The Smart-Casual Dress Code for Men Explained

Picture the scene: You wake up one day, check you emails and find that your hard work in applying for your ideal job has paid off and you’ve been invite

Picture the scene: You wake up one day, check you emails and find that your hard work in applying for your ideal job has paid off and you’ve been invited for a job interview. The first thing you do is check to see if there are any requirements…and then it hits you like a slap in the face: the smart/casual dress code. What does this mean? What do I wear? Panic ensues. Sound familiar?

Smart-Casual Dress Code

Smart-casual has become somewhat of a fashion buzzword, dictating everything from office dress to dinner date, and the balancing act between the smart-casual divide has been a constant uphill struggle for men. Too smart and you risk looking overdressed, too casual and you can appear untidy in comparison to others. So how do you get it right?

According to style writer James Sherwood, author of Savile Row, smart-casual is “open to interpretation.” That interpretation is defined by the type of event you’re attending, the context, and the culture of the place. The trick to nailing the smart-casual look is to take your lead from the first word.

The smart-casual look is comfortable but it doesn’t mean that you’re allowed to wear sweat pants, trainers and a baggy T-shirt. Instead, it means dressing comfortably whilst looking smart and there’s plenty of simple things that men can do to make comfortable, casual clothing look quality and sophisticated. This isn’t to say that you have to stop being who you are, just dress for the occasion. Expression through clothes is just as important as shopping around and dressing under certain limits.

To inspire you in pursuit of the ideal smart-casual look, I take you through five key looks of the dress code:

Look One: Simple

This basic look consists of chinos, shirt, blazer and smart shoes. Chinos over the years have become a popular choice of legwear in place of tailored trousers. Stick to a neutral colour like grey or stone, they go perfectly with brown shoes. For the shirt sticking to block colour like white, blue, pink etc. is a safe option. If you want to bring out some of your personality there’s no reason you can’t choose a patterned shirt. A navy or grey blazer is one of the most versatile pieces you can have in your wardrobe, so it’s definitely worth investing in.

If you’re wanting to wear a belt; keep it slim, smart and make sure it matches the leather of your shoes. For that little bit extra, accessorise your blazer with a pocket square for an injection of colour or pattern if you’ve opted for the block colour shirt.

      Smart-Casual Simple      

Look Two: Denim

Denim has emerged as an appropriate choice for offices, particularly within the creative industries. When it comes to jeans keep them dark, clean and well-fitted. As much as light wash jeans are welcome in your wardrobe, avoid them in the smart-casual environment, as well as any with distressing or embellishments.
To refine this look opt for a plain white shirt and casual blazer, although a cardigan or waistcoat accessorised with a tie works just as well. Keep the shoes suitably smart, depending on where you’re going – desert boots and brogues are both suitable options.
         Smart-Casual Denim         

Look Three: Autumn/Winter

Entering winter, people turn to layering to fight the cold. An cleverly choreographed outfit will see you through from morning to night and from work to bar. This kind of look calls for tactile elements like woollen, corduroy or tweed trousers. Layer with a shawl neck cardigan for a truly masculine look.

Rollnecks are on trend and practical for the cold weather, with some clever layering they can create a smart and sophisticated look allowing your individuality to shine through. 

If you’re not a fan of the rollneck, then a shirt or polo with a cable knit jumper layered over the top is a hugely popular look during the colder seasons. You can encase your smart-casual outfit in a suitable smart jacket, like a mac or peacoat, on a particularly chilly day or a heritage style blazer is also appropriate. Finish this stylish yet functional look off with a pair of desert boots.

             Smart-Casual Autumn/Winter             

Look Four: Knitwear

I’ve already highlighted the popularity of layering in the later months of the year. Knitwear is a great way of keeping warm and it adds another dimension. A classic V-neck jumper is the perfect base, especially if you use alongside a tie to smarten up a pair of jeans.

Add texture with a cable knit or chunky cardigan, make sure they’re high quality and don’t have bobbles or rips as this will make you look disheveled, ruining your whole look. Loafers compliment this look. Although, if the weather is a little brisk, consider wearing socks with them for an Ivy League preppy look.

              Smart-Casual Knitwear              

Look Five: Casual-Smart

This may seem a little unusual considering I told you to take your lead from the smart element of the dress code. But it is possible for you to turn the advice on its head. This technique is only advised if you know the host will be slightly more casual than smart, after all you want to fit in, not outdo your boss. With this look you can certainly consider a pair of mature trainers as they will dress down a smart outfit.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with any of these looks. I haven’t mentioned that much about accessorising so if you prefer to wear a hat, then wear a hat, and if you feel comfortable with carrying a bag or throwing one over your shoulder then do so.
Let us know your experiences with the smart-casual dress code in the comments section below.