If you’re new to dressing well, wondering which clothes you should add to your wardrobe might not be the first problem you feel like you need to solve in order to step up your fashion game. If you’re anything like I was when I started to learn how to dress more effectively, you might be wondering how you should be pairing, matching, and layering the clothes that you already have long before you think about buying anything new.
It might seem like an obvious skill to some, but for many men, it’s one that takes conscious time and energy to develop. It certainly did for me: when I started learning about dressing well, I didn’t even know where to start when it came time to compose an outfit.
I had to spend time doing research on my own to figure out how I should be thinking about pairing clothes together. And once I did, I felt so much more confident, not just in my ability to compose appealing outfits from the clothes I already own, but also in my ability to cut through the noise when shopping for clothes and identify pieces that I’d enjoy wearing.
Even better, though it can seem intimidating at first, if you have the right resources to work with, developing this framework for approaching your outfits doesn’t take a lot of effort. It can really be as simple as a series of questions you ask yourself when composing your outfit every day.
So if you’re struggling with composing layered outfits that look put-together and make you feel good, look no further: I’ll walk you through the resources I used when I was developing my personal taste to help you create a simple logical framework for composing great outfits.
What To Think About When Thinking About Layering
Most of the common-sense advice about layering clothes and composing great outfits that I’ve learned throughout my life can be tied back to two relatively well-hidden paragraphs on Reddit’s /r/malefashionadvice subreddit.
I’ve referenced their high quality and free-to-use advice and guides before, but when it comes to what I’d recommend first to newcomers to fashion, it’s this “Rudimentary Guide on Creating Outfits That Work” guide by reddit user ILookAfterThePigs.
Essentially, the core of what you need to know about layering clothes boils down to this quote:
“In this example (thanks, disby), the eye is drawn first to the camo shorts, because of the busy pattern, then to the shoes, because of the bright colour, and lastly to the muted t-shirt. So there is a hierarchy here in which the shorts are the "strongest" element and the tshirt is the "weakest" one. What I mean here as a "strong" element is something that draws attention to itself, either because it has a heavy pattern, or because the color stands out, or because the fit is different, etc.”
This is great advice for putting together outfits of all types, but when it comes to layering clothes, it’s especially potent.
Building a Layering Hierarchy in Your Outfit
Creating this hierarchy of “strong” items that stand out and catch the eye and “weak” items that support the strong ones and tie the whole outfit together is, in my experience, an incredibly simple and effective way to start to compose great layered outfits.
Let’s say you want to put together an outfit that features an impressive and long overcoat as the outer layer -- great! That’s a pretty bold item, so it’s a pretty good idea to consider it your “strongest” piece in this outfit. For your other layers, consider more neutral, typical items that help that strong piece stand out as much as possible.
This “strong” to “weak” hierarchy applies really no matter what your “strong” item is.
Once you’ve done that, go one step further -- what’s one way you can re-incorporate something awesome from your “strong” piece somewhere else in your outfit? Or, instead, how might you add a little extra detail to your “weak” ones that breaks them up a little bit?
For our overcoat example, maybe a nice pair of boots or shoes that are the same color as the coat? Or a neutral-colored scarf to add a new texture to your outfit?
The more you experiment with creating layered looks, the more you’ll be able to master the sometimes-finicky art of creating outfits that feature both contrast and cohesion.
At first, this might sound intimidating, but all it really means is ensuring that while your outfit looks like it should all go together (it features colors that look nice together, all the items fit well, and there’s no clashing formality, for starters), at least one element stands out more than the others.
An example of a great layered outfit with both contrast and cohesion might be this one.
You can see that it all looks like it goes together -- the level of formality is consistent, the colors are pleasing together, and the fit is good -- but the bright suede chelsea boots definitely catch your eye first. From there, you’ll probably notice the muted pattern on the flannel, and the other items are “weak” and support the others.
Inspiration is Everything
No matter what your sense of personal style is, or how formally you typically prefer to dress, these guidelines are a great way to ensure that you’ll be matching your layers in a way that feels organized, sensible, and stylish.
The more you think through the hierarchy and cohesion of your outfits, the easier and easier it will be to compose outstanding layered outfits for any time of year.
However, there still is one more critical thing you should do if you’re interested in creating layered outfits that really stand apart: look at outfits you like (and outfits you don’t) regularly.
Even if you have a rigorous understanding of how to compose outfits that make sense and feel organized, looking at other outfits for inspiration can only do positive things for your sense of taste.
This doesn’t necessarily have to feel like work, either: adding more fashion into your daily information diet can be as simple as looking at the outfits you see others wear on a day-to-day basis and taking a mental note of what you like, or subscribing to popular fashion websites or publications on your social media of choice.
By simply keeping an eye out for outfits you like or outfits you don’t, you’ll get a sense of what typically works for most other people and be able to apply those successes to your own wardrobe.
That sense of taste, coupled with a firm foundational knowledge, should be more than enough for you to start wowing people with your outfits.