Men’s outerwear traditionally hovers in the space of suit underneath longer overcoat. Maybe a trench, or a duffle or pea-coat. But the truth is you don’t have to work your layering like a set of nested Russian dolls, starting off small and getting longer as you move towards the outer layer. You’re not an onion, after all. Judging by the fall 2012 runways, and beyond into spring 2013, it’s more than OK to break the rules and have a shorter layer over a longer one.

So now and beyond, don’t be afraid to experiment with layering. It’s one way to keep your look interesting.

Men’s layering: shorter over longer layers

When we’re talking about layering for men this season, we’re talking about mixing it up. If you want to get specific about it, the way to do it is shorter layers on the outside worn over longer ones. This is an important distinction, as the look is not about being messy. Nor are we focusing on the edgy, avant garde trends of season’s past where layering was about swathing oneself in drapes of asymmetrical fabrics and deconstructed pieces of varying lengths.

This is about taking a traditional menswear look and giving it a subtly cool and unique twist by playing with length.

mens layering outerwear
Playing with layering at Burberry Prorsum, F/W ’12

Though you can experiment with whatever works for you, if you’re unsure about how to layer or need a place to start the most failsafe option is to go for a suit jacket with a hem length that sits at the crotch, and wear it with a cropped jacket that ends roughly where your pants waistband starts. This will keep a pretty good balance.

The cropped jacket: ways to layer it

Given we’re focusing here on the shorter outer layer, it’s worth thinking about the various options for making it work. A few key ideas that ran through the menwear runways:

Uniform coloured layers

There’s nothing to say that the plays on length can’t be the the stand-out feature of your outfit. Donning a cropped jacket in the same colour as your suit makes for something like an unconventional 3-piece: Burberry Prorsum’s all grey ensemble being a perfect example.

Acne menswear did something similar yet different with varied-length layers on both top and bottom – including a shorter hooded duffle over a suit jacket – all in a palette of navy blues.

mens cropped jacket layering
Monotone layering at Burberry Prorsum and Acne, F/W ’12

Layers with contrasting colour

You’re not always going to have a piece of cropped outerwear that matches what’s underneath, so this is where you have the opportunity to go bold or go home. Well, you don’t even have to go bold. But the idea is to make your outer, shorter layer a contrasting colour or texture to whatever’s going on underneath. Of course it should compliment by way of deliberate use of colour and/or print.

Acne’s fall 2012 runway gave this example, where the outer layer pops with colour – and yet the whole outfit is kept within the same colour family meaning you can’t go very far wrong.

contrast colour cropped jacket
Playing with colour contrasts and layers at Acne F/W ’12

Layers with contrasting styles

As far as styles go, this particular micro-trend works perfectly with sharp suits (you don’t want anything too baggy so go for slimmer cuts) layered under men’s bomber cut jackets or cropped parkas. But if you want to get interesting, try a more extreme contrast of styles. Lanvin’s combination of quilted puffer jacket over a black tail coat is a prime example of two extreme ends of the casual-formal scale working together.

puffer jacket over tail coat
Quilted jacket and tail coat at Lanvin, F/W ’12

This look from Acne with a cardigan-style jacket over a blazer is another take on contrasting styles layered to create an interesting look.

cardigan over suit jacket
Mixed styles layered at Acne, F/W ’12

Other types of layering for men

mens turtleneck

Men’s turtlenecks

This season the roll-neck sweater offers up some other options for layering that’ll keep you warm as well as on-trend. Leave your turtleneck pre-conceptions at the door, and explore the sartorial possibilities of this oft abandoned piece of clothing. Read more about the turtleneck for men and how to wear it this fall.

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