How to Layer Clothes: A Helpful Guide for Men

Ask any guy who regularly deals with the cold how he stays warm, and you’ll probably get the same answer: layer, layer, layer! The real cold weather pros know that a few good layers will keep your body toasty in ways that a single jacket can’t compete with. Moreover, when you add in elements like dress sweaters for men, layering can look as classy as you need it to!

Layering is a basic skill for keeping yourself comfortable and stylish in colder climates. Even guys who live in warm places, however, can benefit from learning the rules of layering! Read on for a crash course in layering that will help you build chic and comfortable outfits for the fall and winter.

How to Layer Clothes: A Helpful Guide for Men

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The How and Why of Layering Clothes

The basic idea of layering is easy to understand. When temperatures start to drop, you add layers to your outfit — anything from an overcoat to a hoodie to a pair of long underwear. “Thin to thick” is the basic rule, meaning you want thinner layers closest to your body and thicker layers on the outside.

What’s so useful about layering? To name a few of its advantages:

  • Layering physically keeps you warmer than wearing a single warm piece because each layer creates an air pocket between itself and the next layer. These layers of trapped air prevent heat from escaping and help you stay toasty.
  • Layering lets you control your level of warmth by removing or adding your thicker upper layers. Getting a little too warm, or headed inside for a bit? Remove one or two upper layers and then throw them back on whenever you need to armor back up.
  • Layering allows you to stock your closet with layer pieces that you can mix and match. This means you’ve got more options on a cold day than the same puffy coat you wear all the time.
  • Layering gives you plenty of opportunities to create interesting visual combinations that showcase your personal style. Mix colors and patterns, try something daring or reach for that go-to blazer and button-down combo that you know looks awesome.

Layer by Layer: How to Layer Your Clothes and Look Good

The Base Layer

It all starts with the base layer, which sits closest to your skin. For warmer weather, like a brisk day in early fall, your base layer could be a simple t-shirt. In such cases, assume that people might see this layer and choose your shirt accordingly.

When it gets cold, your base layers might never see the light of day, but warmth and moisture management become high priorities. Thermal t-shirts and long underwear are common choices. Adding base layers under your pants can be key here since men’s jeans and other common pants styles are usually worn without additional upper layers.

Material is a crucial consideration when shopping for a base layer. Look for materials like Merino wool and synthetic athletic fabrics, which will simultaneously keep you warm and wick sweat off your skin. You’ll want to skip the cotton due to its poor moisture performance. A cotton tee gets sweaty and stays that way, eventually making you colder.

How to Layer Clothes: A Helpful Guide for Men

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The Middle Layer(s)

Slightly heavier clothes, like button-downs, sweaters, hoodies and light jackets, form your middle layers. These are important both for keeping you warm and for setting the style of your outfit. It’s common to combine multiple middle layer pieces, such as wearing a sweater over an Oxford button-down or a light jacket over a hoodie.

Dress code is an important consideration here. Most guys like to have a collection of middle layer pieces that match various levels of formality. You might grab some dress sweaters and blazers for more formal occasions, while keeping a strong lineup of button-downs, turtlenecks and/or casual jackets for business casual looks.

These are also the layers when you can have fun with the style possibilities that layering offers. Throw a vest over your button-down if you’re feeling a preppy vibe, or wear a cashmere sweater with your suit rather than the standard dress shirt. For casual occasions, a bomber jacket plus a sweater and jeans is a classic outfit.

The Outer Layer

This is where you want the heavier stuff — your jackets and other outerwear designed to keep you warm and dry in whatever kinds of conditions you’ll be facing. You may not need a true outer layer in warmer conditions, but it’s smart to have one close at hand in case the weather turns. Whatever you choose, make sure that it’s at least water resistant, or fully waterproof if you think you’ll be out in wet weather.

A wool overcoat or pea coat is a go-to choice for layering on top of men’s blazers, suits or other formal clothing. Wool is definitely the dressiest outerwear material, and it retains heat superbly even when it gets wet. If formal dress code isn’t a concern, you’ve got the whole range of softshell and hardshell waterproof clothing open to you, so choose something that fits your style!

Layering Tips and Tricks for Guys

How to Layer Clothes: A Helpful Guide for Men

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  • As a rule of thumb, choose darker colored clothing for top layers and lighter clothing as middle or bottom layers. This isn’t an iron law that you always have to follow, but it’s good advice for making your outfits look more structured and put-together.
  • Outerwear with removable built-in layers is a convenient option for many guys. For example, a lot of parkas and pea coats include a liner that you can attach and detach via buttons or zippers.
  • Choose layers that work on their own. With the exception of winter base layer underwear, assume that you might end up wearing any part of your outfit as the top layer at some point.
  • Don’t be afraid to layer on your feet if the weather calls for it. Multiple layers of socks, plus durable rubber-soled footwear, are a game-changer when you’re facing truly frigid conditions.
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