What is Smart Casual?

In general, smart casual means you should be less formal than a two-piece suit, but more formal than old blue jeans and a t-shirt. Think of it as a “fashion-forward” business casual. Since smart casual is typically a loosely enforced dress code, there are a number of outfit options you can go with. A good go-to smart casual outfit can be a pair of chinos, an oxford button-down, and a blazer over top. Or, if you want to be a little more informal, you can substitute the button-down for a plain t-shirt. 

A few key factors to consider for a smart casual dress code are the location, weather, and occasion of the event you’re attending. If you’re looking to don a smart casual outfit for an evening dinner date at a fancy restaurant, then you’ll likely want to opt for dressier pants or dark wash denim jeans for your bottom and a button-down + blazer combination for your top. If the event you’re attending is in the summer and someplace outdoors (maybe a company brunch), then you can opt for nice lightweight pants like chinos, a plain t-shirt, and an unstructured blazer. All in all, it’s up to you, and in this guide, we’ll go over the simple rules you should follow so you can craft your outfit confidently. 

“Smart casual is the epitome of simple style that makes a statement.”

The Wardrobe

Denim Jeans

Dark denim jeans are a staple in the American man’s wardrobe. It’s hard to go wrong with this option as your bottom. Wearing a well-fitted pair of dark blue or black jeans projects a well-polished image that is sure to impress. 

Chinos

Opting for chinos as your bottom is a good choice when you want to switch it up every once in a while. Worn in staple colors like navy, grey, and khaki, chinos can be a great way to add your own style to a smart casual look. 

Shirts

Well-fitted button-down shirts are another key staple in a man’s wardrobe. You need to have the option to dress up or down with a smart casual dress code, so a solid color oxford button-down in either white or blue is a choice you can’t go wrong with. 

Blazers

A blazer is important to have in order to elevate your look when dressing for a smart casual dress code. One type of blazer that is a great choice for smart casual is an unstructured blazer. Unstructured blazers are to blazers what chinos are to pants; they’re not too formal, but not too casual either.  

Bonus: Shoes

The shoes you wear with a smart casual outfit are a small but important detail in the type of look you’re going for. You can either dress it up and wear shoes like leather brogued wingtips, or you can dress down and throw on some high-end leather sneakers. 

Bonus: Accessories

Since smart casual is an ambiguous dress code, there aren’t any hard rules regarding the accessories you wear. In general, a belt and watch are good choices to go with here. If you want to add a little bit of flair, you could add a colorful pocket square for a little bit of “pop.”

Outfit Ideas:

Outfit 1: Dark Smart Casual

Here is an outfit featuring all dark colors: black, brown and grey. They work well together and give off a fashionable vibe that isn’t too trendy.

Outfit 2: Elevated Smart Casual

This outfit is toeing the line of smart casual and dressed up. Although he’s wearing a blazer, dress pants, and dress shoes, I would still consider this to be smart casual due to the overall look of the outfit.

Outfit 3: Standard Smart Casual

This is quite possibly the most standard example of smart casual out of the three. You can see that he’s wearing white sneakers with this look, which is a great choice for the outfit.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does smart casual even mean?

There are two approaches to a smart casual outfit: Formal and Informal. A formal smart casual outfit includes a blazer, nice pants, collared shirt, and dress shoes. An informal smart casual outfit is more flexible, allowing you to wear clean, dark-colored jeans and even dress sneakers. 

Are jeans considered smart casual?

Yes, but dark denim jeans (either black or blue) are more acceptable than lighter washes. 

How does smart casual apply to a job interview?

Dressing in smart casual for a job interview allows you to showcase your style without sacrificing the level of formality needed for the occasion. 

Can you wear sneakers for smart casual?

Yes, provided the occasion allows for a more informal angle on smart casual. 

Is Smart Casual a Trend?

Smart casual style has only begun to enter the zeitgeist in recent years, but it’s a trend that is here to stay. Adopting a smart casual wardrobe allows you to be flexible in how you dress up for an occasion. It’s the perfect way to be “fashion-forward” without overdoing it.  

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