How to Layer Your Clothes the Right Way (Men)

how to layer clothing menLayering. You know when it looks good, and it can look very good, indeed. Perhaps you’ve even tried it, or want to start incorporating it more into your personal style. It all sounds easy enough – just combine some different layers of clothes in a look that suits you. But it’s not always that easy.

You may not even know that the sweater vest you so rocked in the 90’s is pretty much out of style now. Even if you do, layering has a certain art to it that makes it look fashionable and appropriate for a multitude of occasions, an art that you may not know a lot about it. That’s OK because you’re not alone. What is layering? In a general kind of definition, it involves combining your clothing so that it’s not only functional but also looks good to the human eye.

Layering can also be a look for all seasons although you may commonly think of it as being best suited for the fall and winter when temperatures are changing, and you want to wear pieces you can take on and off throughout the day. But with the right materials and pieces, layering can be part of your look throughout the entire year.

But Why Layer?

Back to what we just touched upon. Layering can be a year-round activity depending on where you live, especially if where you live has four very distinctive seasons. Cool mornings may give way to warmer afternoons, for example, or a rather brutish December morning may give way to the heat of your workplace (did someone mess with the thermostat again!?). The point is, there are going to be plenty of times during the year when you’re going to be peeling off layers and putting them back on to best deal with your environment.

The other reason to layer? We’ve touched upon that already, too – it’s fashionable. It looks good. Moreover, you can step up your wardrobe game by combining different pieces, which also makes your wardrobe more versatile. You can try different color combinations. You’ll expand your horizons and look good doing it. Oh, and lest we forget, layering can be comfortable. So, layering is both practical and stylish. In other words, the question should be, “Why not layer?”

OK, I’m Convinced. But What’s The Right Way To Layer?

Here’s the fun part – how to actually go about layering the proper way. Like most anything else, there are certain rules to follow. They’re the fundamentals, so to speak, and by getting good at the fundamentals, you get to make things look easy. So, let’s take a look at some of those rules and why they’re important.

1. Each layer is something that can be worn on its own.

The key here is visible layers, the ones that others can see. If your undershirt is threadbare and cheap-looking, it really doesn’t matter as long as no one can see it. But anything that is visible should be something you can comfortably wear all by itself, besides your jacket or coat. If it’s not suitable to stand alone, then it’s best worn while you’re on the couch in the privacy of your own home.

2. Thin to thick

Generally speaking, your under layer should be your thinnest layer and your outer layer your thickest. This makes it easier to regulate your temperature and gives a look of depth.

3. Everything should fit properly

When it comes to layering clothes and dressing well, everything should fit. This is of vital importance, no matter how obvious it may seem. Simply put, if one of the layers doesn’t fit correctly in terms of size, then you’ll ruin the artistic appeal. Start with the outermost layer. If that fits correctly, then adjust the inner layers to coincide with it.

4. Outer hems longer than inner hems

If you’re looking for a more smart, ‘formal’ look, then your outer hems should always be longer than your inner hems. An example would be making sure that your shirt sleeves aren’t poking out from your blazer. Also, never wear more than three layers in a formal situation. And only if you’re attempting a casual look should your inner hems be longer than the outer hems.

A quick word on vests and waistcoats, which can really look sharp if used the right away. If your waistcoat does not cover your belt – or waist – then it’s too short.

5. Know what each layer does

layering clothes menHere’s the practical part of the layering equation, i.e., the notion that you should give a decent amount of attention toward what each function does, as well as its comfort. Let’s take a brief look at each layer:

Outer Layer

When you think outer layer, think ‘coat.’ It can be a peacoat, waistcoat, wool overcoat, trenchcoat; you get the idea. They should be long enough to cover all the layers beneath them, but loose enough to fit over a jacket or sweater. A couple of notes on the outer layer – belts are about all the visible layering you’ll need on your lower body while scarves are perfectly functional and versatile as a neck layer.

Inner Layer

This is the layer that lies against the skin and doesn’t have to fashionable as the rest (undershirts are the obvious example). The point of emphasis here is that they should be hidden by the layers above. It can be worth the investment to buy a quality undershirt that not only fits well but doesn’t have any hot spots either. If you insist on having your inner layer show, then a long-sleeve T-shirt is a good way to go.

Shirt Layer

The shirt layer needs to be at least partially hidden by the layers above, but visible at the center of your torso. They provide a good contrast to the other layers and act as a visual anchor. Ideally, they should be light and breathable. Dress shirts are the staple of this layer, and they can be worn under jackets, sweaters, etc. You can use a color or pattern to make them pop, or it can be a solid that helps anchor a wardrobe that’s a bit busier in the other pieces. Polo shirts make it to the outer layer during the warmer months, but they also work well under lighter jackets. Long-sleeve rugby shirts work best under sweaters and blazers.

Middle Layer

Also known as the jacket layer, it’s often occupied by sports coats or a vest. It can be the top layer when you’re indoors and provide a little warmth and absorption outdoors. This layer should be loose-fitting enough to fit comfortably over a shirt. Sweaters can provide two options: a think cotton sweater or sweater vest, or thicker wool sweaters, such as cardigans, that can also work as the outer layer.


To sum it all up, layers provide both function and style. When done correctly and with a little thought, they can make your wardrobe pop while providing you with a look for all seasons. So, go ahead. Layer up.

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