I’ve been getting more and more requests from clients wanting outfits with interesting layered combinations. These types of looks are comprised of simple, classic pieces (things everyone should have in his closet), but when pulled together correctly, they become a whole greater than its parts. It’s clear that some thought was put into the look, but there’s no risk of looking like you tried too hard. If you’re the kind of person who wants to be noticed for your style but not right away (i.e., “who’s the sharp guy in the corner…?”), this style of dressing is perfect for you.
In order to have a wardrobe where you can do this you must first collect enough pieces that combine well. Below are 12 essentials to get you started mixing and matching:
1) Navy blazer – note: this must fit impeccably or the entire look is shot.
2) Grey sportcoat – see note above.
3) Thin hoodie – I like this fleece wool one from Thinple because it’s polished despite being a hoodie.
4) Great-fitting jeans – dressy and dark or weathered and sporty are fair game but please nothing crazy on the back pockets.
5) Casual pants like chinos or corduroys.
6) Patterned t-shirt – this Missoni shirt would look terrific peeking out beneath a solid navy henley, under a sportcoat.
7) Henley – solid neutrals should be your first choice, but once you’ve got a few as a foundation, you can go for something with a pattern or pop of color.
8) Workshirt/Shacket – denim, corduroy, flannel worn untucked and either unbuttoned or buttoned partially (to show the layers beneath). Note: when wearing with a lightweight jacket (see #12), it’s OK if the hemline on this piece is longer than the jacket. It adds to the outfit’s visual texture.
9) Thin sweater – think v-neck, zip-neck, or cardigan. Cardigans in my opinion get a bad rap. They aren’t just for grandpa looks. In fact, as part of an interesting layered combination, they take on a whole new life. Stylist tip: leave the top and bottom buttons undone. (Ryan Gosling, as usual with all things sartorial, knows what’s up.)
10) Thick sweater – a shawl collar is always a good choice, or the one from Agnès B above I just got for a client. I love the stripes inside the collar. With menswear, the snappily-dressed devil is in the details.
11) Thin outerwear-type vest – wear over or under your sportcoat (you won’t be able to button the sportcoat with the vest under it; that’s OK.) You can go for down as in this great street style shot from The Sartorialist above, or if you want a more manly man vibe, I am very much into this weathered leather number from Billy Reid.
12) Lightweight jacket – here’s a good one from Belstaff.
13) Boots – most layered looks that you’ll be building are going to be casual, so boots like chukkas, chelseas or lace-ups are in order to complete the look.
14) Scarf – a lot of guys think wearing scarves as part of an outfit (as opposed to just keeping warm) is “advanced” dressing. They’re right! But if you’re reading this article, that’s proof you’re committed to the cause, and you are absolutely up for it. Here’s a shot of a well-tied scarf I saw on a mannequin last week. The way to execute this is 1. fold the scarf in half lengthwise; 2. put it around your neck with folded end on one side and loose ends on other; 3. pull loose ends through loop; 4. tighten slightly; 5. tuck one of the loose ends up into knot.
Keep an open mind when shopping for a wardrobe that works for this style of dressing. Items you might not otherwise consider (like a cardigan) can suddenly become appealing when you see them in combination as part of the whole. Same goes for the Missoni shirt in #6. Maybe it feels a little much on its own, but with just a peek showing as part of a look, it’s perfect. Generally when adding layers, you’ll go from thin to thick as you move out from your body, unless you put a down vest under your sport jacket. And if you get warm, you can easily remove one layer and still have a pulled-together look. Nothing is dependent on anything else. What I really love about dressing this way is that it allows you to build a wardrobe of basic essentials (“the canon” as one of my clients calls it), but you get to play around and show your creativity in pulling together combinations.
How do you like to layer your outfits?