Once, layering meant chucking a short-sleeved T-shirt over a long-sleeved one, ideally with a ‘rad’ skate graphic on the front. But as we’ve grown more adept at outfit construction, having looks you can easily piece together to suit the climate while simultaneously creating depth and texture has become key.
You don’t have to be a genius to nail layering – half the battle in mastering the art is having the right kit. Here, we run down the in-between pieces that help get your layer game on point.
We’re pleased that labels everywhere have thrown their weight behind this shirt-jacket hybrid (despite the fact that nobody’s come up with a better name for it).
The best iterations are made from materials heavier than an Oxford cotton, but still retain something of a long-sleeved shirt’s slimline cut. “Choose your fit carefully to maintain a structured silhouette,” says Sam Brady, the blogger behind A Gentleman’s Row, “and try [teaming yours] with selvedge denim and crisp white trainers.”
Nick Passmore, design director at premium high street brand Whistles, reckons this layering piece is the answer to unpredictable weather. “A particular favourite is our wool shacket – the outer shell is striped melton, yet its interior is made with ultra-lightweight wadding, meaning it’s warm enough to be worn on its own, yet slim enough to fit under a coat.”
Your granddad’s go-to is trending. But cardigans made from cotton – the kind Pops might throw on over a gingham shirt – won’t cut it if more warmth’s what you want. Lighter weight cottons can sag under pressure, so opt for more substantial merino wool.
“Merino’s an active fibre – it reacts to changes in body temperature, keeping you warm on crisp autumnal days, and cool if the weather is unseasonably warm,” says the design team at Sunspel, a label celebrated as much for its knits as its sea island cotton tees. “Make sure your knit is the right gauge. It should be light enough to pull on over a T-shirt or layer under a coat when it gets colder.” In other words, a medium 24-gauge or fine 30-gauge knit are what you’re after.
Menswear design consultant Carolyn Massey favours lambswool. “It has to be Scottish. I buy them in bulk for the man in my life from Peter Scott – wear it à la Morrissey with a white tee and straight-leg, stonewash Levi’s.”
But as with most wardrobe staples, familiarity can lead to lazy styling. “This piece can become predictable,” warns Sam Brady, who advises upgrading to cashmere, and using bold burgundies and greens to stand out against your staples.
Once a boy-band calling card, gilets are just too damn useful to commit to the past along with the careers of Five and *NSYNC. (Or the confines of someone called Jasper’s Berkshire estate.)
Fit and weight are crucial in bringing this piece into play – too chunky, and you’ve walked straight out of the 1990s (not in a good way); too tight, and nothing will fit underneath.
Which means you should match your gilet to your layering goals. Carhartt and Canada Goose have perfected heavier, well-insulated styles that work best as an outer layer over a hoodie or chunky knit, while Uniqlo and Moncler offer up lighter mid-layer takes that slot seamlessly between shirts and blazers or denim jackets.
The Denim Jacket
Still wearing yours as just a jacket? You’re missing a trick. Denim jackets are the perfect mid-layers, easily layered over knits, sweats and tees.
“Try a light blue denim jacket beneath a camel coat,” says Brady. “The colours work brilliantly, while keeping the top two buttons undone will stop the stiff denim becoming too restrictive.”
“I lean towards a ‘buy once and wear well’ philosophy,” adds Massey, who thinks this is another area where Japanese brands like Orslow come up trumps. “Wear with a cardigan and classic fatigue trouser, a T-shirt from Luker [the Brit-inspired brother label to Japanese line Neighborhood] and Suicokes. Cosy.”
The hoodie has long been menswear’s unsung hero. A gym bag staple first and foremost, until now its only vaguely stylish outing had been on the backs of early noughties indie bands. But the rise of athleisure’s made the stuff we used to just sweat in, undeniably stylish.
“It’s weight you’re looking for,” says Massey, who rates The Real McCoy’s 280-gram jersey number. “Keep the colour mid to light grey marl and the styling simple – I’d never expect to see a hoodie worn as outerwear. A French workman-style jacket over the top looks good.”
The Unstructured Blazer
Traditionally, blazers come with canvassing and interior padding to better their silhouette-enhancing powers, but unstructured jackets remove this, giving movement and space for, yup, layers on layers.
According to Whistles’ Passmore, the deconstructed blazer has proved a favourite since the brand’s first foray into menswear: “It gives a modern, pared-back approach to tailoring”. Whistles’ version features bonded interior seams for lightness and a ‘floating’ (read: less structured, more drapey) canvas.
Italian labels like Aspesi, Brunello Cucinelli and Corneliani – who offer knitted cotton, jersey and linen takes – are masters of this relaxed look. Put their deconstructed blazers to use over sweats and chunky knits, letting a little peek out from under your overcoat.