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How Do I Layer Without Looking Like a Stuffed Turkey?

Help! I’m trapped in a coat in a sweater in a button-down in an undershirt!

There’s a species of man who loves when the weather grows cold for no other reason than it allows them to put on more clothes. “I get way more attention in winter than during summertime,” writes one redditor. “I think it’s because of hoodies, jackets and any other clothing that can be layered.”

“Every morning in the winter I feel like my closet is my oyster,” adds a different redditor. “I could do a sweater with or without a collared shirt underneath, V-neck, crewneck, cable-knit, lighter jacket with a hoodie underneath, heavier coat with a scarf, hat or no hat… It’s endless.”

I couldn’t agree more. Cold weather means more opportunities to sift through my closet and wear a bunch of stuff that the sunny weather in my native Southern California rarely calls for. The only problem is, additional layers also usually equate to less mobility — anything more than a T-shirt under a jacket has a way of making it so that my arms feel like they’re cryogenically frozen inside of a five-layer cake.

It’s not a problem without a solution, though. Per menswear content creator Brock McGoff, to layer up without compromising mobility, “wear thinner, more fitted garments closer to your body and heavier, looser-fitting pieces as outer layers.” As a couple of good examples, he suggests, “Cotton henley > flannel work shirt > field jacket. Or: Oxford button-up > wool sweater > suede jacket.”

Along those lines, a devotee of r/MaleFashionAdvice (MFA) tells me that the garment’s cut is just as important as its material. “You start feeling like a stuffed turkey when everything is too slim,” he explains. “Shirts should fit however you want your base layer to fit, but everything on top — like sweaters and jackets — needs to be roomy enough to accommodate everything underneath.”

Another thing to consider is how easy — and stylish — it is to peel those layers off. By wearing a thin collared shirt, a thin cardigan, a regular blazer and then a topcoat or overcoat, another MFA subscriber tells me that “you strongly reinforce your style intent, while retaining the freedom to modulate as you see fit.”

McGoff agrees, with one caveat — four layers are often too much. “It looks too bulky and too padded,” he says. “And you’ll probably overheat.” Instead, he recommends placing an emphasis on the middle layer. “Every guy has shirts and coats,” he says. “But the middle layers — a la lightweight vests, crewneck sweaters and cardigans — are pieces that make a layered outfit much easier to put together.”

Either way, for the outermost layer, McGoff typically prefers leather jackets, field jackets or denim jackets. Why not a big ol’ coat like a parka? “Usually with something heavy like a parka, you don’t need to wear any layers,” he tells me.

Which, of course, would be no fun at all. 

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