How to rock the “Smart Casual” style

When you’re a busy dad trying to juggle work and family commitments, your fashion choices can sometimes take a back seat to more pressing issues, and you can end up throwing on any old thing when there’s no real need for you to make an effort. But, if you’re sick of walking around like a slob, trying out the smart casual look could be for you.

When you dress smart casual, you can still dress comfortably, but you won’t be embarrassed to answer the door or get spotted by your work colleagues should you need to pop out with the kids. Another great thing about the smart casual look is that when you dress that way, you rarely look out of place, so you can go from appointment to appointment without worrying about your appearance.

So, what exactly is the smart casual look?




The smart casual look can be difficult to define. Are jeans ok? Do I need to wear a proper shirt or will a polo suffice? These and a million other questions are likely to be on your lips, and it is not surprising because it is so easy to either go too casual or too smart when trying to pull off the look.

The easiest way I can think of describing the smart casual look is wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt with a blazer. This would mix elements of smart dress and casual in an appealing way that would look just as good in the local pub as it would in a more liberal office.

Dress for the Occasion

Of course, one of the best ways to determine how you should put together a smart casual outfit is to think about the location you will be spending time, So, if you’re going to spend the bulk of the day in the office, where your boss would prefer you to dress smartly, the blazer jeans combo with a shirt rather than t-shirt would probably be most appropriate, whereas a trip to the local supermarket would demand no more than a clean pair of jeans and a smart polo shirt or clean tee. In fact, whatever you wear, the most important think about rocking the smart casual look is to ensure that your clothes are clean, ironed and presentable.

If you aren’t sure how smart an occasion calls for you to be, it is always better to err on the side of caution and go smarter, avoiding obviously casual items like trainers, which could leave you feeling out of place.

The Rules of Casual Dress

Casual dress doesn’t have too many rules, but if you want your casual look to be a bit more presentable than your joggers and holey t-shirt ensemble that you lounge around in at home, there are a few rules that you should stick to.

First and foremost, your clothes should be clean and free from holes or stains. Otherwise, you will end up looking like a slob. Secondly, you should avoid too much of a mix and match approach to your outfits. Try to stick to one or two colours and textures, preferably neutral, in fabrics and styles that are laid back, but not sloppy. These Fred Perry tops are spot on actually.

If you’re aiming to dress more casual than smart, trainers, t-shirts and even hoodies are fine, but you might want to remove one or more elements and replace them with more ‘upmarket’ items when the occasion calls. For example, you should never wear trainers and a hoodie together if you want to look smart, so switch out the Nikes for a pair of loafers or change the hoodie for a blazer and you’ll still be extremely comfortable without looking too lax in your style. Just because you’re having a fun day out with the family, it doesn’t mean you have to look like a scruff!

Choosing the Right Jeans

When it comes to the casual look, jeans are a staple. They’re smarter than joggers, but more laid back than tailored trousers, making them the perfect choice. However, you can’t just buy any old jeans and expect them to look good. Ideally, you should choose jeans in a black or navy colour, and you should definitely avoid jeans that are too tight or baggy. Team jeans with a white top and a blazer or fitted jacket for a cool laid back look.

As an alternative to jeans, choosing from some of the best men’s chinos could be a good move, especially for those occasions when you want to look smarter than you do casual. Chinos go great with both smart shoes and trainers and can be teamed with all manner of shirts and t-shirts and jumpers to create comfy, smart casual looks of all kinds.

Smarten Up with Sweaters

Knitwear is a great way to elevate a casual look to a smarter one. Wearing a jumper or cardigan over a jean and t-shirt combo somehow gives it more substance and will help you blend in in most circumstances. However, choosing the right knitwear is not easy. If you go for the V-neck, button-up shirt combo, you could end up looking too middle management, but if you go for a baggy sweater, you could be seen as a scruffy grunge throwback. So, what to do?

Ideally, you should choose a sweater which is both informal and slim fitting. Patterns are fine, but if you want to be able to blend fit into as many situations as possible, choosing plain, neutral coloured sweaters will probably be a better option.

Picking the Perfect Top

When it comes to tops and t-shirts, if they’re going to be worn with jeans, the key is to keep them as simple as possible. Avoid graphic prints paisley and other eye-catching designs and go for plain whites, blacks and khaki’s and you won’t have a problem pulling off a smart look even if the design of your clothes is actually pretty casual.

If you’re looking to pick up a few more formal shirts that will help you pull off the smart casual look, an oxford shirt in a solid colour, when paired with jeans will always look great, Whereas, a less formal short paired with a pair of slim fit chinos will have a similar effect.

Whatever else you buy in the top department, having at least a couple of plain white round-neck t-shirts is a must. They can be worn alone with chinos and a blazer or styled underneath an open-neck shirt for a cool layered look, and they will always help you to shine.

Choosing the Right Shoes

Shoes are often the most problematic part of putting together a smart casual outfit. Your smart work shoes seem too formal, but trainers often leave you feeling underdressed. What I would say is that trainers can be fine, but you will probably only want to wear trainers that are primarily one colour rather than the gaudier multi-coloured styles available. I’d also say that, if in doubt about the dress code, wearing a pair of canvas loafers, brogues or smarter leather shoes will be a much better idea.

If you’re into boots, a casual pair of Dr. Martens or similar boots can look surprisingly good when teamed with formal tailored trousers for a unique youthful look that is neither too smart or too casual.

The real key to getting the look right is creating a balance between the smart and casual elements of every outfit, never having too many of one or the other. If you can do this, and if you ensure your clothes are always cleanly laundered, you will always look fantastic rocking the smart casual look, and you’ll probably be one of the coolest dads at the school gates too!

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