Achieving a smart casual look can be harder than it seems, but this is our ultimate guide on how to nail the task.
At one end, we have a matching tracksuit set that you can wear all day long because it’s so comfortable. At the other, we have a full navy blue suit ideal for your next black-tie event. In between those extremities, there’s what in fashion is called smart casual.
It’s a perfect balance between elegance, comfort and casual style, and that might be the reason why some men find it so hard to understand. It’s neither too smart nor too casual: it’s right in the middle. One step in the wrong direction and you could end up over or under dressed.
So it’s just about right that you could make mistakes or get confused when trying to pull it off. But enough talking, let us guide you into the smart casual dress code!
What does smart casual mean?
First thing you have to understand is that letting go of your tie, putting on a pair of sneakers with your suit, or adding a blazer to your jeans does not mean smart casual. There are specific key elements that you should look for, as well certain materials.
That is to say, when trying to achieve a smart casual look, always opt for clothing with great fit and quality fabrics. Moreover, it’s not necessary to replace your entire wardrobe: a few versatile, statement pieces (with no too visible branding) will do the trick.
Your goal is to look sharp, put together and show that you made an effort, without the need to wear a three-piece suit. Smart casual means laid-back formal look: you should combine dressier clothes with casual elements to accomplish that perfect balance in between both ends.
Must-haves and outfit inspiration
Instead of a formal, rigid suit jacket, go for an unstructured blazer. A shoulder pad-less blazer with relaxed fit will provide you with the elegance of a traditional suit, but also an up-to-date, more casual style. Choose one made of lighter fabrics, in a versatile color, unlined and maybe even with patch pockets.
Other options for the colder seasons are bomber jackets and trench coats. They might be the definition of smart casual. If you’re bold, then why not throw a leather jacket to your look?
Opposite to what many men believe, sneakers are actually a big yes when it comes to smart casual style. Between sport sneakers and formal shoes, there’s a range of high-end sneakers that would look great with a pair of well-fitted pants, a shirt and an unstructured blazer. For example, a pair of black leather sneakers or bordeaux suede ones.
Another alternative, could be the classical Derby shoe, which remains an undefeated must-have for any wardrobe. It’s very easy to match and it falls right in the line between formal and everyday footwear. Moreover, you can never go wrong with traditional lace-up Chelsea and chukkas boots. Choose them in dark shades of leather, such as brown or black.
Regarding top pieces, the Oxford shirt can be a great choice for smart casual dressing. You can either tuck it in or not, that’s totally up to you. It is, indeed, a structured shirt, but the fabrics and silhouette make up for the casual side.
If you are having doubts about wearing jeans, then the occasion probably demands for chinos. They’re a signature piece on this type of dress code. Within the chinos category, you’ll be able to find plenty of shapes and styles. Our advice is to go for the one closer to your personal taste.
They usually come in very classic colors, like beige, brown, light grey, dark blue, olive green. All perfect choices for a timeless, versatile wardrobe. Aside from chinos, another good-to-go alternative are drawstring-waisted trousers.
Now, they might not be a great fit for all men, that really depends on your style. But if it is, then you’ll be on the hottest trend in smart casual clothing. Drawstring pants are comfortable as track trousers and sophisticated as tailored pants. Picture it with a pair of high-end leather sneakers, a graphic t-shirt and a thin sweater just in case, and you have found yourself the perfect Spring office look. By the way, this is the ideal outfit to cope with the summer at the office.
Just a small comment here. If you’re trying to make a statement or stepping out of your comfort zone but you’re uncertain, remember that sometimes playing with textures can go a long way. Combining suede and mohair or leather and corduroy can be more impactful than combining shapes and fits. It’s a great way to showcase your personal style and nail the smart casual assignment.
In similar terms, if you’re worried about leaning too much on the smart end, try adding colorful elements to your outfit. A pop of bright color tends to accentuate the casualness of the look.
What to avoid
Although smart casual is in fact casual, there are a few clothing items you should definitely avoid. For example, anything related to sports wear 一like windbreakers, sweatshirts, hoodies, training sneakers, athletic pants or shorts一 goes on the “don’t” list.
When to wear smart casual
Probably the best thing about smart casual dressing is that it works for multiple occasions. Smart casual is a great style choice for a job interview, a dinner out with friends, or even a date. It allows you to look on point, without compromising your comfort or confidence.
Speaking of personal style, this dress code is a good opportunity to accessorize. Adding a watch, for example, counts as the smart side of the look and it adds that coveted touch of individuality. Here’s how to wear a men’s watch with style.
This was our ultimate guide on how to ace the smart casual dress code. Hopefully, we have inspired you enough to step out of your comfort zone and upgrade your styling game.