Man About Town: A man’s guide to layering

Patrick McCloughney


Patrick McCloughney

Man About Town: A man’s guide to layering

Winter is coming: There has certainly been a chill in the air these past few weeks

Layering is an essential part of men's winter fashion and it certainly isn't the hardest style technique to master as it's effectively just putting items of clothing over other items of clothing yet a lot of guys seem to get it horribly wrong.

If you don't know how to layer your clothes properly then your outfit can look thrown together. So to avoid any potential Mismatched Michelin Man scenarios, here are some tips are tricks to help you layer your clothes in the most stylish way possible this winter.

What is Layering?

Layering is a style technique that entails creating an outfit by putting clothes on top of more clothes, with each piece acting as a stage in the overall look. But to avoid looking like a walking marshmallow, the biggest thing to remember is this – layer thin to thick, and light to heavy.

This means that the most lightweight, breathable pieces are closest to your skin, and the more heavyweight garments are protecting you from the elements. You can also peel away the heavier layers as your body temperature regulates to indoor heat.

How Do I Layer?

In addition to the practicality of layering, there are also the aesthetics of layering that need to be considered. So, here are some of the most important layering tips you'll need if you've got all the tools but no idea how to use them.


Before putting together an outfit, it's important to consider each piece and the fabric it's made from. It all comes back to the rule of dressing from light to heavy in the name of practicality. But, this has a visual effect too. Firstly, notice how most garments are made from the same types of fabric: cotton, wool or a blend of both.

Then, observe the difference in the weave, the thickness and the weight of the garment. Any two items of clothing can be made from the same fabric, but each will look and feel different due to the warp and weft of the yarn that comprises the material.

Finally, break up the mix of fabrics by introducing technical fabrics – like moisture-wicking shirts and waterproof jackets. These active accents are very on-trend and will create an added fabric point of difference between the inner, outer and in-between layers.


By varying textures, you are adding in and contrasting different fabric finishes, which will add a sense of depth to an outfit, especially if you're wearing the same fabric all over. As it's probably the most frequently featured, we will use cotton as an example. For texture, wear different cotton finishings like waxed, brushed and garment-dyed to set each garment apart.

When it comes to casual and smart casual dressing, it's very important to vary the texture. Especially, with monochrome, neutral and all-black outfits. Fully colourless outfits or all earth-tones need texture to avoid looking like a walking black-hole.


Layering allows you to work in different tones and shades into one unified look. For those who may be a little 'colour-shy', layering means you can hide the bold prints and patterns as under layers, quietening their noise with a neutral and/or block-coloured shirt or topcoat.

Layer neutrals between pieces of colour, following the universal rules of colour-coordination. Don't just go for darker shades either. Lighter neutral shades will work, even in winter and add a freshness to the cooler season.

Finally, if going print-to-print then the patterns need to be on scale, relative in size and not too busy. Unless you want people to think you're a mural.


Those old Christmas gifts at the back of your wardrobe can play a huge part in mastering the art of layering. From chunky cable knit scares to woolly hats to leather gloves to (now) face coverings, accessories add functionality and personality to a layered look. If you're only rocking two items of clothing, then these add-ons will give you more layered bang for your buck. Just don't go overboard.

Layering Looks

It should go without saying that layering logic mostly applies to your top half (unless you want to wear multiple pairs of pants and jocks). And, most foolproof layering comes in threes: top, middle and bottom layer – and an outer layer in the colder months. Here are a few easy looks to pull off.

Shirts, Knits & Jackets

A cable knit jumper or a graphic print sweatshirt are both essential layering pieces. Take a basic tee or button-down (something textural like flannel or chambray is perfect), then layer a heavyweight bomber, chinos, chunky socks and smart leather boots for a vintage and rustic look than borders on lumberjack and street-style cool.


Layering knitwear is a sure-fire way to look cool while staying warm without too many layers padding out your frame. Begin by layering a chunky cardigan over a white tee and add in a thin gauge roll neck or a scarf. Then, add some slim fit jeans, white leather trainers and a wool cap for some added texture.

Suit, Shirt & Coat

Need to layer up for the commute to the office? Start with the suit. Considering the two-piece will take up the bulk of your look, you'll want to choose a warm one that's naturally textured. Look to a pure wool piece or flannel in a subtle check or stripe.

It's hard to beat a single-breasted navy or grey two-piece for versatility. Team it with a cotton twill button-up in a thicker fabric and a coloured tie in knitted silk. Add a matching or contrast waistcoat or a thin gauge v-neck jumper. The middle layer should add texture without creating bulk. Finish with a tailored overcoat or trench coat and voila! You are ready for the office or the catwalk.

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Twitter: @IAmMcloughney