HOW TO LAYER CLOTHES FOR MEN | A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO LAYERING MEN'S CLOTHES
In this comprehensive guide, we cover a topic that is essential to every aspiring dapper gentleman: how to layer clothes for men. We will cover all elements of layering, for both cooler months in the fall & winter seasons, and warmer months during the spring & summer seasons!
So you’ve decided to abandon your wardrobe preferences inspired by Old School, and have taken on a more sophisticated approach to style. Out go your inverted visers, your night time sunglasses, your father’s inspired jeans and your white sneakers (now there’s some combination!), and you’ve replaced them with fitted chinos, chukkas to boot (no pun intended), well fitted dress shirts, knitted ties, silk ties, a few stunning plaid sports coats and a couple of impeccably fitted suits. Congratulations – you’re officially an adult.
But there’s a glaring hole. You can wear each ensemble in isolation. A plaid sports coat with fitted chinos. A two or three piece grey suit, even. But what happens when you want to incorporate various elements from different ensembles, and embark on the daunting, rarely discussed art of layering?
Maybe you want to incorporate a sweater into your winter ensembles. You could potentially be looking at adding a scarf. Textural, color and pattern considerations come into play – and you appear utterly lost, confused and overwhelmed. Or it could be summer, and you could be experimenting with layering, without feeling like you’ve just run a marathon after a brisk two block walk in Midtown, Manhattan.
With that said, here is our comprehensive guide to men’s layering!
WHAT IS LAYERING?
Layering is the art of adding multiple pieces of clothing to your ensembles, so as to provide both a functional and aesthetic benefit. Your average Joe on the street is typically wearing pants and a dress shirt, and if he decides to ‘layer up’, he may have added a sports coat or blazer for some extra sophistication. That single, extra step will already differentiate him from the numerous gentlemen out there.
Now imagine what could be accomplished with say, a sweater / cardigan, a knitted tie, a scarf or a pocket square (you obviously wouldn’t want to incorporate all these elements – but you get the point!). You’d suddenly have a whole range of pieces to make your ensemble look more visually appealing, all while providing greater insulation properties – especially during colder months!
The key point to remember is that layering should provide a functional and aesthetic benefit. Therefore, you want to be able to look stylish, even as you remove layers of clothing (no – we’re not talking about business time socks here). If layered in the right way, the removal or addition of clothes to detract from, retain heat shouldn’t take away from your aesthetic appeal.
Therefore, lightweight, breathable garments should be worn closest to your skin, while more durable, heavyweight garments that protect you from the elements should be worn as your outer layers.
WINTER & FALL
Winter can be tough; transitioning from indoor to outdoor temperature changes can really make you uncomfortable when wearing the wrong clothing. Layering seems to be the only solution. Layering can be a daunting task for those who are not quite masters of pattern matching or color mixing. Layering is an art.
I would suggest the first thing to start thinking about when you’re trying to decide what kind of layers you’re interested in wearing is to figure out what parts of your body are the most uncomfortable throughout the day, and when. There are some pieces that can be hidden, like wearing two pairs of socks or long underwear under your trousers, but what about the things that can be seen?
What if you are sitting in your office and realize that you are always too warm up top when you sit down? What if when you decide to take your jacket off you now look out of place and unprofessional? It may be time to start mastering the art of layering.
Layering, at its core, comes down to the right assortment of fabrics. No perfect combination of color and pattern can outdo erroneous fabric selection, especially when layering.
Before putting together an ensemble, it is imperative to consider each fabric from its origin source. Again, this is all linked to the rule of dressing from lightest to heaviest. Most garments will typically be made of wool, cotton or a blend with a tertiary fabric (linen, cashmere etc). Even if two of your successive layers are made from the same fabric (e.g cotton), it is important to discern the look and feel of the fabric based on its composition (how densely are the warp and weft interlocking in order to create said fabric?).
RULES OF LAYERING
1. EACH VISIBLE LAYER SHOULD BE SOMETHING YOU CAN WEAR ON ITS OWN
A core tenet of layering! If you aren’t comfortable wearing that layer on its own (and I don’t mean breaking bad style!), then it won’t look appropriate while layering. Exceptions here can be made for undergarments, which generally can’t be seen. However, anything that is visible should be something your comfortable donning with just your jacket / coat, or on a standalone basis. If the article of clothing is flimsy, doesn’t fit well or is not in line with your intended color and pattern coordination, please discard it for the purposes of layering!
2. OUTER HEMS SHOULD BE LONGER THAN INNER HEMS
As a general rule of them, the hem of your other layers of clothing should conceal the hem of your inner layers. Nothing speaks to ‘badly dressed’ like your dress shirt sticking out from under your sweater!
3. PROGRESSIVELY SCALE YOUR PATTERNS
While you can scale your patterns in either direction, we think it is best to progressively scale your patterns from smaller to larger e.g solid or microcheckered shirt, to potentially a solid sweater and then a plaid (larger checkered) sports coat. The progressive scaling of patterns lends a congruency to your ensemble.
4. LIMIT YOUR ENSEMBLE TO ONE OR TWO BOLD COLORS
Looking to make a statement? Avoid too many bold colors! Opt for one too many, and you will end up looking more clown-ish than dapper. The trick is to accentuate your neutral or subtle tones with one or two louder colors e.g a pink tie with a light blue shirt and a brown or navy sports jacket.
5. In addition to fashion, each piece should be worn for functional benefit:
- Inner layers of clothing, such as your undershirt’s primary function is to wick away moisture, and hence, need to be light and breathable. However, given that they are typically invisible, the fashion element is less of a concern.
- Shirt layers provide a great visual centerpiece for your ensemble (in addition to your tie), and can be worn without the excessive layers when you enter a room.
- Middle layers (especially so during the colder, winter months), such as a sweater, vest, cardigan or sports jacket, provide adequate insulation, in addition to a refined, dapper look.
- Outer layers, such as your top coats, should be long enough to cover your other articles in the ensemble, all while providing the most insulation during the coldest months of the year.