How To Wear The Smart Casual Dress Code For Men

Trying to figure out what the true definition of smart casual is can rapidly become a nightmare. It is defined as a neat, traditional, yet relatively relaxed style, especially when worn to comply with a specific dress code. However, smart casual is the dress code of choice these days.

How To Wear The Smart Casual Dress Code For Men

Smart casual is likely to go down in history as one of those expressions that will be remembered with disdain.

Thankfully, the current emergence of non-designer firms selling thoughtful, very wearable apparel has rendered the debate over what the term signifies obsolete. Because it’s actually rather sophisticated now – but in a pleasant way.

Everything fancier than a tracksuit but less dressy than a suit falls under the smart casual category. Thankfully, and considerably more informatively, a  blazer white shirt, crisp pants, and brown loafers are an ideal answer. However, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

If you desire, smart casual can simply become your everyday outfit. It’s designed to be stylish and sophisticated while also being comfy and adaptable to diverse environments. 

Let’s get one thing straight right away: smart casual does not have to be pricey. You don’t have to splurge on designer items and luxury products, but you may if you want to. You’ll see in this article that you can look terrific no matter what the occasion is with only a few well-chosen pieces.

To help you dress using the smart casual code, we have put together this guide to explain the style in more detail and give you a better idea of what sort of smart casual wear is best suited to your own individual tastes.

First, we’ll go over the different types of smart casual to aid you in catering your look to the type of event or your own personal preferences.

What Is Formal Smart Casual?

A coat or blazer, flannel shirts, needlecord pants, and chinos (no jeans), a shirt with a collar (not a T-shirt), and decent shoes define formal smart casual (the shoes don’t have to be lace-up shoes, but they shouldn’t be sandals or trainers).

What Is Informal Smart Casual?

Beyond approval of smart, clean, dark-colored jeans, a declaration that polo shirts are preferable to collarless T-shirts, and an admonition to adjust from what you’ve been wearing at home, the informal smart casual attire remains ambiguous.

However, while it may appear cryptic, this last concept is likely the best place to begin. Smart casual is difficult to define in part because it might signify very different things for different situations. It’s as much a mentality as it is a physical appearance.

The Differences Between Smart Casual And Casual Dress Codes

When it relates to the distinction between casual versus smart casual, the latter might be thought of as a step up. While casual wear is sometimes as simple as a combination of t-shirt and jeans, smart casual can include a collared polo instead of a basic tee or darker-wash denim.

Another contrast is that smart casual gives you a more polished appearance. Smart casual seems to have an aura of sophistication, and at the very minimum, some consideration behind your outfit, whereas casual might come across as sloppy or lazy (baggy pants, we’re looking at you).

Casual clothing, on the other hand, can be a terrific place to start when looking for the perfect smart casual outfit. Start with items from your everyday clothing, then add some more sophisticated pieces or a splash of colour.

This should lead you to an outfit that is a touch fancier than everyday wear while yet remaining comfortable and true to your personal style.

Smart Casual Dress Code History

The specific origins of smart casual are as elusive as its definition. T he term “is assumed to have emerged during the 1980s, however, it was in regular use during the current century.

The initial observed use of the phrase smart casual was in a 1924 Iowa newspaper (albeit it was in reference to sleeveless gowns).

Whatever the case may be, it’s safe to assume the smart casual and business casual are connected in some way, and both are frequently used interchangeably, despite the fact that they’re not the same: business casual is for work and smart casual isn’t.

But, many years ago, you didn’t just dress up for the office; you dressed up for everything. Smart casual has been the hastily created bulwark against utter sartorial disorder as conventional dress norms crumbled.

Smart casual denotes a period of transition among dressing up – that is, more professionally – and dressing informally with the ease and personality which increasing numbers of men seek.

The phrase also implies a feeling of unease amongst authorities – restaurant owners, event organisers – about how to deal with the transition, so they’ve settled on a middle ground: dress casually – however, don’t dress too casually. What’s the end result? Confusion abounds. 

How To Dress Smart Casual: Tips And Tricks

Here are a few pointers to get you started when it comes to smart casual attire:

1. Change Your Mindset

Smartness has less to do with the style of your attire and more to do with how it seems. A smart appearance requires polished shoes, pressed trousers, and an appropriate and well tied tie.

The key words here are polished, pressed, and appropriate – not shoes, pants, or ties. A wrinkled shirt, discoloured pants, and scuffed shoes can sometimes appear dressier than a spotless T-shirt, dark blue jeans, or box-fresh sneakers from a minimalist company like Uniform Standard.

How To Wear The Smart Casual Dress Code For Men

Mind you, the use of a T-shirt, dark blue jeans, and sneakers aren’t always appropriate. Smart casual, on the other hand, is more of a state of mind rather than a fixed formula or set of components. Simply because an occasion is informal does not imply that no effort has been made.

2. Play Around With Outfit Pieces

As we’ve seen, defining a smart casual attire is kind of hard. Start by wearing a casual ensemble and changing one or even two elements for smarter alternatives is a more useful and realistic strategy.

Consider a leather jacket, sneakers, t-shirt and jeans. Doesn’t that sound incredibly laid-back? 

Change any of your shirt or blazer and trousers, as well as your shoes. If you swap in two, you should be right on target. If you add three, it might be a little overboard and too formal, depending on the situation. 

3. Add Some Shade

To vary the informality of an ensemble, you don’t always need to replace elements. Darker colours are more classy, so dimming the lighting can help you look more put-together. Take a dark bomber, a white shirt, dark trousers, and white sneakers, for example.

Replace the green bomber with a blue one and stonewashed jeans to add some indigo. It suddenly feels more formal. An even better effect is noticeable if you replace a T-shirt with a charcoal or medium grey T-shirt and black or navy sneakers.

The individual styles are the same, yet the overall impact is vastly different. The opposite is also true: brightness is a toggle switch for smartening an outfit up.

4. Think About Textures

Texture is another (important) characteristic that influences a piece casualness or smartness. When you think of the smartest pieces in menswear, such as worsted woolen business suits or classy dinner coats, you’ll notice that they’re almost always smooth and shining.

If you replace the wool with a matte tweed or flannel, the item will feel different both figuratively and literally.

Given that smarter styles are generally sleek and streamlined, this will frequently make the clothing appear bigger, which then further contributes to the casual feel.

This concept is a simple guideline that can be used to dress down almost any piece, including knits, trousers, shirts, and even shoes.

5. Focus On Your Blazer

As previously stated, layering a jacket on a T-shirt, trousers, and sneakers is a simple way to achieve a smart casual look. A blazer including some texture, as previously indicated, will go nicely with jeans.

So will a jacket that is cut somewhat shorter and with narrower, more current lapels. Patchwork pockets – which appear to be sewn on – are also a great idea.

Finally, removing the padded shoulder designs and a canvas chest featured on sophisticated blazers will render them more relaxed and comfy. Instead of ripping your blazer, check for ‘unstructured’ pieces.

6. Utilize Those Buttons

T-shirts can be considered smart casual if it’s plain, showcases a good fit, and hasn’t been washed relentlessly. A polo, on the other hand, will instantly dress up a casual outfit.

It’s closer to a shirt because of the collar and buttons, but it’s still very athletic-looking. It was designed to be worn for polo, with the buttoned collar to keep it from flapping around.

That brings us to the shirts with a button-down style, which isn’t as stiff and rigid as a shirt with stiff collars and cuffs.

Fabrics like Oxford cotton and chambray, that are less sleek and lustrous, are also popular. There’s also the grandpa shirt to consider. The absence of a collar denotes a more relaxed attitude.

7. Apply Some Finery

Fine knitted style in a merino, cotton, or cashmere material can add a touch of refinement to thick, informal, and sporty garments.

A thick knit will obviously not have the same impact, but a cardigan rather than a jacket could look elegant if it doesn’t have a huge moose on the front.

A knit blazer falls somewhere in the middle. About roll necks: if they’re too thick, they’re too informal; if they’re too fine, they’re too formal.

8. Work Your Pants

Legwear is generally a stumbling block for smart casual outfits. Jeans are generally appropriate – and can be in a professional setting – as long as they are dark-colored.

However, there is always the possibility of failure. Then there are failsafe chinos, with an accent on the word “safe.”

In terms of a bomber jacket, jeans, t-shirt and sneakers outfit, replacing the jeans with tailored pants can seem not only sophisticated, but also stylish.

The casual trouser can be pulled off with a textured, non-shiny material. However, the majority of men prefer to wear chinos and jeans.

9. Get Your Footwear Right

Trainers, like jeans, are acceptable in a variety of casual contexts these days. Even the biggest fashion disaster may be saved with the correct shoes – the opposite is rarely true.

What distinguishes a formal shoe from a casual shoe? Most definitely color. Black appears the smartest, brown more informal, and tan is even more casual.

How To Wear The Smart Casual Dress Code For Men

A curved/almond toe, as well as a thick sole, are more informal than a pointed toe. And there’s the texture: rubber nubs and rough suede are more laid-back than glossy, gleaming leather.

Derbies, loafers, wingtips, chukkas and Chelsea boots or chukkas are good alternatives than office-appropriate Oxfords for these reasons. However, some types can be highly formal, while others might be very informal. So proceed with caution.

Many style manuals exclude trainers entirely, although that’s a bit outdated. Trainers are sometimes permissible – a traditional style like smart looking Converse or Adidas, or all white Common Projects is often recommended, and this is not incorrect. 

A more professional dark colour, on the other hand, is classier: it will grab eyes and it will reveal dirt less. Shiny, silky leather is more sophisticated than rough canvas, suede, and matte.

Knit trainers may look elegant if they’re dark, but they’re a bit too contemporary for some situations – and a stride away from genuine footwear. You should be catering your footwear to the event (as well as the rest of your outfit). 

Five Smart Casual Essentials

Here are the five essential clothes for smart casual situations that every man should have in his collection:

1. A Textured Blazer

How often can we extol the virtues of a blazer?  There’s no escaping the idea that slipping on a fitted jacket, also a staple of business casual, is the simplest way to achieve smart casual. So, ideally, acquire a blazer which can accomplish both.

The blazer looks better if it is composed of a slightly textured material than a typical blazer, which is somewhat shorter, and structured less rigidly to be considered smart casual. This also renders the procedure of putting your jacket on a lot less difficult.

2. The Blazer Bomber

A smart jacket is, without a doubt, the pinnacle of both formal and business smart casual attire. But how about when a fitted jacket, no matter how unstructured, is just too smart? The ‘blazer bomber’ is introduced.

The bomber jacket, however, should be a dark colour, and constructed with a rich and less glossy material than normal shiny nylon to satisfy inspection as smart casual – preferably in cotton or wool materials.

3. A Smart Shirt In Chambray

Oxford-style shirts look well in both business casual and elegant settings. Except they’d be at work – except if you work remotely, when you’re probably not going to get dressed whatsoever. Therefore, in the interest of variety, we recommend the chambray shirt for smart casual.

Despite the fact that chambray is not at all like denim, it has a similar appearance and can be found in a range of styles. In general, it will either casualize or posh up informal clothing – but not excessively.

4. Dark Colored Jeans Or Chinos

Chinos or ‘khakis’ are among the fundamental elements of the business casual attire, and could be expanded into a smart casual dress code, just like the polo shirt. Go for plain, black selvedge jeans with few bells and whistles.

5. Derbie Shoes

A pair of shoes which don’t cause you to feel like you’re heading to a lousy club is a more valuable contribution to the smart casual armoury.

Final Thoughts

A dress code which allows you to completely express yourself is the smart casual dress for men. While smart casual does necessitate a level of sophistication over casual attire, it is far from as formal as that of the business professional look.

You should make sure your clothes assist you in expressing your personality and what you would like to achieve. Hopefully, this article has helped you think about some of the smart casual looks you can put together for your next event.

Joseph Pais