Tricky sartorial territory, these transitional climes of fall. One never knows exactly what Mother Nature has up her sleeve, and thus opportunities for chattering teeth and sweaty backs abound.
Your savior: layering. Creating an onion-like ensemble (speaking metaphorically only; smelling like an onion is never good) allows you to peel/add layers and remain your most cool, collected (and stylish) self.
But which ones, exactly?
We’re not here to tell you about the obvious stuff; no doubt you already own a flannel shirt, denim jacket, cardigan, etc. This right here is about eight more unsung fall garments — the Hero’s Layers that you may not have in your arsenal just yet, but definitely should.
So grab a couple, put ‘em together, see what happens. Not like peeling will make you cry or anything.
The Short-Sleeve Henley
One of the keys to layering is to achieve overall warmth without adding so much bulk that you wind up resembling Ralphie’s kid brother in A Christmas Story. Your short-sleeve henley is the ideal base layer, giving your core a boost while allowing your arms freewheelin’ freedom and providing a nice bit of character at the neckline.
Best Over: Nothing
Best Under: A casual button-up, cardigan, jacket ... pretty much anything without a crew neck
Often referred to as a hybrid of the button-down and the polo shirt, the popover has traditionally been a spring/summer staple for warmer temps. But enterprising menswear designers of late have been crafting it from brawnier, more fall-appropriate fabrics, allowing you to fold it into your layering regimen at will.
Best Over: A short-sleeve henley
Best Under: A cardigan or casual jacket
The Waffle Thermal
This one is all about texture. Not only is the traditional “waffle” weave designed for maximum absorption and evaporation (the twin pillars of breathability), it also has maximum throwback appeal. It conjures campfires and axes and dented cans of Dinty Moore beef stew, all while keeping you toasty and adding way more personality to a layered kit than any other crewneck. It also hopefully reminds you to get out and enjoy the aforementioned fires, axes and stew.
Best Over: Nothing
Best Under: A cardigan, casual jacket or shacket
Is it a shirt? Is it a jacket? Who came up with the term “shacket?” In truth, all you need to know is that it’s heavier than the former and lighter than the latter, and thus the perfect middle ground for days when it’s not quite cool enough to break out the denim or bomber. Your correspondent doesn’t recommend wearing it over another collared shirt to avoid Dueling Shirt Syndrome, but to each his own.
Best Over: A T-shirt, henley, waffle thermal, light crewneck sweatshirt or sweater
Best Under: A heavier jacket when the weather takes a turn for the wintry
The Shawl Sweatshirt
A bunkmate of the shacket and popover at Camp Hybrid. The shawl collar elevates the traditional pullover, giving you a more put-together option for chilly days. Looks great over tees and collars alike.
Best Over: A solid tee or casual button-up
Best Under: A casual jacket
The Long John
No real explanation necessary here, other than to say these cozy second skins are now being made thinner and more breathable than ever, allowing you to stay warm on your commute but not overheat at the office. Bonus: a great way to break in super stiff denim without the typical sandpaper-on-your-legs discomfort.
Best Over: Boxer briefs
Best Under: Pants, ideally
To clarify, we’re not talking about the thick, beefy numbers that fit only beneath your roomiest outerwear — a lightweight, slim-fitting T-neck is your more versatile layering option, playing well under a suit jacket/blazer (aka the Tom Brady Special), casual jacket or even a flannel + jacket on days when you really want to layer up.
Best Over: Nothing
Best Under: Everything we just said above
Sure, we could have just said “sweater vest,” but the key here is to look for something with buttons down the front — throw it on as a mid-layer with suiting and casual kits alike, and the “low-key three-piece” effect will church up either while simultaneously keeping your core cozy.
Best Over: Any button-up
Best Under: Any jacket