Smart casual is an oxymoron that most men could well do without:
What part of an outfit should stay formal, and what elements can be relaxed? Can we “pick and mix” colours, and what about fabrics?
Well, in an effort to help sort out the confusion, I present this simple guide to going ‘smart-casual’. Hopefully, you’ll be able to garner enough information from it to sort out your mixed-wardrobe dilemmas.
What is “smart casual”?
Firstly, we need to establish what is meant by the term. You’ll notice the order of the phrase is ‘smart casual’ and not ‘casual smart’; the reason being that the emphasis is squarely on the word ‘smart’. You still need to think about dressing up, remaining neat and above all else being well turned-out.
The ‘casual’ side of things refers to the detailing. In other word, you should be dressing smartly, but then taking things down a notch; not grabbing your beachwear and throwing on a pair of cufflinks!
How to make your outfit “smart casual”
Remove The Tie. Neckties are a symbol connoting business; by removing this office staple you’re softening the look, toning down that ‘corporate’ edge.
Consider fabrics. Another way to tone down and soften your formal look is by wearing lighter, less authoritarian fabrics. Linen and light cotton suits will feel fresher and appear more relaxed. Just make sure you know the difference between “natural creasing” and “crumpled mess”.
Loafers are your friends. Or, if you simply must, dress sandals. Loafers are perfect because they still have the dressy professionalism of a lace-up, but with the casual ‘slip-on’ flair of slippers.
Jackets aren’t optional. You still need a jacket when forming the ‘smart casual’ look, but you needn’t rely on suit jackets alone. A navy blazer or sports coat is perfectly acceptable when completing your ensemble.
It’s “Smart Casual” not “Smart Slothenly”. Keep your shirt tucked in, your shoes polished and your clothing ironed. Don’t look like you’ve arrived straight from an intense weekend on the couch watching television.
Keep black to a minimum. It’s a little too officious for ‘smart-casual’ events, so consider navy or a deep tan if you want something dark. If you’re attending a Summer event, why not try some lighter shades like beige, cream or grey.
What’s the occasion?
Don’t stray too far from the path at formal events like weddings. It’s better to go overdressed (and remove your tie and turn up your sleeves) than it is to turn up underdressed. Think shirt, trousers/pants, loafers and a matching jacket. Colours and fabrics are down to your personal preferences (not to mention what your hosts would consider acceptable).
It may be getting toward the end of the working week, but there’s still the final day to go! The typical ‘uniform’ is chinos, brown loafers and a long-sleeve shirt. It’s that classic, unfussy look; though feel free to have some fun with casual shirt designs and patterns.
Each club (golfing, sailing, et cetera) has its own dress code; be careful you don’t break the rules – you don’t want an embarrassing moment where the concierge pulls you aside for a quiet word.
Typically, all denim is barred, so slacks and chinos are the way to go. As you’ll probably be in a low-impact sporting environment, a polo shirt is ideal and can be practically de rigueur in some cases.
Out For Drinks with Colleagues
It’s that classic case of still being ‘work’ related, but in an arena outside the corporation and away from your desk. Think chinos (or smart jeans) with a semi-casual dress shirt. You may need a tie if you’re going to a ‘classy’ wine-bar, so keep one on standby. Whatever you do though, don’t try to outperform your superiors – now is not the occasion for impressing the boss; save that for the office!
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