How to Layer for Winter: The Essential Guide for Men

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by  William Barton | Last Updated: 

Don’t you know what time it is? 

It’s time to scour through your closet and bust out all those rich textured clothes you’ve been storing over the summer and start mixing and matching. 

It’s no secret why fall and winter are the fashionable dude’s seasons of choice: you get to wear more sophisticated styles.

And nothing says sophisticated like a well-layered outfit. What better way to show you know what you’re doing. 

This guide will show you exactly how to layer for winter (and fall) so you can step out into the cold streets with confidence. 

Essentials for Winter Layering

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A post shared by He Spoke Style (@hespokestyle)

I’ll show you how to layer a little later in this guide, but before we get started, you’ll notice a lot of recurring pieces. 

That’s because winter clothes are versatile—much more so than summer clothing. Where warm weather clothes are usually more colorful, cold weather clothing is generally made using much more muted tones, so there’s greater potential for mixing. 

These are the most important items you can get if you’re just starting in the world of layering:

Bomber Puffer Jacket

Public Rec Better Than Down Bomber

Made with water-repellant Thinsulate, which is proven to beat down as an insulator in study after study. What do you get when you mix science and style? Pure dopeness.

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Henley Shirt

  • Our pick is the Everlane Waffle Knit
  • Can act as the base layer in nearly every winter outfit
  • Stands alone for spring and fall
Everlane Waffle Knit Henley

With bulky arms and a slim fit torso, this henley is more stylized than most. It makes for an excellent layer for fall and winter.

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Puffer Vest

Public Rec Better Than Down Vest

Feels like a down vest. Looks like a down vest. But Public Rec decided to let the geese keep their hair. Kudos, Public Rec. The result is a warmer, lighter, and less-pokey vest that keeps its shape all fall and winter long.

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Camel Coat

J.Crew Ludlow Topcoat

A camel coat might not be considered essential wardrobe stuff, but it should be near the top of your wish list. What better way to look classy and stay warm?

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Quarter-Zip

  • Our pick is the Mizzen+Main Wooster Pullover
  • As versatile as a henley: works alone, under a vest, and under a jacket
  • One of the few winter pieces that has strong shoulder-lines
Mizzen+Main Wooster Pullover

Made with technical fabrics, this pullover keeps its shape much longer than traditional cotton or wool. Also, you can crumple it in a bag without it becoming tragically wrinkled.

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How to Layer for Winter

When layering for winter, there are a few key rules that are important to follow. Now, you don’t have to follow these rules all the time, but if you break them, it should be purposeful.

Layer from Light to Dark

Wear your lightest clothes closest to your body. For example, in the picture below, the model is wearing a light-grey long sleeve shirt paired with the darker Better Than Down Bomber from Public Rec

Public Rec Better than Down Bomber with White Shirt

When you’re wearing multiple layers, your body can appear more bulky than it is. By wearing the darker layers on the outside, you’re counteracting that bulking-effect and giving clean lines that slim your look down. 

This holds true even if you’re wearing three or four layers. This speaks to the importance of having a nice, dark-colored coat. Since it’ll always be the darkest item you’re wearing, you’ll be able to follow this rule without even thinking about it. 

Thin Fabrics to Thick Fabrics

Public Rec Better than Down Vest with White Henley

Always wear your thinnest clothes closest to your body. The model here is wearing the same long-sleeve and layered on the Better Than Down Vest from Public Rec. He’s using the light-to-dark rule, and because the vest is lightweight, he has room to add a bomber jacket on top if things get colder. 

Think about it for a moment. If you put a massive puffer jacket under a cardigan, it’s absolutely going to look strange. 

But the same puffer jacket over a quarter-zip? That’s stylish. 

Public Rec Better Than Down Vest

Feels like a down vest. Looks like a down vest. But Public Rec decided to let the geese keep their hair. Kudos, Public Rec. The result is a warmer, lighter, and less-pokey vest that keeps its shape all fall and winter long.

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Patterns Underneath

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A post shared by Barron | Minimalist Wardrobe (@effortlessgent)

Patterned fabrics should be closer to your body. So checks, flannel, stripes, herringbone—these patterns are excellent as bottom layers. As you move outward, avoid adding extensive distracting patterns on top of any existing patterns. 

To create more depth in your outfit, your second layer (whether it’s a vest, quarter zip, or bomber) can have a subtle pattern, like quilted diamonds or horizontal bands. Because you’re not adding more contrasting colors, the look is successful. 

But if you’re going for a third layer, I recommend sticking with something solid and dark. One strong pattern and a second subtle texture is plenty for one outfit. 

7 Winter Layering Outfits

Casual-Casual

Public Rec Black Better than Down Bomber Jacket with White Henley

Ok, so it finally stopped raining for the first time in three days and you’re ready to hit the grocery store. You don’t want to look like a slob, but you’re also reluctant to put on pants. 

I get it.

This is the perfect time to put together a casual layering outfit like the one you see here.

Public Rec Better than Down Bomber and Joggers

Joggers, a t-shirt, and a bomber jacket is a simple and easy outfit. It’s critical that you wear high-quality pieces with this outfit to avoid looking like you’re wearing pajamas. 

The outfit above is all pieced together from Public Rec. Their ADED joggers (which made the top of our best joggers for men list) are laid back, but the fabric is thick enough to give the silhouette structure. 

Toss the Better Than Down Bomber on top, and the look is complete.

Public Rec Better Than Down Bomber

Made with water-repellant Thinsulate, which is proven to beat down as an insulator in study after study. What do you get when you mix science and style? Pure dopeness.

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Upscale Casual

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A post shared by Tim Dessaint (@timdessaint)

Tim Dessaint layers like a pro. I guess he is a pro. Regardless, we’re seeing him work from light to dark with his layers, and while he’s breaking the rule of “patterns to solids,” the jacket has the only pattern in his outfit. Keeping it simple means the jacket becomes the statement. 

Business Formal

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A post shared by He Spoke Style (@hespokestyle)

Brian Sacawa at HeSpokeStyle is the guy to look to if you want to work on your suit game. Check out his post above for a super clean look on layering with a herringbone jacket. This look works just as well with a camel coat, which is my personal favorite for cold winter days. 

As a bonus, the post also has a second, more casual outfit you can rock with the same coat. Like I said, a few great winter pieces go a long way. 

J.Crew Ludlow Topcoat

A camel coat might not be considered essential wardrobe stuff, but it should be near the top of your wish list. What better way to look classy and stay warm?

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Rugged Casual

Tom Beckbe 25

Have you ever tried a waxed canvas jacket? They’re pretty incredible. You feel like the lovechild of James Bond and the whole Duck Dynasty family—in a good way.

Working from lightweight to heavyweight fabrics, I’ve got a flannel, fleece pullover, and waxed jacket on top. This doesn’t feel too heavy, but it’s warm enough for sub-freezing temperatures.

Tom Beckbe Tensaw Jacket

Made with 8oz waxed shelter cloth and a lining reminiscent of Alabama red clay, the Tensaw field coat is Tom Beckbe's flagship product. And based on the quality, it can be an heirloom, too.

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Manly Prep

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A post shared by Primer Magazine (@primermagazine)

Apparently Chris Evans wore a cable-knit sweater and blew up the internet. But we knew they were cool before that. Pair the winter classic cable knit with something more technical, like a synthetic fleece for a contemporary update on old-school masculine style. 

Goodthreads Lambswool Stripe Crewneck Sweater

Though it needs to be cleaned with caution to avoid shrinkage, this sweater offers solid value for money for a 100% cotton sweater. The popularity of their wool sweaters shows that Goodthreads makes good in its promise to deliver quality basics.

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Street Style

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A post shared by Jeffrey Buoncristiano (@buon_buon)

This is your chance to take that beat up sweater and turn it into high fashion. Throw on a nice leather jacket, some washed-denim jeans, and hit the street. It helps if you have a huge beard and look super cool, too. 

Sexy Lumberjack

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A post shared by Greg Berzinsky (@berzinsky)

Here’s another great look for those bitter cold days. Notice the jacket is oversized, which is crucial when you’re layering three heavy pieces. Not only is the model wearing a cable knit sweater, but also a thick flannel on top. 

With a regular fitting jacket, you would look crammed in, so this is one situation where oversized is the ticket. 

Layer Up

Follow these simple rules and you’ll unlock an enormous variety of stylish outfits you can rock all winter long. 

To check out my top picks for the puffy bomber and vest, head over to Public Rec and take a peek at their winter-line. They’re my go-to for every-day layering pieces that feel relaxed, but have enough structure to look sleek and modern. 

Public Rec Better Than Down Bomber

Made with water-repellant Thinsulate, which is proven to beat down as an insulator in study after study. What do you get when you mix science and style? Pure dopeness.

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If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

In summer, you can more easily get away with cheap clothes, but if you cheap-out on a coat it’ll noticeably impact your style. Winter clothes take an investment, so always buy good-quality. If you treat high-quality clothes well, they’ll last for a decade, at least. 

So what are you waiting for? Starting mixing and matching those clothes now. 

FAQs

How many layers should be worn in the winter?

It depends on how cold it gets in your area, but I recommend wearing three layers maximum. If it’s still too cold with three layers, consider getting a higher quality cold-weather coat. Over three layers and you’re pushing the boundaries of how stylish you can be considering the bulk on your body.

What is the best base layer for cold weather?

From a fashion perspective, the best base layer for cold weather is a long sleeve henley. It’s a thin layer that is easily matched with anything heavier, plus the buttons at the neckline give it more interest than a standard long sleeve.

How can I look stylish in winter clothes?

Follow three rules: wear light to dark, thin to thick, and patterns to solids. In cold weather, adding texture to your outfits through cable-knits, suede, or diamond-quilts is always a plus.

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