Have you ever been invited to an event where the dress code listed is “Smart Casual”? Trying to decipher what smart casual is can be an absolute nightmare. The term casual makes us think of athleisure, but the word smart implies that we wear office attire. There is a big disconnect between the two words leaving many perplexed on what we should be wearing.
Our custom clothing style experts are here to help. They have prepared this helpful guide breaking down the smart casual dress code.
THE DEFINITION OF SMART CASUAL
The term smart casual was thought to have originated back in the 1920s in an edition of the Iowa newspaper. In the 1950s, smart casual was used to describe a suit that was more casual then what men would wear to the office at the time. Today, the definition of smart casual has had a significant evolution.
Smart casual is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as being “neat, conventional, yet relatively informal in style, especially as worn to conform to a particular dress code.”
At Jaxson Maximus, we like to define smart casual as “a dress code that combines elements of workwear and leisure attire. Smart casual falls somewhere in the middle of business casual and informal. Think of button-down dress shirts mixed with denim”.
Smart casual is not about mixing sweat pants with a blazer, but it is more about putting pieces together that make sense visually with different degrees of formality. We like the idea of smart casual as it allows you to combine different items from your wardrobe that you would have never put together. The whole idea of smart casual is to be presentable without being overly stuffy.
WHAT SMART CASUAL IS NOT
Smart casual falls somewhere in between informal and business casual attire. The most apparent clothes that would not fall into this category are anything you would wear to special occasions. Think tuxedos, dinner jackets, etc.
On the other side of the scale, you should avoid anything that would be considered casual attire. This includes items such as basketball shorts, leggings, tank tops, etc.
With a smart-casual attire, you can skip some of the standard workwear accessories. If you choose to wear a button-up, try avoiding bowties or regular neckties as this can take your outfit to business casual.
If your typical office attire requires you to wear a suit every day for work and they list the dress code as smart casual, you should avoid coming in with a suit on. Instead, opt for a polo with chinos or a nice pair of colored denim.
ELEMENTS OF A SMART CASUAL DRESS CODE
A STAND OUT JACKET
With a smart casual dress code, you do not have to wear a blazer or a sports coat. You can opt for a more casual option, such as a leather or bomber jacket. Darker colors will give a sense of formality to your outfit, even if your pieces tend to fall on the more casual side. Try pairing your jacket with a crisp white t-shirt, a pair of chinos, and some low-top white tennis shoes.
The collar on a polo shirt gives your outfit an “off duty” look. A polo is put together but also informal at the exact same time. Look for polo’s that have more details in the design and are made of finer materials such as silk and linen.
Try pairing your polo with a pair of Paige Federal Colored Denim and a great pair of boat shoes for that casual yet sophisticated look.
Weather permitting, cardigans can give your outfit just the right level of smartness. Opt for cable-knit sweaters in muted colors such as black, beige, and grey. For styling, pair your cardigan with a white button-down, pair of jeans, and white tennis shoes.
PRINTED BUTTON DOWNS
Having a smart casual dress code is an excellent opportunity to bring out those louder prints that you might not be able to wear to work. Avoid wearing solid whites and blues and opt for bolder prints such as checks and stripes.
You can pair your button-up with a less formal option such as chinos and denim. Just make sure there is some contract in the color scheme of your outfit, so you don’t look out of place.
DENIM AND SHORTS
For denim or shorts to be considered smart casual, you will need to strategically pair them with the right top. Since both of these options fall on the casual side of the scale, opt for a more formal top such as a button-up or a polo.
Don’t forget about the belt! Opt for a classic suede or leather brown belt for that classic element.
Denim does not have to be in the traditional washes. Instead, look for colored denim options. At Jaxson Maximus, we strongly recommend the Paige Federal Denim line. Not only does this line come in multiple colors, but it also gives a great amount of stretch, making them denim more comfortable to the wearer.
LEATHER OR SUEDE SHOES
When it comes to shoes, we recommend sticking to two types of material, leather or suede. Look for shoes in tones of browns, tan, olive, greens, burgundy, and gray. Avoid wearing black as the color black is reserved for formal occasions.
Oxfords, loafers, boat shoes, and sleek tennis shoes are an excellent option for smart casual. The right pair of shoes can help balance out the formality of your outfit.
Tennis shoes can be a tricky item. While tennis shoes fall into the casual dress category, a lot of people like to pair them with more formal options on top. Our best piece of advice is to avoid “athletic-looking” tennis shoes and instead opt for a pair of classic pair such as a sleek white leather tennis shoes. This will be a good base to your outfit while still keeping it modern.
Avoid wearing flip-flops or other open-toed shoes. Those are too casual for this type of dress code.