History of the Diamond Quilted Jacket

Written by: Deb German

The diamond quilted jacket: it’s as comfortable flushing pheasant in the country as it is pounding the pavements in the city. Wear it and you tell the world you appreciate refined couture but refuse to sacrifice comfort. And though you might reach for a heavier coat for winter’s worst, the diamond quilted jacket or waistcoat steps up to the plate in a timely fashion for spring, seeing you effortlessly through to summer whilst a glimpse of winter lingers in the rearview.

Where did the diamond quilted jacket begin, and what makes it so appealing?

Insulating Quilting: Ancient and Practical

Quilting refers to any run of stitching—decorative or otherwise—that binds together two layers of cloth. But its distinctive three-dimensional look results from a third layer of padding stitched between the first two. The term derives from the Latin culcita, meaning cushion or bolster: think futon.

Whilst a quilted jacket and a mattress make strange bedfellows, the two are tighter than you might think. We know quilting was used during the Medieval period for padding Crusader chainmail, but it existed much earlier, before the first century C.E.: the first known example was a quilted linen carpet discovered in a Siberian tomb. Whether the Siberians invented or copied it is anybody’s guess, but this clever material’s advantages in brutal Siberian conditions are clear: it provided warmth without bulk, strength without stiffness, was suitable for applications from clothing to saddlecloths, and tradeable for luxury goods.

Quilting did not enjoy its heyday in Europe until the 17th and 18th centuries, as seen in quilted petticoats, waistcoats, bed linens, caps, and even doll clothing, popular among the middle and upper classes. By the early 19th century quilting stood shoulder to shoulder with various textiles in the Folk Art Movement—in the United States, Canada, Britain, and across Europe: there could be no end of uses for this lightweight, insulating material.

An American Jacket of English Provenance: Steve and Edna Gulyas’ Big Idea

When an eye disease forced U.S. Air Force Colonel Steve Gulyas into retirement in the early 1960s, he and his wife Edna moved to Tostock, Suffolk in England. A Pennsylvania Anglophile, Gulyas resolved to start a business in the wake of this void in his career. Together he and Edna founded Husky, Ltd. (named for their beloved dog), where they designed and manufactured a garment that would become one of the most copied the world over: the diamond quilted jacket.

The first version of the quilted jacket was not a jacket at all, but a waistcoat made for shooting. Waterproof, polyester, and quilted, it made a big splash among Gulyas’ club colleagues, so he reimagined it as a jacket in nylon with polyester fill. The original was a boxy, single-breasted affair with five pressed stud snap buttons on the front, and snap-close side vents; it had two angled patch pockets, a corduroy collar, and corduroy pocket trim. This unassuming but useful jacket came in pale olive green or navy blue; other colours would follow its rise to fame.

The Royal family helped it get there: Queen Elizabeth was fond of wearing her beloved Husky jacket for riding. It soon caught on as a cult item among young students at England’s prestigious academic institutions, thence to celebrities in both Britain and Europe by the 1980s, before finally arriving on American soil. But the diamond quilted jacket possessed an appeal reaching past its celebrity status: in short, it combined the best qualities of a raincoat and a windbreaker, emerging as a garment that was functional, lightweight, and warm.

The Modern Diamond Quilted Jacket: Warmth Refined

Add to those likeable qualities a certain finesse that’s missing in an ordinary lightweight jacket, and you have the modern diamond quilted jacket. Long recognising its potential as a refined and versatile layer, Barbour introduced the Countryman in 1979; now the familiar and popular Liddesdale, this handsome diamond quilt boasts a nylon outer with a corduroy collar and two large pockets on the front. The main attractions of the Liddesdale and others of its ilk are in fact its capacious pockets (stow a handful of oats or your mobile phone: the jacket does not judge), and superior protection from the elements. And a properly fitted diamond quilted jacket or waistcoat is plenty roomy to layer over a jumper.

The shorter quilted jacket is the champion outdoors for spring: undeniably metropolitan, it remains comfortable astride a horse and on the putting green alike. But its real appeal for spring is its willingness to layer, a winsome quality that allows your wardrobe to bridge the seasons so beautifully. Wear it over your shirt to knock off the chill, or pair it with a parka for serious cold-weather protection. The versatile diamond quilt emerges as an elegant jacket, a sure favourite for spring. And keep it near the front of the closet: it will rise to the occasion once again come autumn.

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