What is the three layer principle?

Over the last week or so we have had some strange weather here in the Midlands. We’ve had it all from blazing sunshine to ice-cold wintery winds, including snow in some places. With this in mind, we have decided to discuss the principles of layering workwear for efficiency.

Wearing too many clothes or a layer that is too thick may restrict your movement. To achieve the best levels of comfort and protection you have to wear the right layers. Wearing multiple thinner layers, instead of one thick layer, will also allow you to adapt easier to the conditions.

Here we briefly explain the three layer principle, which is a clothing system made up of three different types of garment layers.


This is worn directly next to your skin. It should ideally be moisture-wicking to take away any perspiration that could cause heat loss and make you feel clammy or cold. Moisture-wicking fabrics should not be confused with breathable fabrics.

Moisture-wicking = physically removing liquid away from your skin. Clothes that retain moisture, (cotton t-shirts), keeps liquids closer to your skin which can make you cold.

Breathable fabric = allows moisture vapour to pass through and escape from your clothing.

However, both types work to keep you dry, but in different ways. Long sleeve and full leg base layers are the best option.


Mid-layers are worn over the top of base layers. Their role is to trap warm air between the layers to prevent heat loss, acting as a layer of insulation. This layer should be snug or else the warm air will escape each time you moved.

Items such as sweatshirts, fleeces and softshells make ideal mid-layers.


This is the layer that sits on the outside of all other layers of clothing. It will be referred to as ‘outwear’ or ‘shell’. Its job is to protect the other layers beneath, efficiently blocking sun, wind, water and other conditions. In some circumstances, this outer layer will also be used to block heat and flames.

This protective outer layer should ideally be lightweight for those who can remove this piece of clothing to be more comfortable, but only if protection is not compromised.

Outer layers can be jackets, coats or all in one coveralls to ensure full protection and comfort.

Why it’s important to use the layering principle?

Layering allows warm pockets of air to be trapped in between your clothing around your body, all the while pulling moisture away from your skin and still allowing you to breathe and not feel clammy. Layering items of clothing also allows you to adjust and be comfortable based on the activity level and changes in the weather.

No two people will react to the same conditions in the same way. This reinstates the importance of layering and the ability to be flexible and adaptable. Some people will be comfortable in all three-layer all day long, for others, they may only require a base layer. Neither is a sign of weakness or strength, just shows who we are all unique and need to recognise comfort as well as protection.

Our team is experienced in supporting large companies select a range of workwear to suit all conditions. Make sure you get in touch using the form below to find out more about our technical workwear and PPE.