The Incredible Lightness of Layering

May 2, 2022

7/12 2:04:41 UTC

Outdoor athletes have developed a “system of dress” that layers clothing of various weights and capabilities to address relevant conditions, including temperature, exertion, and precipitation. Traditionally, this involves three layers: A base layer for core warmth, a middle layer for insulation, and a top shell that’s either waterproof, windproof, or both. Athletes use lighter base and middle layers for warmer weather or higher-exertion activities. If the rain stops, you can take off your shell. Et cetera.

But this approach to layering often falls short in our everyday lives. Rather than dress for some fantasized peak experience, we want to dress so that every day can be a peak experience. This means being prepared for a wider range of eventualities, like going from a frigid bike ride to a warm bar, or from a long, energetic walk to an over-air-conditioned boardroom. So in addition to insulative and protective properties, our layering systems combine technical and streetwear elements.

Wearing our high-performance windbreaker under our black denim jacket, for example, will let you modulate your body temp without compromising your style, regardless of whether it’s sport or social. A base layer isn’t always practical or flattering, so we often use a windbreaker for insulation. Using a windbreaker this way requires a silky, soft hand-feel, along with under-arm mesh vents in lieu of the breathability you might find in merino or nylon. A windbreaker isn’t a conventional choice, but it is more versatile and even radical — it’s a vastly underleveraged element in a wardrobe. Why not have jackets that can be worn for snowboarding, cycling, and also on a date?

We’ve been frustrated by excessive specialization in insulation and shells. You can’t reduce your carbon footprint without cutting down on your production; a shell that only works for ice climbing creates needless waste. We’ve set out to design the most multifunctional clothing system possible. Through modularity, flexibility, and style you should need very few pieces to be prepared for every eventuality, from bike to boardroom to backcountry to bar.

Challenge: Add Your Layers

Early in the product development process, we shared what we called “layering ethnographies” to understand how we layer for maximum effect, function, and form.

Now, show us how you layer. Add to our layering "Add yours" story on Instagram with a breakdown of your go-to layering tactics. Tag us, @EarlyMajority, and use the hashtag #LeanOut.

DM us your address and we’ll send you a FREE sticker pack!
Sharing your layers also means you may be selected to participate in an all-expense-paid product testing trip with us. Recent destinations have included Porto and Paris, and future destinations will include the French Alps and the Caribbean! Participants will be chosen on a rolling basis and at our discretion.