How to layer like Balenciaga
Ever since Lord Byron threw his billowing cloak over a silk waistcoat and button-up combo way back in 1816, layering has been a cornerstone of good style for fashion-forward gentlemen. Nowadays, layering is one of the most versatile techniques in the modern man’s arsenal: it can be a quiet way to show off your command of clothing combinations (by sticking to neutral colours and timeless shapes), or a very loud way to demonstrate your dandyish demeanour (by mixing colours, patterns, and cuts).
Over the course of Paris fashion week, Demna Gvasalia – the virtuosic creative director of both Balenciaga and Vetements (which, tellingly, placed at no. 2 and 3 respectively on Lyst’s hottest brands of 2017), and initiator of the global trend for ‘dadcore’ clothing – gave us a masterclass in layering. His AW18 collection for Balenciage was a tour de force, spanning almost every garment that one could conceivably wear on one’s top half. Some of the looks were so bulky as to be almost hyperbolic, eliciting throwbacks to Joey Tribbiani’s decidedly unstylish ensemble in ‘The One Where No One’s Ready.’ But nonetheless Demna’s collection felt fresh and elegant. This is very indicative of what the Georgian designer has done for Balenciaga and Vetements: taken ugly 90’s trends and made them cool and contemporary again.
But don’t be fooled into thinking Joey’s wear-everything-at-once mantra can be applied to your daily wardrobe! On the contrary, successful layering requires a good degree of sartorial skill. We’ve paid close attention to Demna’s layered-up looks for Balenciaga to see what lessons we can take away from the collection. And although the collection was intended for Autumn/Winter, we see no reason not to up our layering game in time for Spring, when erratic weather means it’s a sensible idea to have lots of layers ready to pull on and off. So here it is, how to layer like Balenciaga.
The tee/shirt/jacket combo is the Little Black Dress of layering: an all-time classic and supremely easy to pull off. A plain white t-shirt is a go-to underlayer for almost any outfit (Sunspel offers the best quality/price ratio), but we suggest mimicking the Balenciaga look by opting for a distressed band tee instead. Mix with a dark check pattern, like this rusty shirt from Acne (£350), and throw a leather jacket on top. A sturdy biker jacket is a must for every man’s wardrobe, but also consider experimenting with boxier silhouettes, such as this blouson from Hugo Boss (£525), and softer fabrications, like this bomber by Officine Generale (£870).
Denim and flannel are the signature fabrics of truckers and lumberjacks the world over. And with good reason: these durable workwear textiles are perfect for protecting their wearer against the elements (and bits of falling tree). The 47th look in Balenciaga’s collection proves that they can also be reappropriated in a fashionable context, when worn with confidence. Levi’s trucker jacket (£85) comes in a range of washes to match any flannel shirt.
There are two lessons to be taken from this look. Make sure you’re in control of both you’re a) colours and b) collars. This outfit works its way down colour gradients – from black to grey, or from red to burnt orange, sandwiching a different colour between two similar shades (i.e. red between grey and black. The layering of turned-up collars at the top adds a touch of sartorial drama, and serves as a reminder to think about how your collars will look stacked on top of one another. This doubled-up shirt from Comme des Garcons (£395) is a shortcut to a unique neckline, and would work nicely with this grey suede Harrington (£3,550). Consider also the often overlooked and collarless grandad shirt (£110).
The power of the trusty hoodie is aptly demonstrated by this look, especially as it comes in unusual colour (extremely on-trend frozen yellow). A hoodie is also useful for covering up garments – allowing a hidden layer to poke out underneath, as with the blue check shirt in this example. A well-placed hoodie is a great way to build up a thoughtful and attention-grabbing structure of layers, rather than thinking solely in terms of vertical hemlines. A hoodie is also a loungewear essential, so it’s worth investing in one that you can wear both indoors and out, such as this printed yellow number from off-white (£410).
In that same way that the checked shirt adds a pop of blue at the bottom of look 58, so the turtle neck introduces a flash of colour to this ensemble. It’s little touches like this that can make or break an outfit. Similarly, creative use is made of accessories: the fanny pack cuts neatly across the centre of the outfit, acting as a kind of externalised waistband. There is also judicious application of quilting – which you can imitate by wearing a luxe gilet (£500) over a striped roll-neck (£460).
Bonus tip: Only for the brave…
One of the more striking things about the collection was the unconventional mixing of layers, such that rather than garments ascending from smaller underlayers to larger outerwear, we could see long-line raincoats draping down below medium-sized jackets. All sorts of length ratios are at play in look 68. It would be interesting to emulate this by wearing a big fleecy jacket (£520) over a lightweight mac (£350) – but only consider this if you’re feeling brave!
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