More workplaces are embracing a smart casual dress code. A growing number of wedding couples are also asking guests to dress smart casual. And there are some events and venues that ask guests to dress smart casual. But what exactly is smart casual?
Well, there are no real fixed rules. However, most people would agree that it’s smarter than a t-shirt with sweatpants but less smart than a suit. In most cases, it’s a combination of casual wear and business wear. Below are just a few tips for dressing smart casual as a man.
Wear the right jeans
Some people may view jeans as too casual, but in most cases jeans are absolutely acceptable in a smart casual setting – providing that you wear the right kind of jeans. Baggy lighter jeans are likely to be seen as too casual by most people. Instead you want to opt for black or dark blue slim-fitting jeans. Wear these with a fairly formal belt if you can. It’s worth trying on jeans when you buy them to get precisely the right fit – you want the jeans to look as tidy and neat as possible to give them that smart casual feel, as opposed to being purely casual.
Switch things up with chinos
Chinos are the perfect smart casual pants option. They’re less formal than suit trousers (which typically use a heavier fabric and have exterior sewn-on pockets), while being slightly more formal than jeans. Chinos come in all kinds of colors including bright reds, yellows, greens and blues if you’re feeling brave. When dressing for the workplace, you may want to stick to neutral colors like grey, beige and brown. Blue chinos are usually acceptable in most environments. Khaki chinos are the most versatile option – this guide at Style Girlfriend offers some great tips on how to wear khaki chinos.
Throw a blazer on
A blazer can be thrown over pretty much any casual t-shirt to create a smart casual look. Of course, if you’re dressing for work, you’re probably not going to want to wear a sports shirt or a band t-shirt under a blazer – in these cases, throw a blazer over a buttoned shirt or a plain neutral t-shirt. Blazers should never be worn over baggy shirts or untucked buttoned shirts as this will give it a messy dishevelled look. Blazers can be worn buttoned up for a more formal look or undone for a more casual look – in both cases, always undo the blazer while sitting down for a more relaxed look. Check out this guide for more tips on how to wear a blazer.
Explore smart casual shoes
It’s possible to wear almost all types of shoes in a smart casual setting, however more casual shoes like leather sneakers and more formal shoes like oxford shoes can be harder to pull off (more on that later!). In order to nail the smart casual look safely, you may want to stick to shoes that fit right into the smart casual category. Suede sneakers are on the more casual end of the spectrum, but great for most smart casual events. Derby shoes and loafers are a little more formal, while not being quite as formal as Oxford shoes. When it comes to boots, consider the likes of these Alden boots. Brown leather tones are typically less formal than black and will go well with most types of smart-casual pants.
Choose the right jumpers
Jumpers are ideal for winter occasions, however you need to take care as to which jumpers you choose. Thick knitted jumpers and hoodies tend to look a little too casual. Instead, you should opt for a slim-fitting sweater. Stick to darker neutral colors like grey, brown, black or navy blue to be safe. You can wear reds and greens, but you should ideally stick to darker tones. Crewnecks can work well over button shirts with the collar of the buttoned shirt sticking out over the top. Turtleneck sweaters are also a good option that can work well with a blazer for a more European look. You can also look into cardigans, which can be thrown over a buttoned shirt.
Pair a leather jacket with a shirt
Leather jackets can also be incorporated into a smart casual dress code for when you want to add a slightly more rugged edge. A leather jacket can be worn over a plain t-shirt, a buttoned shirt or even a turtleneck sweater. Both brown or black leather work well and you can get away with most styles of leather jacket (although you may want to avoid patches and studs in most cases).
Experiment with flannel shirts
Flannel shirts are a popular smart casual item. You can buy flannel shirts in all kinds of colors – those incorporating greys and navy blues are typically a safe option, but you can wear more brightly colored flannel shirts in many settings while still keeping them smart casual. To keep flannel shirts on the smarter side, make sure that they are a good fit and not too baggy. In work settings, you may want to keep them buttoned up to the collar, however in more leisurely settings you can undo a few buttons. The undone flannel shirt over a white t-shirt may be a little too casual and is best reserved for more casual events.
Try a polo shirt in summer
When it comes to dressing smart casual in summer, polo shirts typically work better than regular t-shirts. A polo shirt is best paired with chinos or smart casual jeans. You should try to opt for a slim fitting polo shirt as a baggy look can look a little too casual. Polo shirts are available in all kinds of colors. Neutral colors are a safe option – a bright pink polo is more of a casual statement option, but is possible to pull off with more formal trousers and shoes. Avoid polo shirts that have large logos on.
Try the sneakers, crewneck and suit combo
Sneakers and a suit are on two opposite ends of the spectrum – one is strictly casual, while the other is strictly formal. But believe it or not, you can blend the two. It’s a hard look to pull off and is probably best reserved for those who like to make a statement with their outfit. Firstly you’ll want to choose a timeless pair of sneakers and keep them clean – dirty dad sneakers will not work. Think classic sneakers like Converse All Stars or Adidas Sambas. When opting for a suit, look for something on the more casual end. Something a bit more brightly colored and less heavy will stop your outfit looking too formal. You could even simply opt for a blazer and chinos of the same tone for the illusion of a smart casual suit. Finally, instead of wearing a buttoned shirt below the suit jacket/blazer, consider a crewneck t-shirt. Opt for a plain black, white or grey t-shirt to avoid the outfit coming across too casual. Voila!
Try the Oxford shoes, chinos and open-collar shirt combo
Are Oxford shoes too formal for a smart casual outfit? No – but you need to pair them with the right clothes. Oxford shoes and jeans can clash. You’re better off pairing Oxford shoes with a pair of neutral colored chinos. This look can be completed with a buttoned shirt, however you may want to keep the top couple buttons undone to keep things semi-casual. This look can work well at summer weddings and other smart-casual leisure events.
What do you think?