Casual dress code

Smart Casual Dress Code for Men

This post is also available in: Italiano

Today I want to talk about smart casual for men. What is it? When do we wear smart casual clothing? From this article, you can learn steps which will help you to move away from the casual style (jumpsuit, jeans and t-shirts) to which many men resort.

Dress code

What does dress code mean? It is the suggestion that is written in invitations to parties and ceremonies. When it is present, it is certainly a good thing, because then there will be no doubt about how to dress.

There are different types of social occasions and, therefore, there are different types of dress codes, from the most formal to the most casual. Most of us will be dealing with more or less informal occasions and few formal occasions. Therefore, it is worthwhile to become an expert in how to dress most of the time.

What is casual?

Instead of defining what it is, it is easier to understand what it is not. It is basically anything that is not formal wear, formal dress, black tie, white tie or tuxedo. The idea of casual is something comfortable, and not too complicated to wear.

Casual clothing is what you wear to go to school or to the store. No one expects anything. There is no degree of formality; you could present yourself in a tracksuit or in jeans. No one could make it the subject of discussion.

Dress code too much casual
Extremely casual dress code. Frame taken from the movie The Big Lebowski

It’s what doesn’t make you stand out from the crowd. It does not require any kind of color matching effort, etc … Some great CEOs have gone down in history who have decided to simply dress with jerseys and jeans even in their workplaces (Steve Jobs, are you listening?).

Smart casual: meaning

In contrast, smart casual is rather the elegant version of casual, which indicates a greater effort in presenting oneself adequately to others and using it for slightly more important events: a dinner, an appointment, to go to the cinema, etc.

Smart means being elegant and neat.  Together, “smart” and “casual” sound a bit weird.

Smart casual has no precise rules, so you don’t have to study a manual to dress yourself smart. There is no Bible that teaches what is smart and what is not. It is rather the “intelligent” choice of elegant elements together with casual elements. It is the care with which you combine colors and garments, rather than individual elements.

What complicates everything is time: what was accepted as “smart casual” at the beginning of this century is now almost elegant.

This is an example taken from my Instagram page: even if the elements that make up the outfit are not super elegant, they create a homogeneous whole. I used neutral colors for this outfit.

Origin of smart casual

Not surprisingly, the word is of American origin. The first time the word was used was in 1920 in the Iowa magazine: “The Davenport Democrat And Leader”. Over time (1950), the concept has merged with “business casual”, an American concept that refers to the type of typical office clothing.

The point is that, over time, customs have become less rigid and, therefore, this type of class does not mean anything precise today. One example is the debate: are jeans part of smart casual? For some, yes, for the United Kingdom, apparently not.

smart casual for men

What does smart casual dress code mean?

Smart casual doesn’t mean anything. It’s a vague concept. In line with what Mr Porter’s Style Advice page states, this dress code doesn’t have many rules:

Practically anything better than a gym suit, but less formal than a suit. An ideal answer is a blazer, white shirt, tidy jeans and brown moccasins. The key is not to worry about being too well dressed; few people that matter they will worry that you are too well.

Apparently, it doesn’t only have to do with clothes, but also with attitude. It is the desire to appear in order, clean and with decorum for themselves.

However, there is a concept to be understood: each garment has a degree of formality, based on the type of fabric, cuts, etc. This concept is called the formality scale. A garment is not elegant or casual, but more or less formal according to a gradual scale.

Formality scale
On the left, we have a suit that represents no formality. On the far right we find a white-tie garment whose degree of formality is maximum.

When you follow the Smart casual dress code, you need to insert elements that don’t point too much at the formal side or at the casual side. It means considering only the formal elements that go the most towards the casual side and only the most casual elements that go the most towards the formal side.

Dress code smart casual outfit: How to dress smart casual

An important consideration to review is attitude. In everyday operations, we do not talk about the kind of shoes, pants or ties; we simply speak of “clean” and “in order”. Smart casual is an attitude that has a dress code. Even if an event is informal, it does not mean that there should be no effort in matching the colors of the clothes.

Suggested dress code for smart casual

dress code smart casual

So what to do? Below are some practical tips.


For example, a windbreaker with a t-shirt, jeans and tennis shoes is definitely casual. Try wearing a leather blazer, pants and shoes. Suddenly the effect changes considerably.

dress code smart casual

Dark colors

In the color range, dark colors generally represent a more elegant tone, while light colors recall more sporty tones. Dressing in navy blue or black makes a smart outfit.

dress code smart casual

Use textures!

Another trick (when used wisely) which will give you a smart look is the use of textures. See the examples below. By texture, I mean the textures of clothes, like a knit of coarse wool or grisaille colors.

dress code smart casual

Don’t uncover your arms. Sleeves of the shirt should not be pulled up leaving the arm exposed. Short sleeves are an obvious casual sign.

Do not wear a tie. A tie is a clear sign of elegance. Too much. If you are not sure about the event you are attending, take it with you. You can always take it off at the last minute to make your outfit less formal.

Use blazers instead of jackets with jeans or bombers to make your outfit more elegant.

Use textures. As previously stated, textures and patterns help to make a garment or an outfit less formal. Use them wisely.

If you need help understanding the color matching in clothes, take a look at this article: matching clothing colors: how to create all the combinations.

Do not wear t-shirts with obvious logos and prints.

Wear your right size. I have already talked about it in a previous article. As you can see from the examples above, none of the models are wearing oversized clothing.

Smart casual look for men

Smart casual jacket

The blazer is an element that immediately leads back to a certain formality, but unstructured, it gives you a casual look.

Chambray Shirt

The Chambray shirt is not made of denim, even though it resembles it somewhat. It can instantly make an outfit appear less formal, but it’s still a shirt.

Smart casual trousers

For smart casual trousers, the choice should be made on a good pair of trousers that is not too elegant. Avoid jeans that look too casual. If you want to wear jeans, you should choose dark colors.

Smart casual shoes for men

Sneakers are precisely designed for gymnastics. Don’t wear them if you are trying to achieve a smart casual look. Derby shoes are ideal:

Smart Casual Outfits for Men

I collected some images of different outfits remaining within the boundaries of smart casual.


I hope I helped you in this article. Leave a comment if you have questions about the dress code smart casual.

Hello my name is Alex, welcome to my blog. I believe that every man can transform himself and become the person he has always wanted to be. If you like my articles subscribe to the newsletter and join in the community I'm creating. I wish you to become the man you want to be.

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