Gaiters are items worn on the lower leg and used primarily as personal protective equipment; similar items used primarily for display are spats. Gaiters used in equestrian riding are known as riding-gaiters.

Etymology and terminology

Gaiter comes from the French "Guêtre".

In Army parlance, a gaiter covers leg and bootlacing; a legging covers only the leg. In RAF parlance, gaiter includes legging. The American Army during World War II had leggings, which were gaiters. Above the knee spatterdashes were cotton or canvas, as were many gaiters of varying lengths thereafter. Leather gaiters were rare in military, though sometimes a calf-length cotton gaiter had leather kneecaps added. Leggings, however, were very often made of leather, but also canvas.

Gaiters known as jambieres (French for shin or shank) were part of the uniform of Zouave infantry regiments.

On foot

Gaiters are a type of protective clothing for a person's ankles and legs below the knee. Gaiters are worn when walking, hiking, running (especially orienteering and rogaining) or equestrian riding outdoors amongst dense underbrush or on snow, with or without snowshoes. Gaiters strap onto the hiking boot and around the person's leg to provide protection from branches and thorns and to prevent mud, snow, etc from entering the top of the boot. Gaiters are similar to puttees, a part of numerous military uniforms.

Originally, gaiters were made of leather. Today, gaiters for walking are commonly made of plasticized synthetic cloth such as polyester. Gaiters for use on horseback continue to be made of leather.

On horseback

Gaiters worn by equestrians have a wide variety of styles, and some polo players' kneepads resemble gaiters in that they extend down the calf. Half chaps, a popular style of equestrian gaiters (not chaps), are widely worn by riders while not at shows.

In Latin America, from Chile to Mexico, gaiters extending over the knee are traditional.

In the church

Gaiters formed a part of the everyday clerical clothing of bishops and archdeacons of the Anglican Communion until the middle part of the twentieth century. They were made of black cotton, wool, or silk, and buttoned up the sides, reaching to just below the knee where they would join with black breeches. Gaiters would be worn with a clerical apron, a type of short cassock reaching to just above the knee. The purpose of this vesture was originally practical, since archdeacons and bishops were presumed to be mobile, riding horses to various parts of a diocese or archdeaconry. In latter years, the clothing took on a more symbolic dimension.


[ Anglicans Online: Through the Years with Gaiters]

ee also

*Leg warmer
*Polo wraps

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