The smart casual dress code for men is hugely popular as it allows men to dress up casually and still portray a neat style. But there is always a concern about getting it wrong. This blog will be the most comprehensive guide answering the question of the day, “What is smart casual dress code?” Read on to know the meaning, style essentials, tips, and outfit ideas in this dressing style.
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What Is Smart Casual Dress Code?
The term Smart Casual was first used in the context of menswear in the 1950s. It basically meant men’s suit that is a step down from the formal workwear suit. Wearing a smart casual suit meant that you could rock the look on multiple occasions, which gave a break from the inhibition for wearing a suit only at work.
The contemporary smart casual style originated in the 1980s. It means a style that is a moderate course between street style and formal style. Smart casual essentials are meant to be highly versatile, classic, and well fitted.
The essence of smart casual style is to dress sharp while staying comfortable. The clothing essentials in the smart casual dress code are not baggy, but they offer flexibility so that you can assert your personal style without restraint. This is probably the reason behind the popularity of the smart casual style among men. Self expression is always on point when you are dressed in a relaxed way.
Smart casual outfits vary according to the occasion. You may want to keep comfort as a priority in some instances or sharp dressing in others. Therefore, it is essential to build a men’s capsule wardrobe that has the basic items that will help you dress smartly. You can mix and match staples and accessorize according to the occasion.
Smart Casual Style Essentials for Men
The foundation staples for a smart casual outfit are made with comfortable premium fabrics and cuts that allow a better fit. These articles are intended to let you enjoy a certain level of nonchalance without compromising on looking presentable. Unlike the business formal dress code with suit buttoning rules and accessories like a tie or bow, you can even leave the top shirt buttons open.
Let’s take a look at what you must have in your closet to make sure you are all set to dress in the smart casual style. You can also refer to our men’s style guide for the list of clothing essentials you can opt for.
Shirts form the base layer of a smart casual outfit, and you win half the battle by choosing them right. The following options come under the smart casual standard.
The classic white oxford shirt is the most versatile type of shirt that will form a no fail base of most smart casual outfits for men. It is made with a thicker fabric and features a button down collar. You can keep a few oxford button downs in neutral and dark shades like white, cream, navy blue, and black.
Office shirts give a very refined touch to your overall look. The collared shirt is definitely the appropriate choice for men who need to dress smartly at work. We suggest making a pale blue and a grey herringbone texture shirt a part of your wardrobe.
The plain weave shirts in a light material, chambray shirts have a class of their own. They can build some irresistible smart casual ensembles for men, so it is wise to keep one in your wardrobe.
There are several men’s flannel outfit ideas that fall under the smart casual dress code. Stay in the neater spectrum by going for small plaid patterns and muted shades like black, grey, navy, green, and deep red. It’s better to stay away from wide checks and bold colors on flannel shirts.
Light colored and breezy linen shirts are vital for the comfort and style you need for this dress code.
Mandarin Collar Shirt
Another type of shirt to opt for is the mandarin shirt which has a round uplifted collar that gives off a stylish appeal.
For men who choose to dress smartly, the henley shirts are a must have. They look good on everyone with their casual yet dressy style.
Neat and stylish t-shirts are the basis of smart casual outfits in men’s summer fashion. Here are the different types that you can go for.
A black and white striped t-shirt allows you to show a smartly dressed appearance.
Polo shirts are a perfect balance of dressy and comfortable. Its pointed collars elevate your look in a stylish way, while the woven fabric helps you stay relaxed on a hot summer day. Wear it in a dark color with indigo jeans, or layer it under a sweatshirt for a classy look.
Well fitted crewneck t-shirts offer a boost of versatility in your smart casual wardrobe. Keep one in white and a few in solid dark colors to make smart casual outfit creation a breeze.
Jeans are acceptable in the smart casual style, but only if they are not distressed and faded. A dark pair of jeans in a slim fit style is your best bet for a neat look. You can even rock proper jeans at work if your workplace has a smart casual dress code.
You can also keep one white and one black pair of jeans in your wardrobe to expand outfit choices. The embodiment of versatility, jeans will make you feel easy and can be paired with almost all types of shirts and jackets.
Besides jeans, get a few chinos, and dress pants for your outfits. Charcoal grey, beige, light grey, and brown colors are the colors we suggest. Khakis in slim fit and straight fit style are best suited for the smart casual style, and you can see that in many of our men’s khaki pants outfit ideas.
Although you do have some leeway to be casual, don’t go for wide legged trousers and pants as they might look too laid back.
You could do away with tailored cotton shorts and chino shorts to rock the smart casual attire. However, don’t go for anything below the knee, cargo shorts, and sports style shorts. Check these amazing men’s shorts outfit ideas for an unbeatable smart look.
Jackets make your smart casual outfit more interesting. If you want to opt for leather jackets, go with the minimal cafe racer style or a shirt collar bomber jacket. Check our bomber jacket guide for a generous dose of styling ideas. Trench coats, too, are acceptable for outfits in this style, and so are neutral colored cardigans.
Jacket Shirts (Shakets)
When the weather is too hot to wear a jacket but cool enough for thicker fabric, try wearing a jacket shirt instead of your dress shirt and/or jacket. It gives the perfect lightweight layering as it is made with sturdy material like twill or polyurethane.
Like the plaid shirt represents the rugged look, blazers symbolize the smart casual style. Simply put, a blazer can be swapped with a casual fleece jacket or hoodie to bring up the dressy look. Or, swap it with a suit jacket to bring down the level of formality. Add a classic navy blazer to your well fitted shirts and pants outfit to get the stamp of smart casual.
Cotton linen and wool-silk blends are the perfect fabric for a smart casual blazer.
To nail the elegant casual look, shoes are your most powerful weapon. To know which shoes and sneakers are appropriate for the smart casual look, pay attention to matching them with your outfit. For instance, derbies are not a good fit with a chambray shirt and shorts outfit.
Chelsea boots, converse shoes, white sneakers, and loafers are the footwear choice for an outfit that leans towards a more casual look, and oxfords, derbies, and desert boots are a good fit for more formal ones.
You can opt for a pocket square to bring some color to an otherwise muted smart casual outfit. A belt is also a vital accessory, given you match it with your shoes. Classy shades are very important for your daytime looks, but it is easy to go wrong with them. Opt for the wayfarer, clubmaster, or aviator style sunglasses to be on the smarter style spectrum.
A nice watch maybe just an accessory on your wrist, but it adds a whole different feel to your look. Keep at least two dress watches in your wardrobe, one with a leather strap and one with a metallic strap.
Tips for Getting the Smart Attire Right
- Iron your clothes to add to that sharp dressed feeling.
- Make sure you wear polished shoes.
- Well groomed facial hair and a suitable hairstyle is the key behind the smart casual look.
- Make sure you dress according to the occasion. If you are attending a wedding with a smart casual dress code, your attire would be different than the one you would wear to after work socializing.
- Invest in a few staples of premium quality rather than stuffing your wardrobe with useless, mediocre clothing. A high quality oxford shirt will last in your wardrobe way longer and give you enough mileage to pair with several outfits.
- Neutral colored clothing is your best bet. Avoid colors that look too vibrant as muted colors portray the smart casual style in the best manner.
- Going monochrome is also a popular way of getting dressed in a smart casual style. All black outfits for men are the smartest way to look dapper. You can build an all black outfit with a t-shirt, trench coat, and black jeans.
- Dressing up in the smart casual dress code can be compared to solving a jigsaw. You begin by putting together a casual outfit (a white t-shirt and jeans, for instead) and add a dressier piece to complete the look (like a blazer). Or, you can swap a casual essential with a smarter one, like trading your sneakers for Chelseas or trousers with chinos.
- Opt for smooth fabrics instead of rough ones. Go for worsted wool, suede, chambray, or cotton linen. Avoid flannels, tweed, or corduroy.
- Well fitted clothing is your answer to nailing the smart casual style.
Formal Smart Casual and Informal Smart Casual
The smart casual dress code is a vast style that includes outfits in formal and informal styles. To help you understand this concept, we will give you a sample outfit for both.
Formal Smart Casual Look
A white oxford button down paired with grey slim fit pants forms the base of a work appropriate ensemble. Layer a navy blazer over it and add brown double monk straps to the look. Accessorize the look with black aviator style shades, a pocket square, and a silver watch. For more scoop on the navy blazer styling, jump over to our guide on navy blazer outfits for men.
You can rock this look at a wedding or a business meeting.
Informal Smart Casual Look
Pair a grey turtleneck with blue jeans and layer the outfit with a leather jacket shirt. Brown Chelsea boots will be the spot on footwear for this informal yet neat look.
Some More Smart Casual Outfit Inspirations
Here are some inspirations for smart attire which give a ticket to a refined yet casual masculine style. All of these looks are put together using versatile pieces that can be used in a variety of ways. The right use of accessories also elevates the look.
The Off-Duty Look with a Black Polo Shirt, Grey Trousers, and Loafers
All Black Ensemble with a Black Crewneck Sweater, Jeans, and Laced Boots
Styling a Grey Blazer with a Black T-shirt and Jeans
Wearing a Sweater Over a White Oxford and Blue Jeans
In Comparison: Smart Casual vs Business Casual for Men
Business casual for men is a term that most people use interchangeably with the smart casual dress code. Although one may get confused by reading both of their definitions over the internet, they both are different. The first difference between the two dress codes is that business casual is a determinate style with limited essentials.
A business casual attire may be created using neutral colored khakis, chinos, collared shirts, and blazers. The options for shoes are limited to formal ones like brogues and derbies.
In comparison, smart casual attire doesn’t confine itself to the few basics. It is a vast dress code that includes casual staples like t-shirts and jeans in a well fitted form. Smart casual can be termed as a leeway from business casual for men that skews towards nonchalance.
In Comparison Smart Casual vs Informal Dress Code for Men
To be concise, the informal or casual style for men includes clothing items that give a very laid back appearance. It doesn’t put a constraint over fits and colors like we need to adopt in the smart casual dress code. In the informal dress for men, you can dress up in street style looks using fashionable jackets, trendy accessories, and bright colors and patterns, which are totally avoided in the smart casual dress code.
Is Smart Casual Appropriate for Work?
Smart casual attire is appropriate for workplaces that allow a margin of casualness with a neat, well dressed appearance. If you are in doubt about dressing up at a new workplace, observe what the employees are wearing and refer to the official dressing guidelines.
Are Polo Shirts Smart Casual?
Yes, polo shirts are a vital essential for a smart casual wardrobe for men. They look smart and feel comfortable to wear, making them a great option for the after-work meetups and night out with friends.
Are Jeans Smart Casual?
Jeans are a fundamental smart casual staple, but you need to consider a few things before selecting one for yourself. Go for dark washed jeans without any fancy details or rips. Keeping your jeans style simple and well fitted is the key behind a neat, polished look.
Are Sneakers Smart Casual?
Minimal sneakers are acceptable to wear with your smart attire. Avoid going for chunky ones with flashy logos or a pair that is too worn down to be called smart. Converse sneakers and black low top sneakers are the best options for the smart casual style.
Are Hoodies Smart Casual?
It is better not to wear pullovers or zipped hoodies if you need to dress smartly. They are among the category of garments that best suit the laid back or street style.
We have laid down the smart casual dress code basics, which are enough to push the peddle of this relaxed yet neat dressing style for you. By wearing fine quality clothing that falls under the casual category, you will blur the line between informal and formal styles. Apart from explaining what is smart casual dress code, we have suggested outfits that will help you stay relaxed and confident.