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It might be Baltic outside, but that doesn't mean you need to live in your puffer jacket. Sometimes the occasion calls for something smarter and for that, you need a winter upgrade to your smart-casual look.

“When guys think of smart-casual, they tend to look at their smartest items – like a blazer – and pair them with their everyday jeans,” says Thread stylist Freddie Kemp. “It’s like getting two extremes and jamming them together. I think what you want instead are specific smart-casual items.”

According to Freddie, if 60 per cent of your wardrobe is smart-casual, you're doing something right. “To be honest, most engagements outside of work are smart-casual nowadays,” says Freddie. “Going out for dinner, meeting friends at the pub, you want to look sharp, but not fall back on what you wear to work every day.”

Think of layers

Easy layers, effortless style: that should be your motto going into the coldest part of the year. “A merino wool roll neck is a great base-layer,” says Freddie. “It feels nice against the skin and is insulating.” 

Wearing multiple layers as opposed to one thick coat can look more streamlined and therefore reads as more polished. It also helps to trap body heat as the air between layers warms up. Consider making your mid-layer a knitted jacket, suggests Freddie, as it’s lightweight and elegant but still not as formal as a blazer. “Pick a knit that buttons up, as opposed to a zipper which can look too practical and detract from the smartness,” says Freddie.

By going for a knitted fabric, it’s easy enough to layer over or under your jacket without things getting all bunched up.

Don’t shy away from jeans

OK, so you’ve probably read that jeans are a minefield when it comes to smart-casual dressing. And that’s true. The general rule is that jeans are acceptable in a smart-casual setting if they’re dark, plain and straight-leg. This is because the lack of fading makes them look sharp and the simple shape means they could pass for trousers, at a glance.

“Jeans suit this look as tailored trousers would make the whole thing feel too stuffy,” says Freddie. “But go for jeans that are a little heavier than chinos so you also get the benefit of warmth as well. It brings some texture and provides a touch of contrast.”

Consider the coat 

Perhaps you realise that your mountaineering jacket isn’t the most versatile choice for your smart-casual outing, but you still want some weather-proofing and a wool coat feels too formal. Enter the mac.

“This coat is a real statement piece,” says Freddie. “Look for a coat like this that is classic enough to work with a suit, but relaxed enough to go with jeans and a white tee.”

Mac coats have been around since 1823 and the beauty of this single-breasted, belt-free staple is that – no matter what you’ve got on underneath – it finesses your style with its unfussy design. It’s more minimalist than a trench coat, but that just means it can take pattern without looking too busy.

Add some colour

Freddie points out how, quite often, guys will try to inject colour into their outfit via the time-tested medium of jazzy socks. But that’s not always the answer. He suggests trying a colourful roll neck instead – which is not only more tasteful, but also brings some flattering colour nearer to your face.

“If you’ve got the jacket buttoned up, then it’s quite a small amount of red you’ll see but it balances a very neutral, muted look,” says Freddie.

Not sure what colours will work for you? Then look to nature for inspiration. Anything neon will be hard to pull off, whereas tones like berry or rust will suit most complexions.


Words: Theresa Harold
Photography: Jon Cardwell
Styling: Freddie Kemp