What is the Smart Casual style?
Smart casual wear is an ambiguous style. Its definition and meaning will vary based on the season, location, and the people that you’ll be meeting. It can thus be complicated for men to know exactly how to dress smart casual appropriately.
In general, smart casual means neat chinos or a pair of dark-colored jeans with a shirt, a blazer, and a pair of leather shoes. Your outfit should be well-fitting but slightly less formal than a business casual or business professional style.
Do’s and Don’ts of Smart Casual
While the specifics of men’s smart casual wear can vary from place to place and culture to culture, a few things remain constant. Here are some general “do’s” and don’ts” when it comes to smart casual wear:
- Do wear a tailored blazer that’s made of lightweight materials (cotton, linen) during warmer seasons and heavier materials (wool) during colder seasons.
- Don’t wear a windbreaker or any other type of athletic coat or jacket.
- Do wear a dress shirt or tight-fitting sweater.
- Don’t wear a sweatshirt or hoodie.
- Do feel free to wear a clean, neutral, tight-fitting, premium t-shirt.
- Don’t wear a visibly casual t-shirt of inferior quality or loud colour.
- Do wear khakis, chinos or a nice pair of denim.
- Don’t wear sweatpants or running pants.
- Don’t wear cargo shorts, board shorts, swim trunks, loose-fitting shorts or outwardly athletic shorts.
- Do wear comfortable, but still fashionable shoes like Oxfords, brogues, boat shoes, moccasins or even slip-on sneakers that are high in quality and neutral in colour.
- Don’t wear athletic sneakers, trainers or flip-flops.
- Do aim for neutral colours and stylish patterns, making sure everything matches.
- Don’t wear loud, flashy colours and patterns unless it’s intrinsically part of your personal style.
Smart Casual Clothing Ideas, Tips & Suggestions
As with so many dress codes, smart casual attire falls somewhere between personal expression and societal convention. Hence, we’re not going to tell you how to be you. What we can do is provide a more intensive breakdown of smart casual norms so that you stay within a given framework. Here are some men’s smart casual mainstays that will never steer you wrong:
Men’s Smart Casual Blazers
When it comes to the game of smart casual attire, men consistently and wisely put a quality blazer in their starting lineup. The men’s blazer employs a broader variety of fabrics, patterns and colors.
When wearing a blazer as part of your smart casual get-up, you want to make sure it doesn’t scream black tie. In other words, seek out a stylish blazer that blends with the outfit and exhibits a little–but not too much–personality on its own. After all, you want your blazer to be a piece of the whole, not the whole unto itself.
Accordingly, you should pair the blazer with a nice pair of chinos or jeans. And if you’re just not feeling the blazer, you might consider a suit jacket or cardigan instead. You might also layer a collared shirt under a wool sweater, though make sure both are really sharp to avoid steering too close to the casual arena.
Men’s Smart Casual Shirts and T-Shirts
If you’re going with a smart casual long-sleeve shirt, a collared button down is always a safe choice. Naturally, you should avoid bright colors and loud patterns. Instead, opt for a sophisticated print, classic pattern, or monochromatic color scheme.
While a slim fit or tailored fit seems like a smart casual no-brainer, you actually have some room to play depending on the material, permitted you to tuck a longer shirt into your waistline. You definitely don’t want a look that’s too bulky or baggy. Likewise, a nice sweater can work, but make sure it’s made of a prime material like merino wool or cashmere, and that it doesn’t hang too loosely from your body.
Men’s Smart Casual Trousers, Jeans and Chinos
The beauty of men’s smart casual wear is that it allows you a tier of flexibility or wiggle room. In that regard, you can go with trousers, jeans or chinos and not lose your stylish stride. Again, you want to make sure your pants match the rest of your outfit. And remember, fit is key. You might even consider getting those chinos tailored. At the very least, make sure the hem line stops just above your shoes.
Men’s Smart Casual Shoes
As with smart casual shirts or pants, you’re free to mix things up in the shoe department. You can go with something directly dressy like an Oxford or loafer, or opt for footwear that’s a little breezier. Should you choose the latter, you want to avoid overly athletic sneakers. Instead, rock a clean pair of minimal sneakers.
Men’s Smart Casual Accessories
If you’re a man of style and taste, then you should view the smart casual dress code as a perfect opportunity to accessorize. And while a nice leather belt is more or less mandatory, everything else is up to you.
In general, you want accessories that accentuate your personal style without veering too far in the direction or either formal wear or street style. In other words, a nice watch, ring, bracelet, pair of killer shades, sharp hat or even pocket square can be the perfect closer on your smart-casual get-up.