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Smart Casual or Casually Smart - What Does It Really Mean?

Posted: 30/07/2012 00:00

If you read my last blog post you may have noticed that I consider myself to be quite beady-eyed when it comes to spotting men's style, what you chaps are doing right and what you seem to be getting totally wrong. One thing that I have spotted recently is how so many gents don't understand the concept of 'smart casual'.

The definition of both 'smart' and 'casual' as separate entities is pretty straightforward. I'm sure that the first word that springs to mind when you think of 'smart' is 'suit' and 'casual' refers to jeans and a t-shirt. Seems simple enough, however, when the two words are put together, the lines become somewhat blurred and it proves to be quite a confusing concept.

Personally, when I think of smart casual, I envisage a pair of flannel trousers with a blazer. I've always been the type to dress smart at any given opportunity so even when dressed down I like to add a dapper touch to my outfit. What it doesn't mean is trainers, flip flops, t-shirts and shorts.

Smart casual is particularly tricky to define in a working environment. Many businesses these days have relaxed their formal dress codes and opted for smart casual office wear. I can't help but see this as an error as it's such an easy concept to misinterpret. In this case it's up to the employer to give the employee a sense of direction. Employees need to know how to dress for success without looking overly formal. What happens if there's a last minute client meeting scheduled in and everyone in the office is in trainers and jeans? These days it's often not necessary to go into a meeting wearing your best suit but there does still need to be at least a hint of an air of formality for such occasions.

What employees do need to realise is that smart casual is not an open invitation to completely dress down. It's about finding the perfect balance of both smart and casual. It's about time the modern man took pride in his appearance, clothes included! The concept of dressing to impress, no matter the dress code, can be a totally enjoyable process. Luckily, I'm on hand to share my smart casual dos and don'ts to clear up the confusion.

DO opt for a smart sports jacket if you keep the rest of the outfit casual, as this will instantly add a smart touch to your ensemble. Why not keep your favourite go-to blazer in the office for times when you need to dress to impress?

DON'T be lazy. As I said, this isn't an excuse to throw any old number on. Be creative and experiment with items in your wardrobe that you wouldn't normally put together. Chinos and a smart blazer? A winning smart casual combo.

DO invest in a pair of good quality smart shoes in suede or leather. There's so much variety out there in a whole range of colours and fabrics. Plain oxfords are a wise choice as they'll go with suit trousers on smart days and chinos on your dressed down days.

DON'T wear trainers or any kind of sportswear. Trainers lower the tone of an outfit no matter how dapper it may be. There are plenty of alternatives and I'm growing tired of seeing the same old styles all over the place.

DO feel free to leave your tie at home. A pair of flannels with an open-collared shirt and blazer is smart causal to a tee and the perfect look for a business meeting.

So there we have it. No more excuses chaps. Hopefully from now on you'll never be left staring blankly into your wardrobes looking for that perfect smart casual outfit again.

 
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