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Style Advice

What smart casual means today

What smart casual means today

For years offices have been relaxing their dress codes, from formal, to casual Fridays, to jeans-allowed, but the pandemic has caused this change to pick up a much quicker pace. Amidst these crazy times, trying to decipher what something like smart casual means today probably lands low on your list. To remove any uncertainty, we spoke with Thread stylist Toby Standing about how you should be wearing it right now – whether you're starting to make your way back to the office or are continuing to work from the comfort of your sofa.

“Smart casual is a look that we’re constantly trying to nail, and it’s important as it’s the way most modern workplaces are going,” Toby says. “The catch is understanding the invisible line that you often don’t know you’ve crossed until you’ve gone too far one way or the other.”  

Historically, smart casual has depended largely on an individual’s idea of what both ‘smart’ and ‘casual’ mean. “It’s led the style to exist in a nebulous, undefined space,” Toby says.

The best way to approach this vague – yet prevalent – style of dressing in the post-lockdown world is to consider which pieces make you feel that you are both well-dressed to do your job and meet clients or customers, and head out on a dinner date or an evening with friends. 

“When it comes to working from home, it’s unlikely that many people are expected to suit up as they might at the office,” Toby says. And after remote-working in casual clothing for five months, many guys are looking for new ways to bring their comfortable work-from-home wardrobe back into their professional settings. 

“For me, smart casual dressing comes down to creating an outfit that is considered and put-together, without looking like you’ve tried to tick the boxes for what constitutes ‘professional’ dressing,” Toby says. The key is to make small but noticeable changes to items that might otherwise be considered too casual. For example, a collared shirt feels naturally smarter than a t-shirt, but a light cotton fabric keeps it breezy and comfortable rather than starchy and heavy. 

Choose a jacket in a darker colour that will immediately feel a little more serious and work-appropriate. A zip-up style in a light fabric like seersucker is contemporary, easy to move in, and cool for summer. Your footwear can lean smarter or more casual depending on your job and the setting. A pair of trainers can feel considered, especially if you keep them in good shape and dress them up with things like smart trousers, a blazer, or a nice collared shirt.

If you really want to keep some of the classic approach to smart casual dressing – which focuses on balancing smart and casual elements throughout your outfit rather than finding more refined ways to wear casual-leaning pieces – opt for an Oxford rather than a half-placket shirt, and layer it with a good-quality unstructured blazer or classic wool overcoat in winter. Just don’t go too far with the smart-casual balance and try pairing your suit jacket with sweatpants. 


Words: Ella White
Photography: Jack Batchelor
Styling: Millie Rich
Styling assistant: Toby Standing