While obviously not appropriate for each and every situation, there are plenty of benefits in becoming accustomed to a smart casual style. It is a style of dress that is often appropriate for any situation – you can go to a sporting event in the day without looking out of place and then head to bars and clubs afterwards without the need to get changed. As requirements loosen in the workplace, you can even maintain a professional approach and attitude with plenty of flexibility to do anything you want after work outside of anything that requires specialist attire like sports. There is a difference between dressing smart casual and doing it well, but the following 10 tips will help anyone to get it spot on every time.
1. Avoid Relaxed Fit and Baggy Clothing
As noted, smart casual should be capable of looking professional as and when required, and nothing quite undermines that kind of appearance like ill-fitting clothes. Obviously, you are much better off buying outfits in the right size in the first place and should avoid anything that hangs off you. At the same time, you should never go too far in the other direction – regular or slim fits work, but skinny jeans rarely form part of the ideal smart-casual wardrobe.
2. The Right Jeans have a Part to Play
Your smart casual attire will undoubtedly incorporate denim, but it is essential to stick to the right kinds to qualify as smart casual. There are so many options out there, from distressed denim to pre-ripped jeans, but neither have a place here. Darker is usually better, and you want to avoid any kind of effects that may be appropriate in some circumstances, but will not fit the bill in a general way. Consider whether your jeans would be appropriate for work – if the answer is no, they are not smart-casual.
3. Avoid Trainers
Trainers are nowhere near as bad as they used to be for the smart-casual look, and it is not uncommon to even see them paired with suits on occasion. However, our aim here is to be dressed appropriately for just about any situation, and the safe option is always a pair of shoes. The more versatile the shoe, the better. You do not want to get too smart with them, and they need to go equally well with a pair of trousers as a pair of jeans.
4. Don’t Overdo It
Your smart-casual wardrobe is not the time to make a statement. Indeed, the whole point is to blend seamlessly into any situation, and patterns and unorthodox materials can have the opposite effect to what you’re going for. You do not need to be plain but work towards a wardrobe where just about anything can pair with anything else.
5. Blazers Rarely Work with Jeans
The best option for blazers is to avoid them altogether. You would not wear a tuxedo jacket with a pair of jeans as it would completely negate the ‘casual’ element. Most blazers, while less formal, fall into the same category and while some jackets will work well, you need to be very selective. The safest option of all is to go with a jumper when it's cold.
6. Ties are Similar to Blazers
Once again, if you are unsure, ditch the tie. There are some designs out there that can work, but most will not, and they should be categorised alongside your blazer as things to avoid unless you have plenty of wardrobe options to choose from to make it work. Under no circumstances should you ever combine a blazer with a tie when you go for a smart-casual look, as they will take you completely out of the realm of casual.
7. T-Shirts are Only Ever Casual
This will be a somewhat controversial tip, but we are of the opinion that no t-shirt extends into the smart-casual category. Collars matter on shirts when you go for this look. Naturally, you don’t want a white shirt as you would wear to school, but go for something with buttons and an open neck and then proceed from there. If it comes down to it and you want the smart casual look, but your good shirts are all in the wash, then plain and black is about as good as it gets.
8. Clothing Quality is a Priority
Assuming you don’t wear a whole new wardrobe each season, you should buy your clothes for the long-term. Fast fashion has no place in the smart-casual wardrobe, as it wears out quickly and needs to be replaced. Most items that fall into this category are timeless, and you should plan to wear them for many years to come. Even if your tastes change, the item of clothing should still be good to go if you decide to pull it out.
9. If in Doubt, Err Towards Smart
Smart Casual attire provides plenty of scope for colours and styles. When you pick out a new item of clothing to add to your existing range, you should always lean towards smart. It is generally easier to pull off being overdressed than underdressed in the variety of situations this wardrobe was designed to see you through, so you should seek to build your wardrobe accordingly.
10. Consider the Overall Appearance
You can make your best efforts to fit in everywhere with your clothing choices, but don’t let yourself down with other aspects of your appearance. Ensure your shoes are clean, your belt fits well and that your hair and beard, where applicable, are groomed to suit the situation. With an unkempt beard, any efforts at appearing smart casual will be undermined completely, and you may as well have gone with the band t-shirt, ripped jeans and old trainers that would have been far more comfortable in the first place.