Smart Casual Guide for Men
Thursday 16 September 2021
So the invite says ‘smart casual’ and you’re starting to panic. Don’t worry, we’re here to break down the dreaded ‘smart casual’ dress code for men. Once you’ve got some fundamentals under your Italian leather belt, it’s really not that hard.
What is a smart casual dress code?
So what is ‘smart casual’ for men? People have been trying to answer that question ever since the blazer was invented. Basically, there is no one official smart casual uniform, and that’s what makes it such a confusing dress code. A lot of things can be smart casual: slim-fit jeans, dress chinos, knit blazers, suiting separates, knits and vests, button-up shirts, even sneakers (if done right). The best unofficial definition is: anything smarter than a tracksuit, but less formal than a suit. As you can guess, that covers quite a bit. So let’s get more specific.
Smart Casual Blazers
Blazers are a great way to add some visual interest, and they’ve got ‘smart casual’ written all over them. If you find yourself getting invited to these events all the time, it might be worth investing in a blazer. Especially in summer, when overcoats aren’t really practical. The trick with blazers is to think of them, not as some invisible part of your outfit (like a suit jacket), but more like a statement piece. Try vibrant block colours, different fabrics, patterns, checks and textures. For ‘smart casual’ this season, we love a lightweight khaki jacket with matching chinos, white sneakers and a cream zip polo.shop now
Smart Casual Jackets
As a rule, most of the jackets in your wardrobe aren’t going to cut it for ‘smart casual’. Trucker jackets, puffy jackets, denim jackets and leather jackets—they’re all firmly on the ‘casual’ end of the spectrum. For ‘smart casual’ events, you need something longer, slimmer and sharper, which is why we usually recommend guys stick to blazers and coats. For spring or summer, this grey marl bomber with matching pants and a tonal polo shirt (neatly tucked). Bomber jackets wouldn’t usually be ‘smart casual’, but by sticking to the same tonal range, and keeping things neat and sharp, you can totally make it work. Finish things off with sockless loafers, or clean white sneakers.
Jeans are definitely ‘smart casual’, but they need to be the right jeans. Your daily denim probably isn’t going to work here. There should be no tears, rips or stains. The hems and cuffs should be razor sharp and clean. And the cut should be slim—not too skinny, but not straight and baggy either. You want something that will elongate the leg and create a nice silhouette. Dark indigo washes and black denim are the only two shades to worry about (save those light, stonewash jeans for the pub). As for your hem, ‘smart casual’ jeans should either be a neat stack (emphasis on neat), a tailored hem, or a firm double cuff.
Smart Casual Jumpers
In the colder months, you might need to layer your ‘smart casual’ men’s outfit with jumpers, and that’s totally fine. Your jumper shouldn’t be your outer garment though (with the possible exception of the sweater vest/shirt combo). Jumpers are the snug middle layer, between shirt and blazer. You’re looking for dark, good quality knits here, with a V-neck or crew neck (stick to crew, generally, unless you’re wearing a tie). Navy, black and dark grey are all safe colours. Like your jeans, these should be washed, pressed and neat. No ratty threads or suspicious noodle stains.
Seasonal Smart Casual Outfits
For spring and summer smart casual outfits, swap the jeans for dress chinos in tan, khaki or navy. Bring in some colour and flash with patterned shirts, colourful pocket squares and checked blazers. Think about your shoes, too. Summer smart casual means you can probably ditch the traditional Oxfords and try something more fun, like sockless tassel loafers, suede Derbies or monk straps. For spring, try this combo of white slacks, navy linen shirt and checked blue blazer. Don’t neglect the details, either. Spring and summer means fewer layers, so keep things sharp with good quality sunnies or a vintage dress watch.shop now
FAQs On The Difference Between Casual Dress Codes
What is smart casual for men?
There is no one definition of smart casual for men (which is what gets guys so confused). Generally it’s anything between sweat pants and a suit. If you look like you’re on your way to a board meeting, tone things back with a textured knit tie, patterned shirt, blazer or chinos. If you look ready for Call Of Duty, ditch the sweat pants for slim denim and a button-up shirt.
Are smart casual and business casual the same thing?
Basically, yes. Business casual just means smart casual for the office. Suiting separates are fine, or you can dial things up with a statement blazer. The trick is to stay away from anything too cold and clinical: swap your standard silk tie for something with more texture (or lose the tie all together), swap your two-piece suit for a jacket and chinos, and ditch the boring black shoes for something more interesting, like brogues or suede Derbies.
What does a 'casual' dress code mean?
If the invite says ‘casual’ you can more or less wear whatever you want. But we’d probably still stay away from board shorts and thongs (unless it’s a casual beach party). Jeans, sneakers, Chukka boots, t-shirts and casual jackets are all fine here. Casual basically means anything goes.
Bradley Mclennan has been with POLITIX for 5 years as a designer, and has over 11 years' experience across womenswear, everyday brands and streetwear. He has always been fascinated with how a creative outlook affects people's lives. A great song. An inspired building. Brad love's to push the boundaries. He's the guy injecting colour and pushing the team to be bold. Bringing the whole thing together with an insane attention to detail.