How to Layer Clothes

An Introduction on How to Layer Clothes

Knowing how to layer clothes is a must for every man. Unless it’s summer, very rarely do we wear just one shirt and get ready for the day. Usually, it’s nice to accompany our shirts with a variety of outerwear, ranging from sweaters to all types of jackets.

In this article, I’ll be teaching you how to layer your clothes properly so you can stay warm and look stylish. Let’s get started!

What is Layering?

Layering is the process of adding on different types of clothing to create an outfit. An example of this is wearing an undershirt, then a garment, and then a jacket. These three layers of clothing create one outfit.

Why Should I Layer My Clothes?

Layering your clothes will not only keep you warm, but it will also put more depth into your outfit. For example, nowadays, people rarely wear their sweaters by themselves. They like to accompany it with some type of shirt, such as a dress shirt.

Sweatshirts are a different breed, meant to eliminate the need for an extra layer of clothing. However, you can still layer up with a sweatshirt if you want to. 

Layering your clothes also provides protection from the elements. The inner garment provides comfort and prevents sweat from gathering on the skin. This, in turn, keeps the skin warm and makes the wearer feel comfortable.

The middle garment is the main garment that provides warmth. It keeps the body insulated and makes sure that you don’t lose too much heat. Finally, the outer layer protects the rest of the body–and the other two layers–from the elements.

Some layered outfits don’t use three layers of clothing, but the purpose of each layer still stands. For example, with the sweater, the t-shirt will provide comfort and insulation while the sweater will protect the rest of the body from the elements.

When Should I Layer Clothes

You can layer your clothes throughout the entire year. However, it’s best to layer clothing during the fall and winter. It’s also optional to do this during the spring. Most men will opt for a simple t-shirt over a layered outfit during the summer because of how hot it can get.

Layering your clothes is also great for the workplace and for semi-formal/formal events. Layered clothing is seen with a more serious aesthetic than casual wear so these types of outfits will fit well within this spectrum.

How Many Layers of Clothes Should I Wear?

Ideally, you do not want to pass beyond three layers of clothing since three layers will provide warmth, comfort, protection, and style. When you wear four layers or more, you risk losing your comfort and style.

Think about it. You put on a t-shirt, a sweater, a hoodie, and a jacket. You risk losing the comfort because even if it’s cold out, four layers of clothing will trap excessive heat in your body and make you sweat more than the inner layer can prevent. 

Furthermore, the style factor could be lost because four layers of clothing will start to add on and each layer will make you look larger than you actually are. Good style is all about proportions and you lose these proportions with each extra layer you put on.

Likewise, less than three layers might not do you justice when it comes to keeping you warm. Three layers promise two garments that insulate and keep your skin heated and one garment that protects against the elements.

Less than this and you lose warmth because this will designate one layer to protect you from the elements and one layer to keep you temperate. On the extreme side, if you’re wearing only one layer, that one layer acts as your insulation and your protection and this will almost always fail to keep you warm. 

Should I Wear an Undershirt? 

an undershirt so people can know how to layer clothes
Credit: Known Man

An undershirt is your first line of defense between your sweat and your clothing. It’s meant to absorb the sweat so that it doesn’t get onto your more expensive garments. However, make no mistake that a t-shirt and undershirt are not the same things.

An undershirt is more lightweight and thinner than regular t-shirts because it’s seen more like a sweat rag than a piece of clothing. Furthermore, while I said that the magic number of layers is three, an undershirt is an exception to the rule because of how thin it is. 

But while the inner garment is meant to absorb sweat, that is mainly the undershirt’s job. Most of the sweat will be absorbed by the undershirt and the sweat that gets through is blocked by the inner garment. 

So, should you wear an undershirt? You should wear an undershirt if…

  • You sweat profusely
  • You’re wearing expensive clothing
  • It’s colder than usual and you want something extra
  • Your other layers of clothing are irritating your skin
  • You have lots of chest hair

Don’t wear an undershirt if:

  • You want to do it because you need a shirt to wear for the day
  • You like the aesthetic of the undershirt

Undershirts are meant for sweat protection and sweat protection only. They’re also great for adding one more layer of clothing, but that’s it. An undershirt should never be your main piece of clothing, the star of your outfit.

Some people don’t need undershirts because they don’t sweat very often, but I still recommend that you wear an undershirt. Why? Because most men wear some type of deodorant and without an undershirt, the deodorant stains will start to show on your clothing instead.

Now, maybe there are some men who don’t sweat profusely and don’t use deodorant. I would still recommend wearing an undershirt. It’s better to be safe than sorry. I’d rather take a few extra seconds to put on an undershirt than have to replace one of my shirts because of sweat stains.

Best Clothes to Layer

When it comes to layering clothes, there are some pieces that layer better than others and if I’m going to teach you how to layer clothes, then you need to know about the best pieces that can be layered.

First, we’re going to start with the inner garments and then work our way outwards to the outer garment. We’re also going to consider the undershirt as an inner garment since its job is to keep you comfortable and prevent sweat from getting through.

Best Inner Layer Clothing

There are four options for inner layer clothing:

  • Undershirt
  • T-Shirt
  • Dress Shirt
  • Polo Shirt (With Caution!)
A dress shirt so people can know how to layer clothes
Credit: Simons

The inner layer is the first layer that you put on which is why it’s imperative that it’s moisture-absorbent and can keep the rest of your outfit clean. Personally, I think everyone should go with an undershirt as their primary layer, but a t-shirt, dress shirt, and polo shirt work too.

They can absorb sweat, maintain heat, and keep you comfortable but over time, you’ll start to see sweat marks show up. 

A t-shirt and dress shirt go great with sweaters and suits, but a polo shirt should be used conservatively. Polo fabric is much more delicate than most t-shirts and dress shirts. Furthermore, polos tend to only work well with certain outfits.

I would only use polos as a last resort if you don’t have any other inner layers of clothing available. 

Middle Layer

The best options for the middle layer of clothing are:

  • Sweater
  • Sweatshirt
  • Zip-Up
  • Long-Sleeve T-Shirts
A sweater is a good mid layer piece of clothing

The middle layer is the insulation, the main piece meant to keep you warm. As you can see by the list, all four articles of clothing are meant to do exactly that. Sweaters are made from a traditional mid layer fabric as are sweatshirts.

Zip-ups are a version of the sweater that can vary between traditional materials such as wool and other options such as polyester. The difference between a zip-up and a sweater is that zip-ups have a zipper so they don’t need to be pulled over the head.

When it comes to knowing how to layer clothes, this is the layer that most men struggle with because of the insulation factor. Mid layer clothing is meant to be loosely-fitted so that insulating air can be trapped between the layers.

However, because the mid layer fabrics tend to be cotton and wool, mid layer clothing will almost always shrink a little bit. To make sure this doesn’t happen, learn how to wash cotton and wool without shrinkage. 

Outer Layer

The outer layer is the layer that protects against the elements, so the outer layer needs to be waterproof and breathable. Your options include:

  • Vests
  • Jackets
  • Hoodies (Use Sparingly!)
fleece jacket is good for an outer layer of clothing
Credit: Wall Street Journal

For vests and jackets, these are meant to be styled as the last layer for all outfits as they protect against rain, wind, and dust. However, hoodies are meant to be used sparingly because hoodies aren’t necessarily waterproof.

Most hoodies are composed of 70% or more pure cotton. The reason I say you should use hoodies sparingly is because there are some hoodies which use polyester which is considered “everyday” waterproof, so in the case of a hybrid hoodie which uses both cotton and polyester, it can be considered an outer layer.


Layering clothes is a skill that most people take for granted. It’s great for the fall and winter and it allows men to mix up their wardrobe when they’re feeling creative. However, not everyone knows how to layer clothes properly.

The inner layer is the layer that prevents sweating and keeps you comfortable. The middle layer is used to provide insulation and the outer layer is the layer which protects against the elements such as rain and wind.

By layering your clothes, you’re providing more depth to your outfit than a simple t-shirt would. Now that you know how to layer your clothes properly, it’s time to give your outfits a little more flair. 

Did you like this post? Learn more about us or take a look at some of the style tips we recommend for all men. 


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