Here in NYC, winter is definitely approaching. We got our first 45º F high temperature day this week.

This time last year, Kate and I were just getting settled in our new city. I’m from California, where temperatures rarely drop below 60º F, and I naively believed I could survive an NYC winter with just my pea coat.

I eventually caved, and invested in a great coat.

Here’s the thing, though: Man cannot survive on coat alone.

You have to master the art of layering to a.) Stay warm and control your temperature effortlessly, and b.) Look awesome and well put-together!

Great layering requires great clothes to layer with. Let’s identify the different layering pieces, and we’ll put together some combinations so you’re not left out in the cold, so to speak, when it comes to doing it right.

First off, why layer at all?

Why not just throw on your heaviest coat and call it a day?

I think one of the biggest mistakes guys make is to put on a single layer and a heavy coat, and that’s it. Here’s why:

  1. It’s not easy to control your body temperature. It’s too easy to become hot (in a heavy coat) and then cold (when you have to take it off).
  2. It’s a missed opportunity to put together an interesting outfit.
  3. If you live in a place that isn’t freezing but still reaches colder temperatures, strategic layering will allow you to easily peel off and put on layers as you move from indoors to outdoors, and vice versa.

A few examples of layering pieces

Layering Options For Winter - Effortless Gent

Luxe Touch Raglan Henley by Banana Republic // White Comfy Twill Shirt by Gant // Dearfield Workshirt by Grayers // Trucker Jacket by LEVI’s // Ultralight Down Vest by Uniqlo // Merino Wool V-Neck Sweater by J. Crew // The Modern Cable Sweater by Grayers // Slim Fit Fashion Peacoat by Schott // House Gingham Duffle Coat by Ben Sherman

How to layer

Layering is a lot simpler than it seems.

Technically, you could just throw on a bunch of stuff and be done with it, but you most likely want to look good and be comfortable.

The key is to keep those layers closest to the skin light, thin, and well-fitting, and work your way up to thicker, heavier fabrics as you get further away from the skin.

Have you ever made the mistake of wearing a loose T-shirt underneath a slimmer sweater or sport shirt? It can get a little uncomfy, resulting in a lot of tugging and adjusting. Not a good look.

Keeping your base layers slim and light will ensure that everything else fits well as you start adding more on top,  and will also prevent any unwanted (and uncomfortable) wrinkling and bunching.

After a while, you’ll know the right amount of layers to wear depending on the temperature outside. If you run hot, you probably won’t need as many layers, and vice versa if you become cold easily.

In general, I’d say three (not including an undershirt or a coat) is usually the maximum number of layers you’d want to put on; any more and it will seriously restrict your range of motion.

Can’t-Fail Combos

Pick a base layer (in our example, either a henley or a twill shirt), a mid-layer (you have a large selection, from sweaters to down vests and even a denim jacket), and finally, a coat (peacoat or duffle, in this instance, although in real life you have plenty of options, from down coats to top coats).

Pretty straight-forward, right?

A few visuals to get you started…

Beat The Freeze: Use These Layering Tips To Keep Out The Cold

henley // down vest // denim jacket // peacoat

This set is decidedly more casual since you’re starting with a henley (which could also be substituted for a long sleeve tee or polo).

In the first row, you’re taking advantage of the heavier work shirt for added warmth. The lightweight down vest (Uniqlo, pictured, has a great version) in the second row fits easily over any base layer and underneath a coat.

And in the third row, the denim jacket brings a spring staple into the winter season, and you’re bound to stay warm, as long as you have a more substantial coat on top.

In reality, both the duffle and the peacoat would work with any of these combos, so don’t feel restricted to choosing one over the other.

Beat The Freeze: Use These Layering Tips To Keep Out The Cold

twill shirt // denim jacket  // cable sweater // peacoat // duffle coat

The second set of layers can go either way, in terms of formality. It all depends what you decide to wear down below.

Go with mid-grey flannel trousers and rich, brown leather wingtips, and you have yourself a “smart casual” rig. On the other hand, throw on some chinos and sneakers, and you look more casual, yet still very put together.

The denim jacket plays nicely no matter the direction you’re trying to take the outfit, and if you are leaning more formal (with trousers and wingtips), it gives you a great high-low look, one that we champion a lot here on EG.

Beat The Freeze: Use These Layering Tips To Keep Out The Cold

twill shirt // v-neck sweater // denim jacket // down vest // work shirt // peacoat // duffle coat

In this third set, we’re incorporating two different mid-layers. This may be overkill in some instances, but it can definitely work, so long as you have your fabric weights right.

For example, the merino V-neck in the first row is thin enough to fit under the denim jacket. Same goes for the lightweight down vest in the second row. You can barely tell it’s on, and it fits under a work shirt (which, I’m assuming, you’ll wear open, or with only a few buttons fastened).

Remember that one rule

You can’t really go wrong when layering.

If you remember to keep your innermost layers thin and light, and work your way up in thickness from there, you will be 100% good to go.

Does this help?

I know layering can seem a bit weird at first, especially if you’re not sure which pieces can work together, but hopefully this article gives you a place to start!

What other layering questions (or tips!) do you have? Would love to hear them in the comments.

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10 Responses

  1. Robert Swilley on

    I see people in Detroit during winter wearing a pea coat all the time when the temps is in the teens or less. They must be really brave or cold! No thanks! Nice Canada goose coat. I’m originally from Mississippi. I bought myself a Montgomery duffel coat last winter. With the right layers you’re good in -30!

  2. Sirilly on

    This helps a lot but I live in VA and the weather is a wildcard, so I can’t even layer up as much I would like to. By the way I also find lightweight bomber jackets to be a great layering piece as well. Whether it’s zipped up or left completely unzipped they look very fashionable.

    • Barron on

      That’s the beauty of layering though. It makes things easier when you have to put on / peel off layers, either to stay warm or to cool off!

  3. qin on

    Everything is great information.

    I would change the down vest you recommended into a collarless vest. Uniqlo has that style. Without the down collar sneaking out of your coat, you do lose maybe a layer of warmth but will definitely give you a better look

    I can’t imagine wearing that collared vest with duffel coat.

  4. qin on

    Saw this article again and i am having a 60 degrees day in the midwest.

    To avoid laying I bought woolrich arctic parka. Seems like that investment is sinking