A guide for the casual man
Thursday 12 November 2020
Casual Clothes And Outfits for Men
‘Casual’ is the word every guy wants to see on the dress code, because it basically means “Wear whatever you want.” Men’s casual outfits are sort of defined in the negative: they’re anything considered inappropriate for formal occasions. Beyond that, you’ve got free reign to express yourself and find your own style. Think relaxed, comfortable, everyday sort of wear.
Although there are no strict rules for casual clothes,
there are some basic style guidelines you should stick to (socks and sandals, for example, is definitely casual, but probably a bit too casual). You want to find that magical sweet spot between too dressy and not-dressy-enough. And that spot will change, depending on the occasion.
Ready to get stated? This is our ultimate guide to men’s casual outfits.
Start with denim
Denim jeans have been the definition of casual for the last 70-odd years, but their real genius is flexibility: good jeans can be dressed up or down. They can take you from lunch with the guys to dinner with the mother-in-law. It’s all in the materials, accessories and styling. Let’s start with the cut: standard jeans have a bit more give around the calf and thighs,
and they tend to work better for smart-casual occasions, especially in dark washes like black or indigo. Slim-stretch jeans hug your calf all the way down, and they’re going to be your go-to weekend pants. Remember: the lighter the hue, the more casual the denim. And don’t be afraid to cuff them high, around the ankle, especially with summer staples like khaki or cobalt blue.
Down to a tee
The biggest casual mistake guys make is not investing in their t-shirts. Think of tees as the foundation of every casual outfit. A handful of classic crew neck tees in white, navy, black and grey can sit comfortably underneath pretty much anything, summer or winter. You just need to remember a few basic rules. The tee should fit comfortably across your shoulders, without any excess fabric across your shoulder blades.
Too tight is usually better than too loose, especially around your biceps and waist (although, obviously, if you can’t move or bend over, you might have gone too far…) Don’t get sucked into the price trap either: invest in good quality 100% cotton tees. Anything under $20 is just going to die a slow death in your washing machine.
Do you play polo?
There is so much more to men’s polo shirts than golf course attire. Polos can be floral, preppy, relaxed, mod or minimal. With their snug fit and short sleeves, they’re a fantastic alternative to crew necks in summer, especially for slightly dressier occasions (like boozy picnics or gastropub beer gardens). When it comes to styling men’s polo shirts, all you have to do is match colour and material.
A burgundy polo with some tan, slim-fit chinos is an easy trans-seasonal look. Or maybe a smart geoprint jersey with regular-fit, dark wash jeans. If you’re thinking florals on top, you generally want to play it cool down below: think chino shorts in khaki, navy, taupe or white. The most important thing with polos is fit. They need to hug your torso, not flap around in the breeze.
Smart, smart but casual
Smart casual shirts can intimidate some guys—are they smart? Are they casual? What the hell’s going on here?—but you’ll be fine as long as you follow some simple style rules. Men’s smart casual shirts tend to have a slightly more relaxed fit: snug across the shoulders, but less tapered than your standard business shirt. You can wear them open or closed, with or without a tee, sleeves rolled or unrolled, tucked or un-tucked.
It’s really up to you. If you’re going for a tucked look, maybe with a pair of chino shorts, then a good quality belt is pretty much mandatory. Start your collection with some basic block colours—white, navy and sand are safe choices—then go wild with geoprints and florals. Lastly, buttons: if you’re doing up your mart casual shirt, leave it open to the third button. No higher.
Chinos are great for those ‘grey area’ dress codes, when you’re not sure exactly what ‘casual’ means. How to wear men’s chinos is a whole blog post in itself, but generally you want to keep three things in mind: colour, fit and break. Colour is an obvious one. Most guys will start with some light tan or khaki chinos, for flexibility, then build out their collection with forest green, burgundy or sky blue. Fit generally means ‘standard’ (more of a straight cut), ‘slim-fit’ (a nice tapered silhouette), ‘slim-stretch’ (same shape, more
give) or even our latest ‘jogger’ style (elasticated waistband, with ankle cuffs). If in doubt, go with slim-stretch: it’s the middle ground between standard and slim. Lastly, there’s break, which refers to how your chino cuff sits over your shoes. A relaxed break is one option, where your pant cuff just touches the top of your shoe, bending slightly. The other is no break at all, when you cuff your chinos high, around the ankle. A classic look for summer.
The right knit
Casual knitwear might just be our favourite trans-seasonal layering option. It’s just so versatile. There are knit polos and t-shirts, of course, which provide a little more warmth, but we’re mostly talking about men’s knit sweaters here. Otherwise known as your jacket’s best friends. Start with a basic crew neck tee (black, white or grey will match with anything), then layer over your knit sweater
and a lightweight jacket. Again, the cut is crucial here. You want slim, figure-hugging knitwear, especially if you’re going to be wearing it underneath a casual jacket or peacoat. If you’re looking for men’s knit sweaters to wear on the outside, the classic grey hoodie is always a safe bet. Throw that over some light wash denim and sneakers—you’ll never look back.
Full casual jacket
Men’s casual winter jackets are our personal weakness. It’s ridiculously easy to fill up an entire wardrobe with different cuts, colours and styles. But you don’t have to blow the entire budget here. In fact, just two or three key jackets can see you through winter after winter. Start with a classic bomber, which is our go-to date night jacket, particularly in spring or autumn, when the weather isn’t too cold.
Next, invest in a sharp casual utility jacket. These can be dressed up or down, depending on the occasion, and they’re practically screaming for cozy knitwear in tan or navy. Lastly, every guy should have one statement jacket, the big kahuna: a double breasted, drop shoulder wool coat. It’s impossible not to look classy in one of these things.
Don’t forget your feet
You know how in Kingsmen they say that ‘manners maketh man’? Well footwear also maketh the man. Especially casual footwear, which many guys tend to overlook. There’s nothing wrong with beaten-up old sneakers, of course, but putting in just a little effort here can really elevate your entire casual outfit. First things first, you need a good quality pair of flyknit white sneakers.
They’ll go well with denim, chinos, shorts and pretty much anything that isn’t speedos. Next, consider investing in a pair of driving shoes (for smart casual occasions) and some well-made leather dress slides—thongs are good for beaches and barbecues, but not much else. Again, you don’t need to go crazy here. Three or four pairs of casual shoes, in varying styles and colours, should see you through the entire year.
We wear short shorts
There are some basic rules when it comes to men’s casual shorts. First, stay above the knee. We know, baggy skater shorts were all the rage in 1997, but times have moved on. Short should mean short. Next, think about fit. Your shorts should be snug, but definitely not tight. There should be some room to move and breathe around your thighs.
Finally, think about style. Men’s Bermuda shorts (also known as chino shorts) are probably the most versatile and casual-friendly option, but don’t rule out denim cargo shorts either—just please, please don’t store coins in the side pockets. Look for versatile colours like khaki, tan, navy and black, and remember: loud shirt, quiet shorts.
Time to accessorise
Yep, men’s casual accessories do exist, although you won’t be needing cufflinks, ties, bowties or suspenders. Instead, think about the little details. A beautiful men’s watch for slightly more formal events, or an everyday beater for weekends. Consider belts, too, especially if you’re wearing a smart casual shirt, or even a polo. Most guys will need one brown leather belt and one black leather belt in their collection.
Your belt should always match your shoes (brown with brown, black with black) and give some thought to the buckle, too. Do you want gold? Silver? Pin buckle or shield buckle? If in doubt, stick to classic styles that will stand the test of time. Then lastly, for summer every guy needs an array of hats - they come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s best to find what suits your vibe.