Welcome to class, gents. Today’s lesson: how to master the art of layering. Be it, winter or summertime or some season in between, layering has a major role to play in staying comfortable, feeling good and looking even better – whatever the weather.
It can also provide you with more styles from your existing wardrobe so that means you’ll have more looks to play with without needing to spend more.
In This Story…
What Is Layering
Layering is a styling technique. It’s an outfit made up of clothes upon clothes, with each piece acting like a step or stage in the overall look. But, to avoid looking like Michelin man or a walking cream puff, the biggest thing to remember is this: layer thin to thick, and light to heavy.
This ensures that the most lightweight, breathable garments are closest to your skin, and the more durable, heavyweight pieces are protecting you from the elements. And, you can peel away the layers as your body temperature regulates to the indoor heat, after coming in from the cool. Smart, right?
How To Layer
As well as the practical points above, we wouldn’t be a men’s style publication if we didn’t discuss the aesthetics involved in layering. So, here are four most important layering styling tips to consider if you’ve got all the gear but no idea.
Remember, the secret isn’t so much to go out to buy as many pieces as you can – it’s to use what you already have (assuming you already have the basics) to create fresh new looks at the cost of nothing.
That old flannel shirt you’ve had since 2005? Pull it out, put a denim jacket over it and use a white v-neck or henley tee as your bottom base layer. Leave all unbuttoned. You now have an entirely new look from standard separates kicking around.
Best Layering Fabrics
Before putting together an outfit, it’s important to look at each piece and take it back to its fabric of origin. It’s all linked to the rule of dressing from light to heavy for practical purposes. But this has a visual affect too. Firstly, acknowledge most garments will be made from the the same type of fabrics: cotton, wool, or a blend of two.
Then, notice the difference in the weave, affecting the thickness and weight of the garment. Any two pieces may be made from say, pure cotton, but each will look and feel different due the warp and weft of the yarn that makes up the material.
Finally, break up the fabric mix by incorporating the latest in technical fabrics – such as moisture wicking shirts and waterproof jackets. The active accents are very on trend right now and will create an added fabric point of difference between your outer, inner and in-between layers.
Layering With Textures
Varying the texture simply means adding in and contrasting different fabric finishes, which gives off a sense of depth or light and shade to an outfit, especially when wearing the same fabric all over. As already mentioned, cotton is a major player. So – for texture’s sake – wear different cotton finishings such as waxed, brushed and garment-dyed to set each piece apart.
When it comes to casual wear or smart casual, unless your outfit is a set – such as two-piece suit – it’s vital you vary the texture. Especially, in monochrome, neutral and all-black looks. Head to toe earth tones or colourless clothes need texture to avoid your layered get up looking like a walking black hole.
Best Layering Colours
Layering allows colour-lovers to work in several different tones and shades (and even statement prints) into one unified look. For the colour-shy, layering means you can hide the bold hues and patterns as under layers, quietening their noise under a neutral and/or block coloured top coat or shirt jacket.
As always, put neutrals between pieces of colour, following the rules of colour matching. And don’t just go for dark shades. Lighter neutrals are very acceptable, even in winter, and add a freshness to the cooler season. Finally, going print-on-print means patterns need to be on scale, relative in size and not too busy. If you look like a walking muriel, change.
Isn’t it obvious? Those little things in your wardrobe life play a huge part in mastering the art of layering. From thick and chunky scarves to leather gloves and felt-y wool hats, accessories add functional personality to a layered look. And if you’re sporting just a two-piece look, these add-ons provide more layered-ness for your money.
But don’t go overboard, though. You work hard on your grooming, so don’t hide that great hair and clean face with too many head and facial ‘masks’, especially if you’re already piled up with clothes.
It goes without saying, but layers really apply to your top half (you’re not going to wear multiple pairs of pants or a pair of tailored shorts under or over your trousers). And most foolproof layering combos come in threes: a bottom, middle and top layer, and an outer layer for when it’s really cold. Here are three easy looks to pull off.
Layering With Shirts, Knits & Jackets
The cable knit or sweater with a graphic print is an essential layering piece. Take a basic tee or button down (something textural like a chambray or plaid flannel is perfect), and then layer a heavyweight bomber, winter chinos, chunky socks and smart leather boots for vintage and rustic look, that borders on lumberjack but is more street-style cool with the bomber.
Opt for a technical parka in a parachute silk if it’s slightly warmer. The active accents will look better with sneakers and cuffed jogger pants, instead of chinos.
Layering With Knitwear
Layering knits is a surefire way to stay warm without too many layers bulking up your frame. Start by layering a chunky ribbed cardigan over a white crew neck tee and add in a thin gauge roll neck (eliminating the need for a bulky scarf). Then, take on slim-cut jeans, sneakers and add a wool cap and leather backpack for some extra texture in your stride.
Above all, your silhouette remains sharp and masculine, nothing frumpy about this off-duty look.
Layering With Shirt, Suit & Coat
Concerned about the office commute? Start with the suit. Considering the two-piece garment will take up the bulk of your look, you want one that’s warm and naturally textured, achieved via pure wool or flannel and a subtle check or stripe.
A single-breasted navy or grey suit is versatile and business ready, teamed with a cotton twill button up (a thicker shirt fabric weave for warmth). Add a coloured tie in knitted silk and waistcoat (matching or contrast), or a cardigan (or even a denim jacket for something edgy). The middle layer should add in texture without too much extra bulk. Then, layer a tailored overcoat in wool. Or a coated cotton trench for a rainproof jacket, check the weather report before heading out.
Layering Clothing FAQ
Click through the slideshow for five layering must-haves this season.
A blue denim jacket is the perfect ‘meat’ piece for layering. Just add a topcoat or a casual blazer for a fresh take on the waistcoat.
Opt for a deconstructed topcoat. The generous cut means this piece can comfortably be layered over chunky knitwear or suiting.
Junya Watanabe gilet
The gilet is often overlooked as an in-between layer piece. It’s perfect for transeasonal temps, keeping your chest warm without all that arm coverage.
The soft handle and easy slouch of the shawl cardigan makes it must-have comfort-cum-style piece. Cashmere or wool makes it a layering piece that exudes premium quality.
Tomas Maier corduroy shirt
Corduroy is an instant texture injection for even the blandest of outfits. As a shirt, you can slip the rivet-y, dense cotton piece under a blazer or rock it open over a crew neck tee.