The smart casual dress code for men can seem a little constricting when you first try it out, but it’s actually a lot more flexible than you’d think. Some of the best outfits combine casual elements with smarter pieces, so why not wear your trainers with some trousers or a shirt with some jeans?
What is Smart Casual?
Smart casual is one of those styles that’s pretty hard to define. The good news is that despite the confusion, there have been enough examples of universally acknowledged smart casual combinations that we can get a good idea of what works and what doesn’t. Smart jeans do exist. A blazer and a T-shirt is a perfectly acceptable combination, and trainers can be worn with chinos, but they have to be the right kind of trainers of course. We’ll get onto that later. The main thing is that a smart casual look is perfectly achievable. It just involves a little more consideration and brain power.
This style guide will help you figure out what pieces to put together so you can nail any smart casual dress code. The easiest way to break down smart casual outfits is to give you some basic, everyday combinations. You should have most of these pieces in your wardrobe already, and if you don’t, well, they’re versatile enough that you’d really benefit from getting them.
Suit & Trainers
This really is a tricky combination to get right as you’re essentially taking one of the smartest pieces in menswear and pairing it with one of the most casual. Still, if styled correctly, this can work and give you a look that’s both sleek and not too try hard. With the right trainers, this could even work if you’re looking for relaxed men’s office wear.
The key to making this combination work is to keep everything simple. Avoid patterns and bold colours, and keep to neutral tones and plain finishes. White trainers matched with a classic navy suit can work surprisingly well as it creates a look that’s laid back, but not so much that it’s not office appropriate.
Blazer & Jeans
A blazer and jeans is another mix of two polar opposite items. A blazer tends to be worn with smart trousers, while jeans are the go-to weekend wear. However, jeans have been used in smart casual outfits for years, and if you pick a pair that’s slim fit, made from a quality denim and doesn’t have distressed or faded features then it can work pretty well with a simple blazer. It’s also a good idea to stick to similar tones with your jeans and blazer so as to make the outfit as sleek and unified as possible. However, if you don’t like things to match too much, then just try to make sure that your jeans are a darker shade than your blazer. This will ensure you don’t create a top heavy, and therefore messy, finish.
Roll Neck Jumper & Trousers
Now, people have some opinions about roll necks and they tend to be pretty fixed ones. If you’re not a fan of the look then you should probably just skip this section, but if you like them then they can be a great piece to add to smart casual looks. If you’re working with a roll neck, make sure that its made from good quality materials and doesn’t have any patterns or prints on it. It’s striking enough on its own and it doesn’t need any extra detailing.
There are numerous ways you can dress up a roll neck, but, like the roll neck itself, it’s a good idea to keep things simple. A fail-safe look is to match it with slim fit, tailored pieces like a trench coat and cotton trousers. Try to keep the colours neutral and never too bright.
T-shirt and Blazer
If there was a book on ‘how to dress smart’ (which there probably is, actually) then one of the basic outfits would be a shirt and blazer combination. It’s just standard – everyone’s worn it. However, swapping out your shirt for a T-shirt can provide you with a look that’s a little less restrictive, yet still elegant.
First off, choose a good T-shirt. This means choosing one that’s preferably 100% cotton so you’re working with a breathable, sturdy, yet comfortable material. It also means making sure it will fit you perfectly and last a lot longer than a cheaper option. Anything too loose will look messy, anything too tight will look awkward, anything too colourful will look casual, and anything stained will just look like you don’t know how to dress yourself. A well-fitted white T-shirt is perfect and we’ve got a whole load in store for you to try out.
Sweatshirt and Shirt
It’s not that uncommon for a person to throw a nicely made, neutral coloured jumper over a dress shirt when they’re dressing smart. Everyone needs to be warm, and the combination is still pretty sharp. Sweatshirts, on the other hand, tend to be items reserved for more casual looks, which is exactly why we’d suggest matching one with a crisp Oxford shirt. The jersey material will help to soften the clean-cut look while staying in keeping with the formal vibe. Basically, it’ll look different enough than the jumper and shirt without looking out of place. It will also be that little bit more comfortable to wear.
Smart Casual Final Rules
There are a few ground rules when it comes to the men’s smart casual dress code. Jeans are a lot more versatile than people give them credit for, and can easily be paired with blazers of various colours. Depending on what you’re matching them with, you can opt for any kind of trousers, from relaxed chinos to sleek dress pants as part of your smart casual outfit. As a general rule, the more casual your top half, the smarter the bottom, and vice versa.
A plain blazer and a textured jumper can work pretty well together too, especially if you keep both of them slim fit and neatly tailored. This will provide you with a polished yet relaxed finish. You can steer towards the smart side by finishing off the look with some chinos or dress trousers or keep it casual with some navy jeans.
How to Wear Smart Casual
- Suit and Trainers – This is easy to wear for the every day, just make sure your trainers are white and clean.
- Blazer and Jeans – Make sure your jeans are darker than your blazer and try to stick to simple tones.
- Roll Neck Jumper and Trousers – Keep things simple and make the colours plain. Avoid wearing a patterned roll neck jumper.
- T-Shirt and Blazer – Choose a well-fitting white T-Shirt to accentuate your blazer. Make sure it’s a quality 100% cotton T-shirt for the best look.
- Sweatshirt and Shirt – Match the jumper with a crisp dress or oxford shirt to nail the smart casual style.
On That Note
So, the men’s smart casual dress style isn’t too tricky after all, and with so many combinations, there’s no excuse for you to not try out the look from time to time. Each combination has so many options available that you’ll find a look to suit you no problem. With smart casual at the top of everyone’s list, you’ll be able to easily fit it into everyday life.