Smart casual is an ambiguous term so it’s no surprise that when put to a room of people – everyone has varying degrees of understanding. Not 100% sure about it either? We’ve done the research to help make things clearer…
Firstly, we need to address the casual part. Casual is so subjective. Some might class a dress and boots as casual while others a t-shirt and joggers… So it obviously has a lot to do with the individual’s sense of style. Let’s break it down for women and men…
W O M E N
For the purposes of this post, we’ll assume that a simple top, trousers and trainers is casual. To make it smart casual, consider what you might add or remove to polish it up a bit. Subbing in a blouse for the t-shirt would be an easy win. Whether it’s plain or printed, a blouse is inherently more smart than a jersey t-shirt due to its woven fabric. If you wanted to keep the t-shirt or you’re not a fan of blouses, throw on a blazer. The structured shape adds instant smartness. But what about the trainers? If they’re brand new or particularly statement, you can keep them. If they’re a running trainer or even slightly tatty, replace with shoes.
When it’s cold and you want to layer up, there’s a few ways to do it with smartness in mind. If you’re wearing a dress for example – don’t throw a big jumper on over the top. Instead, take a more considered approach with this season’s favourite layering piece – the rollneck. Choose a fine knit style to layer under your dress for a chic way to beat the chill. Wearing a crisp white shirt under a dress or jumper is another way to approach smart casual layering. With trousers, whether they’re tailored or smart denim, a heavier knit will contrast well against the structure of your bottom half. To further elevate your look, add accessories… think statement earrings or fabulous boots.
Smarten up with a blouse or blazer
Trainers are fine provided they’re a statement style and not a running trainer
Layer a fine knit roll neck under a dress
Chunky knits look chic contrasted with tailoring
M E N
Similarly to the above, let’s assume a t-shirt, jeans and trainers is casual. The quickest way to smarten up this look is to replace the tee with a shirt. Note: it’s not smart enough to layer an unbuttoned shirt over the tee. Ideally, we’re talking a buttoned up Oxford shirt here. If your jeans are a dark wash and unscruffy – or you’re wearing chinos, you’ll get away with wearing the shirt untucked (provided it’s freshly laundered). Again trainers can be part of a smart casual ensemble. Just apply the same rules as women.
Where warmer layers are concerned, a fine knit jumper or long sleeve polo is generally smarter than a chunky knit. But to ensure you’ve got the balance right, team it with a tailored trouser or pair of chinos in a black, grey or navy. If you’re opting for shoes over trainers, go for a chunky soled brogue or desert boot for a more formal feel. Of course wearing a blazer is going to add instant structure to your look, whether it’s over a jumper or shirt. If you’re not big on blazers but are running out of ways to polish up your wardrobe, a neppy or tweed fabric won’t feel as OTT.
A long sleeve shirt elevates denim
Trainers are allowed provided they’re box fresh (and not a style you’d wear to the gym)
Fine knit jumpers are a smart way to layer up – swap jeans for chinos to strike the perfect balance
Chunky brogues or desert boots are a must
Blazers add structure to denim