The Complete Guide to Smart Casual Style for Men

Last updated: February 13, 2022

The smart casual style is the perfect way to make an impression and bring a sophisticated element to your outfit without dressing too formally. The style is a mix of formal and casual and can be worn for a multitude of occasions. A typical smart casual look incorporates bottoms such as jeans or chinos, with a simple T-shirt and a nice blazer.

It gives the air that you are professional, but able to dress confidently and appropriately for a more informal occasion. It’s also a great type of men’s fashion to choose if you’re looking for a more elevated casual outfit, but don’t want to just wear sweats.

The smart casual style is a great way to showcase your fashion sense in a subtle, pleasing way. Here is our guide to what is smart casual, and how to create an outfit within this aesthetic.

What are some examples of “smart casual” outfits?

Smart casual outfits for men incorporate pieces of clothing from both formal wear and casual wear. For example, mixing a T-shirt with a blazer, or chinos with a bomber jacket. It’s the perfect blend between the two styles.

Some other menswear outfit ideas for this style include wearing beanies, layering T-shirts and sweaters, and sticking to neutral colors.

This style plays with textures more than it does bright hues, which is something to keep in mind. We have compiled six examples of great outfits in this style, so here are the best smart casual clothing items to put together.

Source: De Bonne Facture

This first outfit is a great example of the smart casual style. The model has paired a simple white T-shirt with a more sophisticated top and bottoms.

The top is a more subtle burnt orange button down overshirt, which balances out the basic T-shirt.

Some beige bottoms give an element of refined style, and the matching leather belt and sandals add a casual element. It’s a great balance which is key to the smart casual look.

This muted earth toned outfit is a super clean outfit. The softer beige bomber jacket adds a unique edge whilst the accessories such as the hat and matching belt round out the look.

This outfit is a slightly different version of the first outfit, which shows how versatile the smart casual style is.

In this outfit, the model has opted for a longer gray coat with the same T-shirt, bottoms, and accessories. This is a great warmer option, and the length of the coat satisfies the smart element of the style.

Source: Studio Nicholson

This fourth outfit is a very tasteful choice. The model is wearing similar colors, giving a muted look, and has played with some interesting textures by adding a knit. The silhouette is classy and sophisticated, with that touch of street style using the white sneakers.

This outfit leans more on the casual side of the smart casual style, but still fits the profile perfectly.

The model has paired a T-shirt with jeans and a denim jacket, but the contrasting colors of the denim gives it a smarter look. The added beanie and sunglasses give an edge to the outfit, making it wearable for many occasions.

The final outfit is a great example of how the smart casual style plays more with materials and silhouettes rather than colors.

It’s a mainly monochrome outfit, with a dark knit, pants, and beanie. However, the bit of white peeking out from his T-shirt, along with the white shoes, shows thought and effort put into the outfit.

Smart Casual in The Summer

In the summer time it’s very easy to err more on the side of casual and look a bit sloppy. That’s why it’s important to pair your casual items (usually on the bottom half of your body) with more sophisticated pieces on top. Here is a great example:

A pair of cotton or linen chinos and leather sandals err on the side of casual, but the clean crisp white tee and a grey bomber-type jacket definitely hits the “smart casual in the summer” mark on this outfit.

How can I make sure my “smart casual” outfits are on-point?

When making sure your outfit is on-point, the most important element of the smart casual style is balance. Consider each piece of clothing you are wearing and ask yourself what “category” they fall into.

A T-shirt is more of a casual item, while a wool blazer is more sophisticated. You want to ensure that you have enough of each “category” so that your outfit falls in between casual and formal.

Additionally, when choosing pieces for this style, you want to find clothing that fits the “smart” element of the aesthetic. Opting for muted colors, tasteful knits, and well-tailored items is the best way to succeed at the smart casual style.

Here are some more tips on how to dress up a casual outfit with items you may already have in your closet.

How can I put together a “smart-casual” outfit with items from my wardrobe?

Here is how to dress up a casual outfit with items from your wardrobe. Most importantly, take note of your clothing items that are neutral colors. This will be the pool of clothing you pull from when picking an outfit for your smart casual look.

Start with a simple T-shirt — a basic white T-shirt that you would wear under a button down works perfectly. Next, you can opt for jeans (either blue or black denim works) or chinos. After creating this foundation, it’s important to pick the right jacket or outerwear.

If you have a wool coat, that is a great choice. You could also opt for a soft sweater or a bomber jacket. If you choose to pair jeans with a denim jacket, it’s important to elevate your look to the smart casual style with a pair of leather shoes.

If you go for a wool coat or blazer, you can stick to fashionable sneakers. Finishing your outfit with a beanie or a pair of stylish sunglasses will top it off well.

If you’re looking for how to dress smart casual for work, you could pair a nicer jacket with a nicer pair of pants and stick with the T-shirt underneath. This keeps it more on the business casual side with an element of street style.

The 7 Tenants of Smart Casual To Help You Never Fail The Dress Code

We’ve hammered out a guide to help you nail smart casual. Let’s start with some of the basic tenants.

1. Thou not buy relaxed fit.

This goes for all articles of clothing. Baggy is sloppy. Go for slim fit, especially for your pants. And by “slim” we mean “slim.” Do not go overboard in the other direction.

Your black skinny jeans are fine for the weekend, but your boss isn’t going to appreciate you looking like an Urban Outfitters’ catalogue.

On the other hand, erring on the skinny side is always safer. Skinny might say seem a little immature, but baggy pants scream “I still unironically listen to Limp Bizket.” It’s time to quit rollin’.

2. Thou shalt not buy distressed denim.

While slacks should be your first go-to, Jeans are great for the smart casual look, but holes, weird dye jobs, and frayed edges are a firm “no.”

Keep them dark and fully intact. Also, go for something a bit sturdier than standard Levis. Go for some heavy raw denim.

They should also be dark. Light denim has made a comeback, but it is still very informal. If your dress code is lax enough to allow jeans, take advantage of it.

3. Thou shalt up your shoe game.

Sneakers have made huge strides in fashion, but unless you work in a dress-code free work-place, it doesn’t matter that you paid $150 for your Nikes.

Go with some versatile dress shoes or boots. Avoid patent leather or anything that seems to formal. It’s fairly easy to tell what shoes belong with a three-piece suit, and what looks good with denim.

4. Thou shalt keep it simple.

Over doing it with complex patterns and textures can easily take your outfit into the casual realm. This mostly becomes a problem when you start layer.

Don’t wear a marled sweater with a gingham shirt and a patterned tie. Actually, don’t do that ever. Keep your base solid, and build from there.

5. Thou shalt invest in quality.

We all love cheap, fast fashion. It’s tempting to go buy suit jacket from H&M for $40 and call it a day, but you must resist.

There are a few reasons why, but most importantly, poor quality shows. Even if $100+ seems like a lot to drop (it isn’t in the menswear world), a nice jacket will last you for years.

That polyester monstrosity will last you a few months.

6. Thou shalt always lean towards smart.

We’ve emphasized here that smart casual is a fine line to tread. Unfortunately, you’re bound to falter to one side or the other at times. No one is perfect. If that’s the case, always fall on the smart side.

This is your work outfit. No one is going to fault you for overdressing. Wearing a tux to a cubicle may be a faux-pa, but a t-shirt and distressed jeans will always be worse.

Underdressing makes it seem like you don’t care, and it may even violate some of your office rules. Play it safe so you don’t end up with a pink slip.

7. Thou shalt groom thyself.

There’s nothing wrong with facial hair. A well taken care of beard or a permanent 5 o’clock shadow is a strong fashion statement in its own right.

But keep it well trimmed. Even it out, and make sure your moustache isn’t in danger of being swallowed.

If your stubble is patchy, lose it. We can’t all grow acceptable beards, and we just need to accept that.