Transitional layering is one of the greatest pleasures that menswear has to offer, but it’s also a source of a surprising amount of difficulty for a surprising number of men. It’s understandable, really – we’re bombarded with heavy outerwear and beach-ready clothing, and you have to look to find the stuff that falls in between, as plentiful as it is.
We’re big fans of light outerwear at Styleforum, and while a leather jacket, M-65, or other option worn over a shirt and maybe a sweater is a simple way to win at life, there are more interesting ways to layer. Let’s go over a few of them.
- Wear Two Shirts at Once
Seriously. Well, not two normal shirts; @Conceptual_4est wrote a great article on the Shacket last year, and his advice on the matter is still relevant. A shirt-jacket can be worn alone, or under a heavier parka should the weather already have turned on you. Denim or canvas workshirts also do well at this, especially if they’re noticeably thicker than your standard button-up. I haven’t tried one myself, but Styleforum affiliate Yellowhook is making some denim workshirts that would work for this. Otherwise, Evan Kinori, about whom I’ve written before, does a good field shirt; and I happen to have a flannel, pocketed variety from Cloak. This is also one of those pieces you can find at LL Bean or the like, although they’ll be of a different, Bean-ier variety. Note that this is specifically casual – wearing two shirts under a sportcoat probably isn’t going to go over that well – literally and figuratively.
- Put a Jacket Under Your Jacket
It doesn’t have to be a shacket, either. It’s really easy to slip the ever-present chore jacket under your outerwear, but there’s other stuff that can work as a midlayer. Say, a knit jacket that’s cut like a blazer. And a sport coat can be certainly be worn under a field jacket or hunting jacket. Nifty, no?
- Are you a Cardi-can, or a Cardi-can’t?
The cardigan is the perfect transitional layer. If you’re wearing a suit or sportcoat, you can wear a thin merino cardigan under your jacket as a warmer stand-in for a waistcoat. If you’re putting together a casual outfit, you can easily substitute a heavy cardigan (say, the perennial favorites from SNS Herning, or perhaps a cowichan) for a jacket. This works with both denim and with trousers, as the buttoned (or zipped – FULL zips, please) front makes the knit look a bit more like a jacket, and tends to lend a more flattering silhouette to the wearer than a sweater would.
- Vestos are the Bestos
By vest, I don’t mean that you have to wear North Face puffer the way you do when you’re raking leaves or otherwise living the suburban dream. In fact, it doesn’t have to be made of nylon at all. There are some really cool insulated (and not) vest options from a whole host of makers, and it’s worth your time to check them out. Vests are super handy, and although I can’t endorse the Instagram hero vest-over-blazer look, I’ll happily wear a vest over a more casual garment, such as the aforementioned shacket, chore jacket, or cardigan.
I can’t really think of anything for number 5, but my main point here is that you don’t have to resort to a grey sweatshirt or a heavier sport coat for autumn. Nor do you have to immediately fall into a rotating uniform of light jackets, as I’m certainly guilty of doing. Experiment with colors, silhouettes, and textures. More importantly, experiment with layers of various weights, because autumn can be fickle and proper layering is the key to staying comfortable.
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In rainy Britain a trench-coat or other smart raincoat has been the classical transitional outer garment – is this true of our transatlantic cousins as well? There used to be lightweight showerproof wool topcoats but these disappeared some decades ago except, I believe, one may still see them in Italy.