When winter comes along it’s easy to just throw a coat over a basic outfit and be done with it. Follow this quick guide to see how to layer your winter outfit with a little more style and thought.
Winter time fashion tends to look great in theory, and less great in reality. In the prints and blog posts you’ve got the perfectly groomed man strutting down the street in a open coat and thin scarf, seeming oblivious to the falling snow around him. Paints a pretty different picture to the reality of shoving your numb hands in your coat while you wait for the bus.
Still, there is an achievable line between editorial shoots and that miserable commute to work. A bit of clever layering can keep you warm and looking good, and it’s easier to get right than you might think. We’ve got ways to get your winter style on point, while keeping you in the plus zero temperature.
How to Layer Clothes
Layering isn’t tricky. In fact everyone does it pretty much every day. The moment you throw a jacket over a T-shirt you’re technically layering, but it can take a bit more thought to get winter layering perfect. Unlike summer or autumn layering you’re having to work with a bit more with winter clothing, and the more pieces you’re using, the harder it gets to keep everything looking put together.
This doesn’t mean the only way to create a good winter outfit is to spend hours piecing it together, but a little more care can make a big difference to your overall look. One way to make it easier for yourself is to work out whether you want to have colourful pieces and accessories, or keep things simple with blacks and greys. Both can be used to create a stylish outfit, but need to be worked into your outfit in different ways.
You’re going to need three layers to keep you snug. The first is called the base layer, the second the insulating layer, and the third the protection layer. You can add more if you’re dealing with serious cold weather, but three is standard.
So lets start with the base layer. This needs to be something that’s soft against your skin, is versatile enough to match with the two other layers, and won’t leave you sweating. Something made from 100% cotton is a good idea, as it will allow your skin to breathe and ensure you don’t trap in any excess moisture. If you’re dealing with really cold temperatures a long sleeved cotton top might be necessary, but for the most part you’re probably best off with a simple short sleeved design.
The insulating layer’s job is to trap in heat, so materials like variations of wool, which have good insulating properties, are an ideal choice for this second layer. If you’re going for a fancy look and you have the cash to spend try something like a cashmere sweater, which has a softer finish while still keeping you warm. A full lambs wool sweater is perfect for cold weather, but can be a little scratchy. Make sure your base layer has long sleeves so you’ve got a layer in between the wool and your skin.
Like the base layer, the protection layer should be made from a breathable material so you’re keeping in heat rather than moisture. If you’ve got adequate base and insulating layer then you don’t have to worry too much about getting a super warm protection layer (and it explains why you see so many guys walking around with a seemingly flimsy coat as their winter wear).
Avoid anything made from synthetic materials and they’ll just make you sweat up a storm, and go instead for natural fibres such as wool and cotton. If you can’t go full on natural, try going for a blend, as even a little cotton or wool will help balance out the finish.
What to Wear in Winter
So now that you’re aware of the basics of layering it’s time to move on to what to actually wear in the winter time. Whether you’re more of a minimalist guy who shies away from lots of colour and pattern, or someone who embraces it, there’s plenty of winter styles you can go for. Having some basics in your wardrobe, whether they’re in the form of sweaters, base layers or coats, is going to help you complete your outfit more quickly in the morning, and save you unnecessary faffing.
If you’re using a T-shirt as a base layer then it’s a good idea to have a few of them to cycle through. Plain, unprinted ones are best because they go with everything, and having both short sleeved and long sleeved options is a good idea for dealing with changeable weather. Try going for cotton ones if you can. They last longer than synthetic ones and aren’t a lot more expensive.
Jumpers are kind of a obvious one for winter wear. They’re easy to throw on, they keep you warm, and if you pick the right one, they can look pretty good as well. You can go for a thick jumper for your mid layer clothing, keeping your protection layer thin and breathable, or go for a neater, thin jumper, like something made from angora, and increase the number of layers you’re wearing or throw over a thicker coat.
A turtle neck is good choice if you want to for a more streamlined look and don’t want to be weighed down with scarfs and heavy coat collars, where as a crew neck jumper is a good idea if you’re hoping to layering a shirt or underneath it.
If you need something for work, or you’re just not a fan of bright colours and bold patterns, then going for neutral tones can give you a clean, sleek look that’s ideal for smart and casual outfits. Grey, black and navy are all colours that suit everyone regardless of shape or size, and are versatile enough to match with a range of pieces.
For a warmer look that’s good for casual wear, a splash of colour and some pattern never hurt anyone. As a general rule it’s best to choose one or the other, as sometimes a jumper that’s brightly coloured and has a busy pattern on top of that can be kind of a strain on the eyes. Block coloured jumpers can be merged into a more neutral outfit to keep things sleek, yet interesting, and patterns can help to add some depth to a look.
When you’re dealing with seriously cold weather it’s best to leave your jeans in your wardrobe. They’re fine as a basic protection layer, but the heavy weight cotton isn’t the warmest of materials, and it gets heavy when wet (not great if you get an impromptu cold shower or snow fall). Trousers made from wool sound like they might be the scratchiest thing to have on your legs, but they’re almost always a mix, with something like polyester to soften out the material.
Generally wool trousers will fall closer to formal or smart casual wear, simply because the material will be stiffer and therefore the trousers will hold their shape better than cotton or poly-blend trousers. Due to this you might prefer to wear them in smarter looks, and go for some lighter weight trousers when you’re putting together a casual outfit.
If you are going for a more casual look, and wool trousers are out, try some close fitting chinos instead. Anything too loose is just going to give the wind prime access to your legs and nether regions, and really, no one wants that. You want your trousers to be close enough around your legs to help trap in heat, so try picking a slim or skinny fit for the best winter clothes.
If you want a good pair of basic chinos it’s best to pick a few in versatile colours like navy or black, as they’ll be able to match with a variety of colours, helping you to dress up formal and casual looks easily. A comfortable pair of chinos is great for mixing and matching with a range of colours, so whether you’re wearing a bright yellow sweatshirt or a simple white shirt, they’ll help complete the look.
There’s the myth that you lose heat through your head, so many people think that jamming a wool beanie on is going to be enough to keep them warm. Don’t get us wrong, hats are great, but that whole idea is a complete myth, and you’re far more likely to loose heat through your hands and feet. Good shoes and thick gloves are generally the best option for winter accessories, but let’s just focus on the shoes for now.
There’s a lot of shoes you can go for in the winter months, but in general there are a few basic guidelines you should know.
- Suede shoes are a bad idea for winter, as its too lightweight to keep in heat, and can be damaged in wet weather.
- Shoes with a textured rubber sole is the best option, as it gives you better grip if you’re walking through icy streets or snow.
- Go for shoes that reach to your ankle or further up, as they’ll keep more of you protected from the cold, and there won’t be a gap between the top of your shoes and trouser leg.
A neutral coloured pair of lace up boots will always be handy to have, and you can go for a variety of leather looks to create different finishes. Hiking boots and wellingtons are ideal to have in the back of your wardrobe, and if you’re dealing with a snow day they’re really the only footwear worth putting on.
Trainers can be worn, but it’s a good idea to go for one with a heavy rubber sole, like ones from Vans or Converse, as they’ll give you slightly better protection from the cold. Best not to wear them on icy days though, as you will end up ice skating to your destination.
Most people have a winter coat. It’s kind of a necessity if you live somewhere that gets lower than 5 degrees in the colder months. Depending on how you choose to layer, you can go with a different range of coats and jackets, from men’s duffle coats to leather jackets.
Men’s Quilted Jacket
Occasionally associated with the elite, horse riding members of the public, the quilted jacket is a stylised piece that’s surprisingly warm despite its lightweight finish. The traditional quilted coat comes in a neat diamond pattern, usually reaches to the hip, and has a collar made from a differing material to the rest of the jacket – usually suede or corduroy.
Green tends to be the classic colour for a quilted jacket, but this definitely gives off the country gentleman vibes, so if you want to avoid that it’s best to go for a more versatile black or navy number. Quilted jackets tend to be handy to have around as they’re easy to take around with you due to their lightweight build, but still give you a good amount of warmth despite their size.
Men’s Trench Coat
Trench coats have been around since the First World War, with the long, waterproof design being a lighter weight alternative to previous army wear. The design has changed over the years, with different brands interpreting the basic shape in different ways.
In general though a trench coat is a waterproof or water resistant long coat, usually reaching the knees. Its long design makes it perfect for the winter months, with it covering most of your body and ensuring you stay protected against the wind and rain.
Men’s Leather Jacket
Leather jackets are pretty much a staple throughout the majority of the seasons, except probably summer, unless you want heat stroke. They’re versatile, yet manage to give an alternative boost to any outfit, come in a variety of designs, and can easily be layered up to suit different weather conditions.
A classic black biker jacket can go with a range of casual outfits, whereas a sleek bomber jacket can be mixed with more tailored pieces to give a clean, minimalist look. You can also go for a more chunky look with a ultra warm shearling design, choosing one in a less conventional brown to give a softer finish.
Cold Weather Outfit Ideas
There’s a number of ways to create a layered winter look to suit your style, but it doesn’t hurt to have a little inspiration. Whether you’re going for a casual, weekend look, or something for the office, there’s a number of ways you can use simple pieces to create an outfit that’s right for you. There’s no rule on how to dress for winter, but there’s always some basic ideas to work with.
For something winter friendly and effortlessly casual, a shearling denim jacket is ideal, with its lightweight look complemented by a warm, woollen lining. The cool tone enables you create a warm outfit that’s still light and easy to layer up. Throw on a grey jumper, layering a simple T-shirt underneath for extra warmth, and finish off with some green chinos and brown boots to complete the summery coloured outfit.
For a more smart casual, sleek look, keep the colours muted and the layering minimal. A shirt and jeans is a classic combination, and although it’s not the warmest ensemble, if you pick a slightly thicker, warmer coat you should still be able to avoid frostbite. Finish with some brown lace up boots and a long scarf for that extra protection from the cold.
Lots of layers can make a surprisingly tailored look, as long as you use the right pieces. A shirt and blazer can act as your base and insulating layer, meaning you can throw a lightweight mac over the top and still stay warm. Pull on some beige chinos for a light, less subdued look, and finish off with some sturdy brown boots.
Your Quick Guide on How to Layer your Winter Outfit
- It’s a good idea to have at least three layers when you’re dressing for winter, having a base layer, insulating layer and protective layer.
- Try and use natural fibres for the base layer so you trap heat rather than moisture.
- Wool is a good insulating material, so use it for your middle layer, and try a woollen blend pair of formal trousers for a formal look.
- Make sure you’re wearing shoes with a sturdy, rubber heel for a strong grip.
- Experiment with different textures, fits and colours to create a more dimensional finish.
On That Note
Winter layering can really help give your outfit a more interesting look, as you’re able to incorporate more colours, shapes and designs into a look, while keeping warm. With the right layering you can even use some of your spring and autumn wardrobe in your winter outfits, adding in accessories like scarves and hats to complete the look. Layered clothing doesn’t have too many rules, so see what works best for you, work out what style you want to go for, and go from there.