You may have heard of smart casual and aren’t sure of how to pull it off. Learn how to perfect the smart casual dress code.
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Table of contents
What’s smart casual?
The smart casual dress code lies between casual and business attire. It’s appealing because you can combine pieces of clothing that are in style, so you look and feel good about what you’re wearing. You’ll also be able to wear more colors than normal business attire.
Related: How to wear a suit jacket with jeans
It originated in the early 1920s and was first mentioned in the Iowa newspaper The Davenport Democrat And Leader, May 1924.
Although it’s more relaxed than business attire, don’t make the mistake of mixing different formalities, such as wearing sweatpants with a blazer.
Aside from mixing clothes, you need to be careful with your level of formality. Generally speaking, t-shirts and hoodies are too casual, while suits are too formal.
With the smart casual dress code, t-shirts should be worn underneath a jacket, instead of being worn on its own. If you decide to wear a t-shirt, wear one that’s a neutral color and without wrinkles.
neat, conventional, yet relatively informal in style, especially as worn to conform to a particular dress code.Oxford Dictionary
The goal is to find the perfect middle ground that makes you look great and feel confident.
Smart casual vs. business casual
It’s common to mistaken one for the other. That’s why making sure the dress code is smart casual instead of business casual is important.
Business casual says no to jeans and sneakers, while smart casual, welcomes them. Smart casual includes casual button-ups and chinos, while business casual mainly sticks to dress shirts and trousers.
Related: How to wear chinos
If you’re ever in doubt, it’s better to dress up than to dress down.
When to wear smart casual
If you have a casual occasion, wear smart casual because it’ll make you stand out in a good way. The goal is to look dapper and presentable without being too formal.
It’s the perfect blend of casual and formal. You can wear smart casual attire to the following occasions:
- Work, if permitted.
- Dinner plans.
- Business meeting.
- A wedding.
- Work functions.
- Weekend events.
What to wear
Buy clothes that fit and if you can’t find the right size, get your clothes tailored. The right fit will make you look incredible and give you confidence.
If you wear clothes that are too tight or loose, you won’t look good, and it’ll ruin your outfit. Smart casual is all about neat and well-fitting clothes. Focus on how something fits more than the brand or cost.
The following items are excellent choices for the smart casual dress code:
Your jeans should be well-fitting and in good condition. Dark jeans will give you a more formal look, while lighter jeans are more casual.
If you want the perfect pants for any occasion, chinos are it. Chinos are a step above jeans and look incredible with sneakers or dress shoes.
Any collared shirt is a great choice. During the colder seasons, wear a long-sleeve button-up and look for shirts made of wool. When it’s warm, wear a short-sleeve button-up or a polo shirt.
During the fall and winter, sweaters are functional and comfortable. When you’re wearing a sweater, solid and neutral colors look best.
- Vince Cashmere Sweater (Left)
- Nordstrom Merino Wool Turtleneck Sweater (Middle)
- Rails Arwen Crewneck Sweater (Right)
Blazers or Sport Coats
Blazers and sport coats will immediately elevate your outfit. If you want to look more formal than casual, wearing one of these jackets on top of a button-up is a great choice.
If you want to look more casual, wear a denim or chore jacket. A leather jacket with an oxford shirt looks great, too.
Coats are great for colder weather and will make you look more elegant. Neutral colors or subtle textures will look best.
Sneakers are great for smart casual. However, make sure you wear dress sneakers instead of athletic sneakers.
Derby shoes are perfect for attaining a more classy look. They pair well with chinos and a button-up.
Slip-on shoes are comfortable and easy to put on and take off. Leather and suede are great options for slip-on shoes.
Boots are perfect for colder weather, and a sleek pair will give you a polished look. Lace-up boots are more casual, while leather Chelsea boots are more formal.
A nice watch is the perfect finishing touch. Depending on what you’re wearing, make sure your watch matches your belt and shoes.
Bracelets are great accessories that can complement your watch. Wear your bracelet on the opposite side of your watch.
- Caputo & Co. Metal Cuff (Left)
- David Yurman Cuff Bracelet (Middle)
- David Yurman Chain Bracelet (Right)
Nothing says cool more than a nice pair of sunglasses. Not only will they protect your eyes, but sunglasses can also make you look more confident.
Celebrities wearing smart casual outfits
The following are several celebrities who have nailed the smart casual look:
Frequently asked questions
With there being so many clothing combinations, there are different levels. An unconstructed blazer will look more formal than a t-shirt with a bomber jacket. If you just got a new job that requires smart casual attire, look at how other people are dressing to get an idea of how you should dress.
Yes, different patterns and textures are acceptable as long as they’re in good condition. In fact, patterns and textures are a great way to make your outfit look more interesting.
Smart casual dress codes allow you to wear more colors than business or formal attire. However, the goal is to look in-style and put-together, which means you don’t want to go overboard. Rather, wear neutral colors when you can because they’re versatile and pair well with each other.
Black jeans are smart casual when they’re in good condition without any distressing. It works because they can look more like trousers or chinos.
No, smart casual attire doesn’t require a jacket. However, jackets and coats are great ways to elevate your formality.
The goal of the smart casual dress code is to wear neat, well-fitting, and high-quality clothes that are in-style. It’s more formal than casual but less formal than business casual. Aside from work, it’s a great way to dress if you can’t decide what to wear.
Featured photo courtesy of Unsplash.