Smart casual: Decoding the dress code

‘Smart casual’ is the dress requirement for many events, including birthdays, weddings and the occasional cocktail party. But the line can sometimes become blurred between too formal and too casual, so what should you be wearing?
When to wear?
If it hasn’t been specified, it can be difficult to determine when to go for a smart casual look. Some offices and workplaces have ‘dress down Fridays’ or a casual dress code every day. However, it’s still nice to make an effort and look reasonably smart — even if this doesn’t involve a three-piece suit and tie.
Certain events request a smart casual dress code too, such as a dinner party where a formal tuxedo is not expected but jeans and a T-shirt would be frowned upon. Or, for a first interview — it may specify casual in the email, but first impressions count and your outfit should still be carefully considered.
Opting for business casual can be a good choice when there’s been no indication of dress code too. It avoids the error of looking like you don’t take pride in your appearance and prevents you feeling out of place by dressing too formally.
Some staple items
Dressing for business casual doesn’t have to involve the purchase of a new wardrobe. Simply invest in a few staple items to achieve the look.
One of these items should be a smart and stylish blazer. It depends on your fashion preferences as to what sort of blazer you opt for — just choose one that you feel confident in and it will show. An unstructured blazer is perfect for men who prefer a relaxed look and who want to avoid a rigid and overly tailored shape. Some believe that these are more comfortable too, as they are without inner folds and allow you to move more freely. A structured blazer, on the other hand, emphasises the shape of the body. It gives more of a snug fit to the wearer and is generally more expensive, as it takes great skill to create an impressive jacket of this style. Navy is a good choice for a blazer as it is very versatile and not as formal as the traditional black jacket.
Another staple item is suitable and fashionable footwear. Depending on your preferences, choose a pair of brogues or loafers to complete a smart casual look. Brogues are uber stylish and recognisable by their detailed leather uppers and thin laces. Loafers, on the other hand, are lower shoes so the ankle is exposed, they do not have laces and often have a low heel. They can be seen as less formal than the brogue because more of the foot is on show. In terms of colour, brown is a good colour to go for as it can be paired with denim or smart trousers, whereas black may be too dark to complement some colours.
Invest in a pair of smart trousers that match well with the rest of your wardrobe too. A light pair of chinos are a good option for warmer weather, as they can brighten up your outfit whilst keeping you looking smart. If you feel more comfortable in jeans, try to choose a darker denim as this gives off a more formal vibe — just avoid distressed or ripped denim at all costs.
The full outfit
It can be hard to style for business casual, especially if it’s not something that you’re used to. CT Shirts, who know a thing or two on men’s style and retailers of men’s shirts, have  some suggestions:
The classic roll-neck
One outfit that ticks all the boxes for a stylish smart-casual look involves the fashionable roll-neck. For the colder months especially, a roll-neck jumper is perfect for layering and looking smart. Pair a black wool roll-neck with a grey slim fit jacket and coloured pocket square to become the master of business casual. Match your socks with your pocket square for co-ordination and wear your favourite pair of swanky trousers.
The open collar
Unfasten a few buttons on a smart shirt to dress it down slightly. An open collar shirt paired with a double-breasted jacket can create an ideal look for the fashion-conscious gentleman. Choose complementing colours for the shirt and blazer, such as different hues of blue or grey, to really make your outfit come together. Slip into tailored trousers, chinos or jeans and pair with brogues to complete the look.

So, there we have it, the decoded version of smart-casual — not as difficult to master as you might have thought! Of course, keeping your outfit neat and tidy is important too, so don’t let smaller details drop you into the ‘casual’ bracket. Have a lint roller on hand before leaving the house and make sure you always look your best.

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