How to layer for cold weather

Model 2 wearing a car coat in Olive

Layering is your best defence against unpredictable Fall weather
Image source: Olive Car Coat from Samuel Windsor

As an active man about town, you’ll know just how difficult it is to dress for a day spent switching from outdoor to indoor spaces without sweltering or shivering. Learning to layer is the answer you’re looking for. Putting versatility at the heart of your wardrobe, layering is the ultimate way to ensure that, whatever your plans, you’ll always be suitably attired. And it looks great too!

Top layering tips

Model 2 wearing a burgundy quilted jacket

Wearing light-weight layers keeps you comfortable without adding bulk
Image source: Burgundy quilted jacket from Samuel Windsor

The art of layering is all about paying attention to hem lengths. Beginning with your base layer – the garment you wear next to your skin – each subsequent clothing item should hang lower than the last. The hem of your shirt must cover the hem of your t-shirt; your sweater covers the hem of your shirt; and your jacket or coat covers all.

When layering, do keep your colors broadly complementary – you want your look to be cohesive rather than clashing. Think harmony, and you’ll develop a style that’s easy on the eye.

If you’d like onlookers to catch a glimpse of your superb choice of underlayers, leave a few buttons undone, or let a collar or a cuff peep out from under – but never let your shirt-tail hang out from under your sweater or you’ll look like you forgot to get dressed.

And do accessorize – a hat, sunglasses, scarves, gloves and pocket squares – all these add a finishing touch that shows you’re a guy who knows how to put an outfit together.

How layering keeps you warm

Model 1 wearing a navy quilted jacket

A quilted jacket offers excellent insulation
Image source: Outerwear from Samuel Windsor

It’s the air that gets trapped between garments that makes layering such a great way to retain body heat during the cold winter months. Acting as an insulator and providing wind protection, the fact that you can easily remove layers means you can move to warmer environments and always stay comfortable.

Choose a base layer that wicks moisture away from your skin so that if you sweat, you won’t be chilled to the bone when you cool down. And whenever possible, stick to natural fibers for intermediate layers – these offer both warmth and breathability and mean that you don’t have to wear a heavy, bulky overcoat.

Your outer layer should be waterproof, windproof and breathable; alternatively, wear a waxed cotton jacket or opt for a wool overcoat and carry an umbrella – an under-appreciated yet highly effective way to stay dry on even the wettest of days.

Winter layering with cardigans

Model 1 wearing a teal cardigan

Always leave the bottom button of a cardigan undone
Image source: Cardigans from Samuel Windsor

You know you’re in cardigan territory when it’s too cold to go out without an extra layer, but still a little too warm for a chunky woolen sweater. Cardigans are a fashion staple you really shouldn’t ignore – especially lightweight Italian wool garments which lend your ensemble that all-important air of sophistication.

A cardigan jazzes up casual wear, bringing a laid back yet debonair vibe to your outfit. Wear your cardigan over a t-shirt and push the sleeves up or, for a smart casual look, put it on over a tailored shirt and wear with chinos and leather brogues.

Feeling rustic? A cable-knit cardigan is tactile and warm and looks great with a t-shirt and dark denim. Perfect for chilly Fall weather, look for warm reds, rich browns and soft heathers.

Winter layering with sweater vests

Model 2 wearing a green sweater vest

Wear a sweater vest over a check shirt
Image source: Dark green sweater vest from Samuel Windsor

A sweater vest is a versatile garment that keeps your core warm without the risk of overheating, and it allows the opportunity to flash some contrasting fabric. A plain sweater vest over a check shirt looks vibrant without going too far.

Do remember that your sweater-vest combo is best for casual wear. Looking for a top layer to smarten up this ensemble? Go for a tweed jacket in seasonal Fall colors – it’s just the thing to give your outfit a sense of quiet, gentlemanly charm.

Winter layering with quilted vests

Model 2 wearing a quilted vest from Samuel Windsor

A quilted vest works as both and outer and under layer
Image source: Black quilted vest from Samuel Windsor

A fine addition to every gent’s wardrobe, you can add a quilted vest under your jacket like the Italians, or shrug it on as a sporty outer layer. Choose a subtle tone and your quilted vest will go with virtually any ensemble – this is the perfect item of clothing to reach for when the temperature falls.

On cold, crisp mornings, a quilted vest acts as a thermal buffer until the sun breaks through. Perfect for active gentlemen, it doesn’t restrict movement or feel too heavy and claustrophobic. Try wearing yours over a thick flannel shirt, and twin with cord pants and rugged boots for the look of a true outdoorsman.

Winter layering accessories

Model2 wearing a green Aran sweater and flat cap

A hat and scarf add extra weather protection
Image source: Aran knit sweater from Samuel Windsor

Cold weather demands sensible headgear, and what better way to keep warm than by grabbing yourself a flat cap? A favorite with Brits, this cap is traditional workwear for hill country farmers – the low profile and snug fit defy the wind; the peaked brim keeps the rain out of your eyes; and the tweed construction guarantees warmth.

A flat cap looks great with heavy duty wool sweaters, hard wearing tweed jackets, tough waxed cotton jackets, and wool overcoats. Highly versatile, it also goes well with a quilted vest, and because it’s something of a statement piece it gives you the opportunity to step things up a little – make your flat cap bold and bright.

And don’t forget to wrap a lambswool scarf around your neck – an excellent way to beat an icy wind, it negates the need for a coat with a giant collar, meaning you can stretch your Fall jacket into the beginning of winter. Again, bold colors and patterns are more than acceptable, and remember – any scarf fabric works as long as it’s soft, pure new wool!

Layering offers discerning gents a sure fire way to dress elegantly and appropriately for the changing seasons. When summer turns to Fall, it’s a great way to stay comfortable as the temperature drops. And when winter arrives, it’s a great way to add warmth without adding bulk, ensuring you maintain ease of movement in even the harshest weather. 

Posted in Men's Style Guides.

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