According to the Macquarie Dictionary, smart casual is defined as being ‘well-dressed in a casual style’. Oxford Dictionary defines it as “neat, conventional, yet relatively informal in style.” Both definitions are vague, confusing and completely open to interpretation. Even Wikipedia describes the concept as ‘ill-defined’. With that in mind, this contrasting obstacle of a dress code blends both formal and informal notions into one neat package. But with everything in life, you must find and achieve a perfect balance.
Take a cue from the name itself and opt for smart first and casual second. If in doubt, stick to the smart side of the style spectrum to be safe. As the age-old saying goes ‘It is better to be overdressed than underdressed’. Fundamentally, you are looking for the perfect point of harmony in the middle of the smart/casual dichotomy, allowing for both upmost comfort and elegance.
When Do You Wear It?
It would be impossible to list all the possible occasions and events where smart casual attire would be suitable. Simply put, smart casual attire should be your default attire when the hosts of the event have specified no other dress code.
What Do You Wear?
Although it is not a necessity, a well-fitted blazer is a simple way to add individuality and style to your outfit. Although a wool jacket is an obvious sartorial choice in the winter for its practicality as well as its style, don’t ditch the idea of wearing a blazer in the warmer months. Instead, go for a much lighter material, cotton or linen are your best options, so you can remain ‘cool’ both literally and figuratively. A neutral blazer complements many looks, however, a statement blazer in a bright colour or pattern can also be the focal point of your entire outfit. A single-colour or small-patterned shirt is the next building block in your smart-casual look, which can easily be worn underneath a blazer or on its own with the sleeves nonchalantly rolled to the elbows. In keeping with the casual aspect of the dress code, leave a few of the top buttons undone to ooze that relaxed vibe. Dependent on the occasion, t-shirts are also perfectly acceptable under the smart casual dress code, however, steer clear of cringe-worthy prints and slogans and stick with white, grey or black basics. Nevertheless, ties and bow ties are optional, but never hurt, and a classic pair of sunglasses always completes your entire look.
For your bottom half, chinos (in both the pant and shorts variety) are the epitome of smart casual dressing, seamlessly blending the two concepts together. Jeans are also acceptable, but ensure that they are well-fitted and in a dark wash with no rips or embellishments. Additionally, your shoe options are virtually limitless when dressing for this attire, with some popular option including suede loafers, boat shoes, boots, oxfords and Converse sneakers. Whilst your footwear can add some flair to your overall look, always remember to leave your thongs and trainers at home.
Buy or Rent?
Obviously, smart casual lends itself to mixing and matching the existing pieces in your wardrobe. If you find that your collection is lacking, firstly aim to invest in high quality basics (t-shirts, collared shirts, chino trousers). Once you have nailed the foundations, incorporate some ‘trendier’ items, with loud prints and unusual colours to ensure you are the best dressed at every occasion.