The Science of Layering


Layering for the cold weather isn’t an art, it’s a science. Here’s how to get layering right with practically scientific certainty

For those who long for summer’s uniform of a t-shirt, shorts and shoes, layering is a minefield laden with the risk of clashing colours, textures and lengths. The problem with layering is that it requires that proper thought is expended on what you wear – not a task which lends itself well to the bleary-eyed stupor of cold and dreary mornings. It’s not just mismatched mayhem which would-be layerers should be wary of, naturally practicality should be a keen consideration too.  Layers which feel well-judged for combating the cold outdoors have a knack for becoming a stifling cocoon at the precise moment you set foot on public transport.

So, that’s an infinite number of different colour and texture combinations that may or may not work together and the task of creating a layered look which can go from Baltic to boiling without you breaking a sweat or catching a chill. Confusing, but short of not leaving the house for the duration of winter, you’re going to have to get grips with layering liberally.

On a more optimistic note, there are rewards to be found in getting to grips with layering. Just as it poses many problems, the endless ream of combinations up for grabs means that there are so many way to get it right. To help leave little room for miscalculation, we’ve put together a list of five (practically scientifically proven) laws of layering that always hold true.


If you’re blessed enough to possess an intuitive sense of style, wearing non complementary collars together should provoke near instant revulsion. However, if you’re less certain there’s hope yet. Picture this, a fold collar jacket paired with a traditional collared shirt. Double point collar = zero style points. For failsafe layering think simple; the cleaner the collar, the lower the risk.

The fold collar coat and the biker collar jacket are the trickiest styles to pair correctly, so for low-risk layering wear with a crew-neck T-shirt and a grandad collar shirt. Another consideration to bear in mind is the size of your collar which can wreak havoc on a well-intentioned outfit. Larger collars should be worn as your outermost layer, then collars layered beneath should progressively reduce in size.


Double denim. Two words that have struck fear into the hearts of those with a modicum of interest in style since practicality always. Surely it then figures that layering with denim will put you in choppy waters when layering? Actually, it’s the opposite, denim is a surprisingly versatile layer and will play nice with most other fabrics. Denim and herringbone, denim and camel, denim and khaki, the list goes on... Try layering a denim jacket under a blazer or coat and over a T-shirt or shirt. If you’re wearing jeans, just make sure that your extra layer of denim is in a contrasting shade and you’re good to go.


There’s no question that layering lends itself best to dressing off-duty and comes in to its own when pulled off with a cavalier sense of ease. However, we’re going to let you in on a woefully under-repeated fact; smarter looks can (and should) be layered too.

Step forth the gilet, a truly democratic piece of clothing which brings together country and city dwellers alike. When worn with tailoring (over a shirt and under a blazer and overcoat in case you were wondering) the gilet is just the thing for preserving warmth and adding an unexpectedly stylish new dimension to the suit. If you’re not convinced by the gilet’s padding-heavy charms, a funnel neck cardigan will make a fine alternative.

Nailing this look is all about subtlety – your extra layer should feel like an extension of your suit, so go for a tone which mimics your suit (flecked styles are also a good call). Think less sports gilet, more stealth gilet.


In a dash and need to layer on the double (or triple, or quadruple)? Make tonal layering your go-to for high style and low risk. The beauty of tonal layering is that it’s pretty hard to go wrong; make sure you’re stocking up on similar (not identical) shades and you’re sure to strike the right balance. A white t-shirt or white knitwear will make a neutral base, then layer your prefered colour in subtly varying shades on your top half. That’s where your adventurousness should end. To avoid an in-your-face kaleidoscope of colour keep the bottom half of your outfit black to ground your look.


A well layered outfit should be a touch dishevelled but overall things should still feel orderly. There’s no surer way to signify that layering leaves you bewildered than getting your lengths wrong. As a rule of thumb, your outermost layer should be your longest, the next should be shorter and so on. By keenly following this rule, you’ll add interest to your outfit without looking like you’ve dressed in the dark.