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The dos and don’ts of smart casual dressing

The dos and don’ts of smart casual dressing

Ah, smart casual. The ever elusive, yet constantly required dress code. Does it exist? What does it look like? Does anything really sit in this liminal space between formality and comfort? In short, yes. And, no it’s not an Oxford shirt paired with sweatpants. Here are the dos and don’ts. 

Do

Think of it on a scale. One long enough for every possible item of clothing to sit along – on one end, the smartest suit you can buy, the other, sweatpants. The trick is to pull items from varying points on the scale that work well together to create something that sits bang smack in the middle, depending on the occasion. 

So, say you know you need to wear a suit, but you’re not going to anything as formal as a wedding, pair it with a crewneck sweater underneath and suede lace-up shoes – see, smart with casual. What you’ll achieve is a put-together look that means you can take a lunch meeting without looking like you’ve made no effort, but then head for drinks after work without feeling overdressed. 

Don’t

Just pull half a suit from your wardrobe. Formal suits should be worn together; when worn apart they can look, well, lost. If you do want to wear a blazer solo, choose one that doesn’t come as part of a suit. Then, it looks right at home when worn with something like denim. 

Or, if you really are looking for a suit that can do both, just choose one that sits more casual – something in a relaxed fabrication like flannel or cotton, with details like patch pockets or drawstrings on the waist should do the trick. This ensures the top or bottom half of the suit can fly the nest, pair with other pieces in your wardrobe, but still come together for that extra hit of together-ness.  

 

 

Do

Stick to a neutral colour palette. What smart casual dressing isn’t known for is rocking the boat – especially in terms of colour. Buying a deconstructed purple suit might seem like you’re adding some personal flair, but really it can just come off costumey. Instead, outside any accessories, like a tie, it’s best to stick to those more versatile, pared-back palettes that seamlessly work in combination with the rest of your wardrobe. 

 

Don’t

Photographed: COS MERINO WOOL HARRINGTON JACKET (£125)

Just stick to suiting. A great way to break the mould of smart casual dressing is to bring it into the 21st century. Styles like a zip-up overshirt still provide you with that same structured silhouette that a blazer does, just without the baggage that 200 years of menswear that they carry. Plus, the plethora of contemporary styles means you can experiment more while still looking the part.

 


Words: Yasmine Kennedy
Photography: Jack Batchelor
Styling: Toby Standing