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New ways to wear smart-casual

New ways to wear smart-casual

You could be forgiven for greeting the term ‘smart-casual’ with an eye roll so extreme you glimpse your own optic nerve. It’s become a catch-all term that can be applied to everything from offices to weddings, but the definition of which never seems to stay still.

“It can mean anything to anyone and that’s usually why there’s confusion,” says Thread stylist Brooke, “but if I would say that a blazer, shirt and chinos is pretty much the definition.” However, the genius of smart-casual is that its lack of clarity invites creativity; when no one quite knows what the word means, you can make it mean anything you like.

“It’s about balance,” says Brooke. “If you’re wearing smart trousers you can go for a more relaxed top, or if you’re going with trainers you want to keep things refined elsewhere.” Taking that as our cue, we pulled together four approaches that test the definition.

For making a good first impression

Photographed: Portuguese Flannel chore jacket (£109)Edwin 55 chinos (£89)MVP Beaumont knitted jumper (£30)Oliver Spencer Eton collar shirt (£110 for similar)Grenson Archie brogues (£250)

The best smart-casual looks start from the ground up. “The shoes here really elevate the other pieces,” says Brooke. “A flannel shirt is more casual than a blazer, but the brogues balance that nicely. They’re naturally smart, but the round toe and thick sole ties them in with the overall outfit.” It’s the finer things that lift your look out of the ordinary. “By rolling the chinos and going for an eton-collared shirt – that’s one with a rounded edge – you relax things, and make it more contemporary and fresh.”

Where to wear: “This would be ideal for a daytime date. It’s considered but not trying too hard, and will work wherever you end up.”

For a fresh take on workwear

Photographed: MVP Hooper blazer (£60)Carhartt WIP trousers (£79)Joules jumper (£59.95)A.P.C. Franklin shirt (£155)Sunspel Derby shoes (£275)

Workwear is a spectrum with suits at one end, overalls at the other. Most men sit somewhere in the middle, which is where there’s most space to mix things up. “This look plays around with the traditional chinos-and-blazer outfit,” says Brooke. “Try a chambray shirt instead of cotton, chunky Derbys and cotton-twill chinos. It’s office-ready workwear, but with a utilitarian edge.”

Where to wear: “If your office is on the more casual side, or has a dress down Friday, this is a good option.”

For the anything-goes weekend

Photographed: NN.07 Tyler mac (£259)MVP Watney chinos (£30)Calvin Klein denim jacket (£115)MVP Chapman shirt (£24)Novesta Star Master trainers (£49)

A denim jacket might not be the most obvious smart-casual item, but this is about looking at it in a new way. “By pairing more casual pieces like the denim jacket and trainers with traditional items, you can incorporate these casual styles into the everyday,” says Brooke. Then, set the look off with personal details. “Keeping the shirt untucked and the jacket unbuttoned makes it all feel more relaxed.”

Where to wear: Wherever you like, especially if you’re not sure exactly what you’ll end up doing. “This is perfect whether you’re seeing friends, going out or just popping to the shops. It will work in any setting.”

For when you want to add some colour


Photographed: MVP Greenwood overcoat (£110)Joules laundered chinos (£59.95)MVP Hawthorne jumper (£35)Portuguese Flannel Teca flannel shirt (£89)Astorflex Chelsea boots (£139)

Ignore the idea that red and green are just for Christmas. “Plum chinos make a really nice point of difference and sit well with the green,” says Brooke. “There are lots of different textures here, but that adds to the overall feel. The brushed cotton shirt, layered under a knit, makes a classic combination feel more thoughtful. Plus the suede brown boots feel more daring than just leather.” The overcoat adds an extra layer of smartness but because of the boots it doesn’t overwhelm the outfit. “You’ve got this feeling of versatility.”

Where to wear: “Anywhere. This is a look that would be smart in the office, but stylish enough for a date. And you won’t even look out of place at the pub.”


Words: Nadia Balame-Price
Photographs: Jon Cardwell
Styling: Brooke Philips