What springs to mind when you hear the words smart casual? For most of us it’s one big shoulder shrug; where are the boundaries? How casual can it go? How smart should it go?
The official definition is “Neat, conventional, yet relatively informal in style.” You’ll probably agree this isn’t much help. How informal is ‘relatively informal’, anyway?
But it’s OK, we’re here to help.
We’ve got tips and advice on what smart casual really means, plus a selection of smart casual shoes to complete your outfits for a range of occasions that call for this puzzling dress code.
So What Does Smart Casual Mean?
For guys it’s actually more straightforward than you might think, with only a few ‘absolutely nots’ to avoid. Of course, exactly what you wear does depend on the social context. Weddings and events tend to be slightly more relaxed on the rules than some workplaces, for example, so it’s always a good idea to do a little extra research if you think the stakes might be high.
However, generally these are the safest options to go with:
Chinos are a good midway mark between formal trousers and jeans. Jeans are also acceptable, however you should aim for darker washes like indigo, black and grey, avoiding the lighter blues and absolutely never involving faded, bleached, ripped or frayed styles.
Instagram / @stylebytrade – Chinos, plain T-shirt, blaxer and boat shoes combo
With a smart casual dress code you can wear shirts in a more casual fashion, open at the collar without a tie, and sometimes with short sleeves depending on the context. Plain sweaters are also a good choice, but avoid baggy or overly loose fitting styles, and T-shirts are allowed so long as you go for plain, block colours with no prints or over-large logos. If you’re not confident enough on the dress code to brave just a T-shirt, you can’t go wrong with a well-cut blazer. This will add an extra sprinkle of ‘smart’ into the smart casual mix, just in case.
Instagram / @antoniogattiuk – Rollneck sweater and blazer combo
Like the well-placed blazer, a pair of shoes can be the pivotal element in completing a smart casual outfit. They can be used to tone down an otherwise very formal outfit, or they can smarten up a largely casual ensemble. The only real style to be avoided at all costs is traditional sporty trainers, which will always be tipping the scale too far over to the casual end.
Instagram / @staymenfashion – Shirt, jeans, jacket and desert boots combo
Smart Casual Footwear
As the shoes are among the most pivotal elements in your smart casual ensembles, let’s run through some foolproof styles that will see you safely through this dresscode minefield.
The Desert Boot
Desert boots are a the simple, versatile, classic footwear design that has withstood the ever changing trends of time, and for good reason. If chosen in a neutral colour like brown, black or grey, this timeless shoe style will see you through practically any occasion without breaking the dress code rules. For smart casual occasions, you can wear your desert boots, like these stylish Jack & Jones Gobi boots, with anything you like – chinos are best for those slightly more ‘important’ events, but dark wash jeans are perfectly acceptable for the more easy-going occasions like casual weddings or evening meals.
The Lace Up Shoe
The classic lace-up shoe can be dressed up or down depending on the material they are made from and the outfits they are worn with. Leather lace-ups can be worn to all the most important formal occasions, but may seem too much for smart-casual events, which is where the suede lace-up shoe comes into its own. Suede styles, like these Jack & Jones Billy suede lace-ups tone down the formality without killing the smart appearance, making them ideal for pairing with neat jeans or chinos for everything from weddings and parties to posh meals and even workplace meetings, depending on your company’s rules of course.
The Ankle Boot
Heading further towards the casual end of the smart casual spectrum, a pair of men’s ankle boots are a solid choice for any of your more laid back occasions this year. Leather ankle boots like these Daniel Prentis black leather boots are particularly versatile, as the leather uppers add a bonus layer of smartness to the look without taking it too formal. You could wear these everywhere and match them with practically anything from jeans and chinos to suit pants, always passing the dress code with ease.
The Leather High Top
And finally, on to our most casual option. Leather high top trainers are as casual as smart casual can go without losing the ‘smart’ element completely, but proceed with caution. Shoes like these are great for informal meals, family events and very informal office environments, but always go for plain, neutral colours like black, navy or brown to ensure you’re not looking too casual for the occasion. These Daniel Hotch navy leather high tops are the ideal style for these more easygoing events, with the shiny leather and neat lacing keeping them just on the right side of casual.
Now that we’ve got that all cleared up, why not check out our full smart casual men’s shoes collection here at Daniel Footwear and ensure you’re covered for every event this year?