3 Easy Steps to Perfecting Layering in Cold Weather

by Jamie Wilson

Reviewed & updated: October 19, 2022 by Jamie Wilson BA

Cold weather clothing can be hard to get right. Rather than wearing a cool outfit, then throwing a padded coat over the top, careful layering can give you a cleaner, and less bulky look. If you’re you’re thinking about layering up for the colder weather, but need some advice on how to do it, then check out our simple guide on how to layer clothes for winter. 

Tips on Layering Clothes

Layering clothes is pretty basic, and there isn’t really a lot you can get wrong. In spring and autumn, it can be as simple as layering a shirt over a T-shirt, but in the winter it gets a little more complicated. The best winter clothes for men need to have the right blend of warmth and breathability, and this means you need to be a little picky with the fabrics you choose. 

In general, it’s a good idea to go for three basic layers, called a base layer, a mid-layer and an outer layer. These all have different functions and are important at keeping you from freezing or sweating up a storm.

Base Layer

Everybody sweats. Let’s agree on that to begin with. Whether you perspire at a rate that can fill up buckets, or you only produce a few modest beads of sweat, it’s something we all have to deal with. The base layer, therefore, is there to deal with moisture removal, as well as to act as the first layer that keeps you warm.

An ideal base layer should be made from a breathable fabric such as cotton, and it’s best to stick to light pieces such as T-shirts or vests so there’s no risk of overheating.

white t-shirt look men

Mid Layer

This layer further helps to draw moisture away from your body but also helps to trap heat and keep you snug. You don’t have to be as picky with your choice of material, but it’s still best not to go for anything overly processed, like 100% polyester or acrylic, as this won’t allow your body to breath, and won’t have any real benefits in keeping you warm.

If you’ve got the cash, a good mid layer piece is a wool jumper. Wool is special in that it can absorb up to 30% of its weight and not feel wet or weighed down, which is ideal if you’re a sweaty lad.

barbour jumper mid layer men

Outer Layer

So, onto the last step. The outer layer of your outfit needs to be breathable and allow sweat vapours to pass through and away from the body but should be able to protect you from rain, wind and any sub-zero temperatures. Your coat just needs to be able to trap heat, but allow moisture out. The best winter coats for extreme cold can come in a range of designs, from padded parkas to a leather shearling lined jacket. 

north face camo jacket men

Men’s Winter Outfits

So you now know the basics of winter layering, as well as some of the materials you should think about investing in. There are endless combinations you can put together, ranging from the solely practical hiking style looks to achingly stylish high fashion outfits. Luckily they’re always in-betweens, and whether you need an outfit for the office or the weekend, there are layering looks that are guaranteed to work for you.


There’s no need to go for a heavy set outer layer if you’ve properly layered up. For days when it’s chilly, but not arctic level cold, a slim fit leather jacket is a great alternative to a more cumbersome piece of outerwear. Pairing it up with a high neck jumper in a simple black and a cotton T-shirt is enough to create a look that’s understated and winter appropriate, but still has a stylish edge.

Smart Casual

If you need something warm that’s not going to look out of place at the office or any other smart casual location, then it’s best to keep things simple. A cotton oxford shirt can work as both a base layer or a mid layer depending on your preferences, and if you need some extra warmth you can go for a shirt and jumper combo or layer a simple T-shirt underneath.

The outer layer is important here, as it’s going to be the most visible part of your outfit. You need something that’s going to keep you warm while looking tailored and sharp. Something like a wool, slim fit overcoat will work well, as well as a classic trench or peacoat. Finish off some neat details like brogue shoes and slim fit chinos to pull the look together.

smart casual layered look men


If you’re going for a smart look, then the most obvious, and generally the best, choice is a suit. You can go for pretty much whatever colour you want. Black, grey, navy, patterned, the colour options aren’t important. What is, is staying warm while looking slick. Shivering is not an okay accessory in a tailored look.

There are a few different ways you can increase the warmth of a suit. One of them is simple – get a wool suit. You’ll have a simple cotton shirt as a base layer, your wool suit as a mid layer, and if you’re still chilly then you can throw an overcoat over the top. Good materials, practical layering and a sleek look. Ideal.

If you don’t want a wool suit then you might need to layer up a little more. Yes, this does mean going for more than three layers, but you don’t need to go overboard. A waistcoat isn’t going to save you from frostbite, but it will add an extra layer that will keep your torso a little warmer, so it’s something to think about if the weather’s getting colder.

smart layered look men

3 Easy Steps to Perfecting Layering in Cold Weather

  • A base layer, mid layer and outer layer are important if you’re wondering what to wear on a cold day.
  • For a base layer it’s important to choose materials that are breathable to help deal with any sweat.
  • Your mid layer is for warmth and trapping heat, and your outer layer is for protection against the elements.
  • The outer layer of your outfit needs to be breathable and allow sweat vapours to pass through and away from the body but should be able to protect you from rain, wind and any sub-zero temperatures.

On That Note

It’s all about layering! When you’re selecting, whether it’s a thin base layer or something a little warmer for your outer shell, it’s important to keep the perfect fit in mind. Whether you’re wondering how to wear a plaid shirt out, even on the coldest days, or you just want to know which winter coat is best for you, you should be able to pick up a few tips to help you get through the cold months.

Feature image from Pinterest

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