacture a version of the quilted jacket. Now, with so many options, I would like to help you find the jacket that meets your needs.
The English Ones
The closest you will get to the original Husky jacket is probably a Denham jacket from Lavenham, which is still made in Suffolk or a Liddesdale from Barbour. Although not exactly the same as the original Husky, the overall look and weight are very similar. They are based on quilting riding blankets from the 1970′s , showerproof but not bulky and hence a good companion when travelling. Both companies offer a range of other quilted jackets, with shoulder pads, zips etc. but most of them are made from polyamid. You may also find some in leather. Lavenham has a vintage collection that uses wool, tweed and cord and lately they also experimented with some Casentino cloth. Due to the increased material price, these jackets are more expensive than the regular polyamid models. I think a wool coat is generally of better quality but also heavier than a polyamid version.
If you want the classic look paired with a lighter weight, I think these are good options. Barbour also offers a number of more contemporary colors such as light blue and red. Apart from that, John Partridge may also be of interest to you.
In case you prefer a little more fashion forward look you can go with Burberry or Aquascutum. Be prepared to pay more, especially in the case of Burberry, but they also offer wax cotton, suede, leather versions, etc.
Finally, Lotus also offers a quilted coat that probably makes for a good driving jacket.
The Italian Options
To this day, Italians – especially the Milanese – have a great appreciation for quilted jackets.When you are strolling around on a rainy day in spring or fall, you can see these jackets everywhere. Hence it is not surprising that Husky was bought by an Italian company. So clearly they are an option, but only easily available when you are in Milan. Loro Piana offers a a more luxurious quilted jacket as a part of their storm system, which is made of polyester and polyurethane with a lining of 100% cashmere. Such jackets go for over $1000, even when on sale.
A less expensive alternative comes from Boggi in Milan, but it is not available in their online store at the moment.
Valstar usually carries quilted jackets as well although they are a little pricey.
Quilted Jackets in the US
Of course, you can also find quilted jackets in the US. Ralph Lauren offers them every once in a while and so do Brooks Brothers. Paul Stuart editions in wool microfiber blend, suede etc. in various colors start at $900.
Most quilted jackets are cut a little more roomy than a sportscoat but I would always refer to the manufacturers sizing table. Of course, you should also determine how you are going to use the jacket – just over a sweater or also over a sportscoat. If the latter is the case, make sure the the arms and body are long enough.
The quilted jacket is versatile, shower proof, warm and hence a great companion for traveling, driving and outdoor use. The original Husky version is not available anymore but there are plenty of other manufacturers that offer a very similar product.
Basic versions are made of polyamid and will cost about $150. If you want corduroy or wool (blend) version, be prepared to spend about twice as much. Suede versions will cost considerably more as will cashmere linings etc. If you are happy with solid khaki, navy or brown, you should have no problem to find a quilted jacket at a local haberdasher or country outfitter. For different colors and materials, you will probably have to order online.
If you know of any good manufacturers that we have not listed here, let us know, thank you.