What are Gaiters?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Gaiters are a form of clothing, made of leather or synthetic material, that includes buttons and/or straps and often fits on the person’s calf, extending to the knee or attaching to hiking boots. They are frequently worn by hikers because they can help protect the legs against scratches from dense grasses or low growing bushes. In wet or snowy areas, gaiters can help protect one from getting water, mud or snow in a boot. Many people who snowshoe also use gaiters to protect their legs and feet from getting wet. As well, the crust of snow can be sharp when it is icy, and gaiters often help keep legs or ankles from getting scratched.

Gaiters are commonly worn by hikers.
Gaiters are commonly worn by hikers.

Special gaiters called puttees were worn as part of some countries' army uniforms. These were generally made of cloth and were often useful in minimizing chafing from riding horses. Gaiters of this type somewhat resembled a cloth bandage. They were often made of one piece of cotton cloth that was tightly wrapped around the leg repeatedly, from ankle to knee. These gaiters are now fairly uncommon in army uniforms.

Gaiters are popular with people traveling in wooded areas because they can protect the legs from dense brush.
Gaiters are popular with people traveling in wooded areas because they can protect the legs from dense brush.

Traditional dress for bishops and priests of the Anglican Church also included gaiters. Initially these too would have been worn so a priest could quickly walk or ride to the aid of parishioners, without injuring his legs. Gradually they became simply a formal aspect of dress. Most priests no longer needed gaiters when motor transport was readily available.

Gaiters worn by Anglican ministers became more fancy as they became less useful. They were often made of silk, instead of more utilitarian fabrics like wool or cotton. Instead of joining at the shoe, as hiking gaiters do, clerical gaiters joined at the knee. They were also buttoned on the side, rather than wrapped like puttees.

Most Anglican ministers no longer wear gaiters, though the first few who eschewed them were thought to be quite controversial. However, since the 1960s, it is quite rare to see gaiters as part of the ceremonial dress of an Anglican priest or bishop.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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