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The Compass  /  Suits  /  Three Ways to Layer Up Your Suits for Fall

Three Ways to Layer Up Your Suits for Fall

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Did you feel that breeze today? That was no summer wind, friends, that was the crisp air of fall making it’s way to a street near you (that is, for you Northern Hemisphere guys). Fall means changing colors, changing temps and changing your wardrobe…a little.

Fall presents a unique sartorial challenge. The temperatures will start to dip a bit and sometimes, unpredictably – it’ll test the versatility of your wardrobe. The air might be cool and windy but the sun still shines through, so it’s warm during the day but much cooler at night. You need to stay suited up for work but the typical suit and shirt combo might not be warm enough. At the same time, it’s not yet time to don the overcoat or a trench. What’s a well-dressed man to do?

Layer. The thin layers of fall is the smartest way to warm up a suit and tie look. We’ve rounded up three looks for three different types of guys. Each has a unique personality, unique style, and now, a unique way to add a layer of warmth without sacrificing style.

You may be a stone cold negotiator, you may have ice in your veins when you have to make tough business decisions, but there’s no reason you should freeze your ass off on the way to the office.

Add a richly hued, merino wool V-neck to a gray suit for an uber-classy look. This look will not only keep you warm, it’s appropriate in both business formal and business casual settings. Just remember to keep the sweater neutral, like the taupe one featured here and use accessories to dash your outfit with color – i.e., your tie or pocket square.

Why it Works: A merino wool sweater like the one featured here is thin, yet warm and soft, yet durable so it makes an ideal layering fabric.

You’re a business man, but maybe you’re a business man in a creative field or maybe you’re just a business man who likes to think creatively. So, you believe in good form, but not without good function. And layering up with a puffer vest under your suit is fashion forward, but extremely practical…especially on those windy fall days.

The key to mashing up formal and casual (like this look here) is not to split your look 50/50 but to choose one element of casual wear to mix in with an otherwise formal look. Don’t shy away from ties and pocket squares, hell, even a French cuff shirt would play. All of these more formal touches add interest and make the interplay between the vest and the outfit even stronger. And if you need to revert back to strictly business, just lose the vest.

Why it Works: A thick vest would push against a well-fitting jacket, but a thin one like this works because it doesn’t make you look stuffed inside the jacket.

You’re an artist and a stylish one at that. You know how to effectively convey complex ideas and emotions through different artistic mediums – it might be pictures, graphics or words…but definitely through your clothes as well.

The cardigan sweater is a layering tool that provides ultimate versatility – it’s a creative way to dress down a formal outfit or dress up a casual one. When wearing it under a suit jacket, think of it almost like a vest…but a casual one. Since a cardigan is cut with a lower button stance, it allows you to keep your jacket, shirt and tie as the primary focal points, which means that there’s no limit to what you can do with the colors and patterns of your outfit.

Why it Works: The buttons on the front of this sweater and jacket, along with a polka-dot tie create a repeating circle motif that helps tie together the various colors and keeps the look fun.


Find Yourself – Shop The Looks

If you see some of yourself above, here’s where to get the goods.

The Strictly Business man wears a Charcoal Gray Custom Suit, Charcoal Lavender Striped Tie and a White Solid Twill Weave Custom Dress Shirt, all by Black Lapel. Sweater by Uniqlo.

The Business Creative man wears a Charcoal Gray Custom Suit, by Black Lapel. Tie by Brooks Brothers. Pocket Square by Everett. Vest by Uniqlo.

The Strictly Creative man wears a Navy Blue Custom Blazer a Blue Solid Broadcloth Custom Dress Shirt and a Solid White Pocket Square by Black Lapel. Tie by Burma Bibas. Sweater by Uniqlo.

Which one of these guys most represents you? Leave a comment below with how you’re planning to layer up this fall.

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31 thoughts on “Three Ways to Layer Up Your Suits for Fall”

  1. You guys are nailing customer service. Give your community manager a good pat on the back!

    1. Black Lapel says:

      The BL fam sends all the thanks, Craig.

  2. Question about a contrasting vest — I have a light gray suit – what contrasting color vest would work/not work????

    1. Black Lapel says:

      We love medium or navy blue with a light gray suit, Patrick. For a little less contrast you can go with a dark gray. Perhaps more important than color contrast, though, is pattern contrast. With a solid suit, try a vest with a pattern, like a herringbone or a windowpane. If the suit is patterned, then stick with a solid vest.

  3. So the past few days, the temperature has warranted more layers and I’ve been wearing a cardigan underneath my sport jacket. I even have the sport jacket unbuttoned (without a cardigan I always have it buttoned). I like the way I look. :) Now I know all my future suits will be three-piece.

    1. Smart man! Three-pieces are really good for warmth and style. And there’s nothing saying you can’t switch out the vest with a cardigan to change up your look every so often too.

  4. I would rock every style there.That said I would rock strictly creative first. You need to get your colors in before it gets to cold.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Too true, Drew (hey, that rhymes!).

      You could also add more color to the business creative and rock it with a contrasting puffer vest. They come in many colors.

  5. Wow. Found this website yesterday when googling shirt and tie combinations, and I can’t pull myself away. Three hours last night and again first thing this morning… I can’t help myself, my brain is exploding with fashion sense. You guys are life changers.

    I love you.

    I live in Canada and fall can be harsh. I will definitely be pulling off the merino wool sweater and the cardigan. I would have never imagined these combinations. You are awesome.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      We love you too, Thayne. That’s why we want you to stay warm and stay stylish. Those Canadian falls can be worse than the US winters, so be sure to keep calm and wear layers!

  6. I’m disappointed that there’s no talk of odd waistcoats here. A stylish way to remain warm, I think. 😉

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Good idea, Jovan. We don’t see many guys wearing them these days but we’d like to. Got any favorites?

      1. Besides mixing and matching some of your offerings, there are some nice tweedy numbers at J. Crew and Brooks Brothers.

        1. Black Lapel says:

          Nice choices. We’re with you on the tweedy look under our suits.

  7. According to Find Yourself – Shop the Looks,

    the first guy is wearing the charcoal suit. His looks a lot lighter than the the one that links you to the actual suit? Is this my screen playing tricks on my eye?

    1. That’s sunlight playing tricks on your eye, Ken. These photos were shot under natural light that, naturally, changes. Add the different models and different layers under the suit jackets and you get some different looks. We have since updated the story with more evenly shaded photos. Hopefully this clears up any confusion about the suits.

    2. Ken, the charcoal suit a little more like Oxford grey in the daylight sometimes.

  8. Are the suits that the article links to correct? The first suit looks greyish/blue, but the link is for the ‘Solid Charcoal Suit’. And the third Blazer looks more like the ‘Solid Royal Blue’ suit than the ‘Solid Navy Blue’ one.

    1. Yes, the links are correct, Bryan. These photos were shot under changing natural light (the sun is a fantastic studio light, but it sure does change on you!). To compare the suits, its best to use the product photos you see when you click on the links. Here we’ve focused on how the layers underneath the suits look. Got a favorite look?

  9. Wait, the first two are the same color?

    1. The suits in the first two pictures are, in fact, both charcoal gray. The photos were shot under natural lighting at slightly different times and, obviously, with different models. All of that contributed to the suits looking somewhat different.

      Hope this wasn’t too confusing. What did you think of the layers under the suits?

  10. Great post in time for fall. It would be great to hear your thoughts as winter approaches on overcoat etiquette, with most of us having far fewer shades of topcoats than suits. I.e. Gray suit: black or navy topcoat? etc.

    1. Glad you liked it, KJ. Stay layered.

      Good idea, on the overcoats, we’ll discuss that in an Ask the Black Lapel Stylist post as winter approaches but to answer your question about the gray suit, it depends. A good basic rule of thumb is black shoes = black coat, otherwise go with a color.

    2. I’d say charcoal or navy myself. A black overcoat seems just a little too funereal, like wearing a black suit during the day.

      1. Black Lapel says:

        Those work, Jovan. Some guys love rocking black from head to toe and make the dark brooding look work for them. Other guys look like undertakers in black.

        A lot of color choices come down to your skin tone, what else you’re wearing and your attitude when you’re wearing it.

  11. I love the cardigan and sport coat look. If I add a coordinating scarf I’m set for the entire day. Here in Montana we can see daytime temperatures start at around 32degrees and reach into the high 70s by mid afternoon. That combination keeps me comfortable and looking sharp all day.

    1. Good to have Montana represented here! Those sound like some wicked mood swings from Mother Nature in Big Sky Country in the fall.

      One of the best things about the layers highlighted above is that they’re all easily removed for the warmer parts of the day.

      Keep rocking the cardigans, Jim.

  12. Oh no definitely not. If its cold enough for a sweater then wear a coat. Otherwise be a man and brave it out. Putting a sweater, cardigan or anything else under a suit is horrible. A great scarf to protect the throat may be stretch but a sweater is a total yuk. Wear a white tee under the shirt if you are that nesh. Come on BL this is the first time I’ve ever disagreed with you:-)

    1. A big part of style is self expression, Michael. Clearly this style doesn’t express you. That’s cool. We can still be friends.

      By the way, one of thing we can agree on: the word nesh. Big points for working that into your comment!

  13. This will be my first Fall wearing sport coat. Due to my height (5′-03″), I think a cardigan looks better than a v-neck for me. Would you agree?

    I started tucking in my shirt as well :) and I’m leaning toward tucking in my sweater (when worn with a sport coat), though I don’t know if my pants will accommodate another layer.

    1. The trick for you, Joshua, is to get a sweater that’s not too long so that it doesn’t fall too much below your waist.

      Tucking your sweater is a smart way to ensure it doesn’t show below the bottom of your jacket, but we’d suggest a V-neck in that case. Tucking a cardigan, with its buttons in the front, would look a little clunky and probably cause some discomfort in the last place you need it!

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