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Fashion December, 6 2012

3 Easy Layers – The Basics of Layering

We’re now a few days into December which means we’re a few days into winter. Whether you like it or not the cold is here and soon snow will fall if it hasn’t already. To prepare for the brutal weather and shorter days on the horizon, we’ve prepared a basic guide on layering. While it can be as simple as throwing on layer over layer, it’s easy to lose sight of your own personal style for the sake of warmth. Fortunately, with the development of new clothing technologies it’s possible to stay warm without rolling around town looking  like the Michelin Man. Take a look below for the full guide. To begin, layering is generally thought of in 3 layers – inner, middle, and outer. Arguably the most important layer, the inner layer should keep in the heat your body naturally produces while letting the moisture escape.

As we mentioned a few weeks ago in our examination of technical fabrics, HEATTECH from Uniqlo is a great place to start. Developed in collaboration with the industrial Japanese product designer Toray, HEATTECH uses the moisture leaving your body to produce heat. The air pockets in the material then store this heat in the fibers to keep you warm while keeping your skin dry. As an added bonus, the clothing is thin enough to fit under other layers without bunching up. Depending on your location, you may need an entire body suit while others will need just a top or bottoms.

Image: Maiden Noir

Once you’re set with the first layer it’s time to start putting together the middle layer. The middle layer is what will be visible most of the day, or at least the part of the day you spend indoors. If you’ve chosen a warm enough inner layer, you have a bit more flexibility here. The middle layer can serve as further insulation or be thin and carefree depending on your area’s climate.

For more insulation you’ll want to look toward materials like wool and flannel. There exists a wide range of flannel shirts these days, from the classic plaid pattern to clean, monochromatic designs from designers like Alexander Wang. If you’re looking for a more  elegant solution that still keeps you warm, throw on a sweater over a collared shirt. A chunky knit is a good option too, but consider the thickness when choosing one.

On the other hand, if you’re warm enough with your first layer, a cotton sweater or button-up will do just fine. Generally speaking if you’re wearing a button-up with a shirt underneath it’s best to conceal the undershirt for aesthetics’ sake. But hell it’s your body and clothes – do what you want!

After putting together a decent middle layer it’s time to throw on an outer layer. The outer layer is what you’ll be wearing during the inevitable, miserable minutes you’ll be spending in the subzero cold. There are plenty of different options to choose from and since we’ve gone over Gore-Tex, Waxed Cotton, Pertex, Nylon, and G-1000 before we’ll focus on the most classic of all winter materials – down.

Used by humans since at least the 17th century, down is the fine layer of bird feathers laying below the tougher exterior feathers. Ironically, we use them as our outer layer. Being a bird must be so warm.

Down’s unique cellular construction breathes, absorbs, and does away with body moisture while the “arms” of a down cluster come together, holding the air in and forming a thermal barrier, keeping body warmth in and cold air out. Those natural properties combined with the technical fabric down is housed in make it a no-brainer for the outer layer. While down fabrics tend to be puffy by nature, a well put together inner and middle layer will blend in with the outer layer’s thickness. In fact, a sturdy down jacket can strike the perfect balance between urban and rural ruggedness.

Classic American brand Penfield always has an excellent collection of down jackets and during our recent interview with the company’s CEO we learned that, “Nobody has yet invented an insulation that can beat down for weight to warmth – it really is an incredible material to work with and there are so many variables to it.” Contemporary Japanese brand VISVIM has nice offerings this season as does streetwear giant Supreme and the timeless Canada Goose (pictured above). Any worthwhile offering though will run you a pretty penny so any piece you purchase should be considered a lifetime investment.

In short, if you’ve got the bases covered you’re free to throw on whatever you’d like even in the most unforgiving climates. A quality down jacket over some well thought out layers will protect you through a full day of commuting, doing whatever it is that occupies your day, and returning home. Stay tuned next week for a guide on protecting your head and neck, along with those precious extremities.

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