As November and December give way to January and February, one of your top concerns when you get dressed in the morning is how you’re going to stay warm, particularly if you have to brave a windy commute to the office. While there are lots of smart ways to keep warm while wearing a suit, layering is as important here as it with any other cold-weather style predicament. Pairing a sweater with your suit enables you to add a lot more warmth to your ensemble, as your dress shirt and your suit jacket won’t be your only defense against the cold and wind.
The key to successfully layering a warm sweater between your dress shirt and your suit jacket is to choose the material carefully. While you can find sweaters in everything from cotton to wool to cashmere at the mall, one of the best choices is merino wool, since it’s exceptionally warm, thin enough to layer comfortably, and is often available at a pretty budget-friendly price tag.
You should also pay attention to the cut of the sweater. As with all layering, it’s essential to choose a piece that’s cut trim and narrow without being skintight. You want the sweater to sit close to your body so that you don’t have lots of extra fabric to bunch and wrinkle under your jacket. And it’s particularly important to make sure that the sleeves of the sweater are cut slim to avoid any unsightly issues once you add the jacket.
1. Add a v-neck
If you work in a particularly formal office, you may think it’ll be difficult to stray from your usual suit-and-tie uniform. In a formal office, a merino wool v-neck layered over your usual dress shirt is exactly what you need. If you want to avoid bright or rich colors to stay on the safe side, pair a grey sweater with a navy suit, a camel sweater with a charcoal suit, or a navy sweater with a grey suit. The idea is for the sweater to contrast with the suit, without necessarily drawing attention to itself. A great combination would be Ralph Lauren’s dark grey wool flannel suit worn with a blue merino wool sweater from the Men’s Store at Bloomingdale’s.
2. Try a cardigan
If your office dress code affords you a little bit more latitude, use it to try out a mood-lifting color on a particularly grey day. Choose a cardigan in a warm but layering-friendly merino wool in a color that contrasts with the suit. For extra warmth, you can leave the cardigan buttoned higher than the top button on your jacket. That achieves a look that mimics a three-piece suit, but is a lot more functional if your primary goal is to keep warm. To try the look, pair Theory’s slim-fit navy suit with a lighter-colored cardigan, like Ralph Lauren’s classic cashmere cardigan.
3. Consider a sweater vest
We know that the sweater vest may not be the most popular article of clothing among style-conscious guys. But choosing a sweater vest over a sweater can be a great way to add an extra layer of warmth while preserving your freedom of movement, particularly if the sleeves of your jacket aren’t wide enough to accommodate another layer on top of your dress shirt. Go with a v-neck sweater vest that mimics the look of the v-neck cardigan in a muted tone. For a stylish take on the look, wear Ralph Lauren’s houndstooth wool suit with Incotex’s navy blue knitted waistcoat.
4. Go with a turtleneck
While it’s not the most conventional of looks for American men — and probably shouldn’t be worn at the most conservative offices — pairing a turtleneck sweater with a suit is an excellent way to keep warm on a casual Friday or a night out with friends. Keep everything neutral when it comes to colors; a few of our favorites are a black turtleneck with a grey suit and a grey turtleneck with a navy suit. Pair Ted Baker’s trim-fit check suit with with Peter Millar’s merino wool turtleneck for a classic take on the look.