Dress codes

Q&A: What does smart casual mean for men?

Q&A: What does smart casual mean for men?

Smart casual is what it sounds like: a style that's somewhere between formal and casual. It's what you wear when you can't wear jeans and a t-shirt, but you're not in suit territory, either.

To find the best smart-casual look for you, "think about what you normally wear casually, and then add or change one or two pieces of clothing to make your outfit smarter," advises Thread senior stylist Alice Watt. To give you an idea, she shares three outfit ideas for guys at different points in the casual-to-smart spectrum.

1. Casual Smart Casual

If you normally wear: Jeans, a t-shirt or jumper and trainers

Your ideal smart-casual outfit is: Chinos, a jumper and brogues or Derbies

Why this outfit works: "Chinos are tailored like formal trousers, but the fabric feels light and comfortable and doesn't crease easily," Alice says. "By subbing in chinos for jeans—and leather shoes for trainers—you're instantly turning your outfit smart-casual without changing your comfort level."

Brogues with thick soles are more comfortable

Photographed: Gant chinos (£100), John Smedley jumper (£235), Hudson brogues (£160)

2. Medium Smart Casual

If you normally wear: Jeans, a casual shirt and leather shoes

Your ideal smart-casual outfit is: Chinos, a casual shirt and brogues or Derbies

Why this outfit works: "Again, you're using chinos to make the rest of your outfit look smarter," Alice says.

Photographed: Gant chinos (£100), Gant white shirt (£85), Hudson brogues (£160)

3. Smart Smart Casual

If you normally wear: Jeans or chinos, a casual shirt and leather shoes

Your ideal smart-casual outfit is: Chinos, a casual shirt, a textured blazer and brogues or Derbies

Why this outfit works: "If you usually dress on the smarter side—or you feel an occasion calls for something more formal—the blazer makes this feel extra sharp," Alice says.

Photographed: Gant chinos (£100), Gant white shirt (£85), Hudson brogues (£160)