The Essential Guide to Smart Casual for Men

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by  David Martin | Last Updated: 

The prime days of the business casual dress code are behind us. 

The modern work environment has become more casual and less formal, leaving less room for the guy who wears slacks, brogues, and a button-down shirt everyday. 

Business casual no longer stands out in the crowd. If you’re wearing it, you probably blend in with the masses and the majority of people who don’t know how to dress to impress.

This loss of formality in the workplace has given rise to a new dress code: smart casual. 

Smart casual is all about looking your best—not because you have the most expensive clothing, but because you have the most intentional and well-constructed outfits.

This dress code blurs the lines between traditional formalities: sometimes it’s casual, sometimes it’s business casual, and sometimes it’s formal, but it’s never just one. 

This blend of formalities makes it versatile enough to stand out from the crowd with confidence and comfort.

Want to know how to wear it?

This article will define smart casual attire, explore its key elements and history, show you what smart casual is and what it isn’t, and show you how to pull it off properly.

We’ll also walk you through a host of outfit examples so you can lock down this ambiguous dress code with certainty.

What Is Smart Casual?

Charles Tyrwhitt oxford and lightweight pants

Smart casual is more a mentality than it is a formal list of rules and etiquette that make up a dress code

I know that’s not exactly helpful, so let me elaborate.

For the last century of fashion, there have been strict guidelines to determine the formality of any event. Going to a gala? That’s a black tie event.

Got a boardroom meeting? That’s business attire.

Going into the office at your investment banking job? That’s business casual. 

Having friends over to watch the game? Definitely casual.

The formality of the office work environment has become more casual, however, which has had a ripple effect up and down the scale of formality, giving rise to a dress code that blurs these traditional formalities.

You guessed it: it’s smart casual.

Smart casual is a slim cut linen suit with a clean, white t-shirt and high-end leather sneakers.

Smart casual is dark wash, slim cut jeans with loafers, a button-down shirt and a blazer or suit jacket.

Smart casual is chinos with leather sneakers, a quality t-shirt, a denim jacket, and thoughtful details like a quality timepiece and shades.

This dress code is a blend of elements that are typically relegated to their own formalities. Jeans are typically casual, but if you pair them with leather Chelsea boots, a gingham button-down, a quality quarter zip, and a quilted jacket you’re ready for just about any business meeting.

Let’s get a little more specific.

Formal Smart Casual

Formal smart casual takes traditionally formal outfits and dresses them down slightly. The example of a slim cut suit with premium leather sneakers works perfectly here. 

The suit is typically formal, but when dressed with more casual leather sneakers and a white t-shirt or casual button-down, you get an outfit that’s a blend of formal and casual, or smart casual.

Let’s look at a classic business casual outfit: slacks, dress shoes, and a nice button-down. 

If you keep the slacks and button-down, but swap in leather sneakers for the dress shoes and put a structured jacket or cardigan over top, you now have an outfit that’s still dressy enough for a business casual environment, but not exactly business casual.

I’m a big fan of Mizzen+Main’s Helmsman 5 Pocket Pant for this kind of outfit. These pants are a blend of polyester and spandex, which makes them super comfortable while keeping the appearance of a quality pair of slacks. Perfect for dressing up or down.

Mizzen+Main Helmsman 5-Pocket Pant

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Another classic, formal outfit is a pair of slacks or chinos, nice dress shoes, button-down shirt, and blazer.

If you swap out the slacks for a pair of dark wash, slim cut jeans and add a tie, you’ve perfectly hit the formal smart casual dress code.

Formal smart casual outfits become more formal with the addition of classy accessories. The easiest addition here is a dress watch like the Vincero Kairos

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While we’d like to see a greater selection of leather bands from Vincero, the simple, masculine design of the Kairos collection works equally well in the office, at a wedding, or out for drinks.

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Add a watch to an outfit with a blazer, button-down, dark wash jeans, and dress boots, and you’ve further solidified your formal smart casual look.

Informal Smart Casual

Informal smart casual takes traditionally casual outfits and dresses them up slightly with formal elements.

New Republic Kurt Leather Sneaker from side left foot forward

Let’s look at a classic, casual outfit: jeans, leather sneakers, and a t-shirt. Swap the t-shirt for a short-sleeve button-down, and you’ve made a casual outfit more dressy.

You can also swap the t-shirt for a quality button-down, like Mizzen+Main’s Leeward No Tuck Dress Shirt. Put a bomber or Harrington jacket over top, and you’ve nailed the informal smart casual look.

Mizzen+Main Leeward No Tuck Dress Shirt

This classy quick-drying / wrinkle-resistant performance dress shirt is 2" inch shorter in the body for a no-tuck look, perfect for smart casual wear.

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This can even go as far as wearing joggers. Take a good pair of joggers, a pair of white leather sneakers like KOIO’s Capri Triple Whites, and pair it with a collared shirt and jacket. This is a great outfit for happy hour with your coworkers, or a business meeting on the links.

I’m a big fan of Mizzen+Main’s Helmsman Joggers here, which look like a normal pair of slacks.

Mizzen+Main Helmsman Jogger

It's rare to find pants that are genuinely as comfortable as they are sharp from a style perspective. Mizzen+Main's Helmsman Joggers are those pants.

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What Is Not Smart Casual?

Smart casual, as hard to define as it may be, is clearly not several things. As a general rule, smart casual is not any one, traditional formality. I’ll explain this further below.

Smart Casual vs Formal

model walking JCrew Ludlow suit in brown english wool

If you’re dressing for a formal event, you’re wearing a dark-colored suit with a dark tie and quality dress shoes. More often than not, these are black tie events which warrant a tuxedo and bow tie. 

We love the Ludlow suit from J. Crew, pictured above, but worn with a shirt, tie, and dress shoes makes this a formal outfit and not a smart casual one.

In these instances, you’re dressed formally from head to toe. There’s no informal element mixed in to make this smart casual. Thus, the formal dress code is not smart casual.

Smart Casual vs Business Casual

model looking at camera with black Frank and Oak oxford button down

This one can be tricky, but the same basic principle applies. Business casual outfits consist of all formal elements, like the outfit you see above on the right. Nice, dark slacks, dark dress shoes, and a clean button-down.

The smart casual response to this is seen below, where the model is wearing olive chinos, a nice button-down, and white leather sneakers. Not all of these elements are formal, which makes this smart casual rather than business casual.

Smart Casual vs Dressy Casual

Smart Casual vs Dressy Casual

Speaking of tricky, this one is even more nuanced but holds to the same principle.

Dressy casual is typically a formal outfit with casual fabrics or details. Say, for example, that you’re invited to a summer wedding where the dress code is dressy casual. 

You’d probably wear a light-colored suit, a crisp white button-down, and some brown dress shoes. The suit could be linen or corduroy, which is a more casual fabric than wool.

Suitsupply Custom Suit model walking from side

Dressy casual also entails unstructured blazers, patterned button-downs, and chinos. Does that sound like smart casual? It does, but again the difference is that every element in the outfit is intended to be formal. 

If you took the same linen suit and swapped the button-down for a white t-shirt and white leather sneakers, you’d have a smart casual outfit.

Smart Casual vs Casual

Gobi Cashmere zip hoodie with jeans and tee on balcony

More of the same story here. Casual outfits have all casual elements, where smart casual introduces some formal pieces to the array. 

If you’re going to watch the game with friends, you’d probably wear some basic sneakers, comfy jeans, and a hoodie. 

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This becomes a smart casual outfit when you keep the jeans, swap the sneakers for leather brogues, and add a button-down and cardigan to the top.

8 Smart Casual Outfits for Men

A copious number of outfit examples is the best way to nail down the smart casual dress code, so let’s take a look at two outfits per season.

Spring

Spring is full of transitional weather, so it’s best to be prepared for a chilly breeze but also the warm sun. 

That means jackets will be our best friend here.

Let’s start with a wool suit jacket, under which we’ll pair a button-down and light crewneck sweater. Finish the outfit off with some nice chinos and a pair of white sneakers, and you’ve got the perfect smart casual outfit for spring.

Next, start with a pair of leather sneakers, cuffed chinos, a patterned button-down shirt, quilted vest, and optionally a light coat over top.

This kind of outfit gives versatility for a host of different weather environments and formalities. If you’re too warm, take off the outer coat. Want to lean slightly more towards business casual? Ditch the quilted vest and keep the button-down tucked in.

Summer

In the heat of the summer, the simpler the outfit, the better. 

Start with an untucked button-down, choose a pair of light chinos or slacks, and pair these with some white leather sneakers. As you can tell, these dressy sneakers are a staple of the smart casual style, but they’re not necessary for every smart casual outfit.

Another solid summer outfit can start with joggers. I only recommend this if the joggers look like normal chinos, like Mizzen+Main’s Helmsman 5 Pocket Joggers.

Mizzen+Main Helmsman Jogger

It's rare to find pants that are genuinely as comfortable as they are sharp from a style perspective. Mizzen+Main's Helmsman Joggers are those pants.

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Pair these joggers with some white leather sneakers and an untucked button-down or short sleeve button-down, and you’re all set to brave the heat in style.

Smart casual is about the intentional, thoughtful touches to an outfit, and a classy pair of shades or a watch can help this along. Knockaround Sunglasses has a wide variety of classic and unique frame and lens combinations that are great for most smart casual outfits.

Knockaround Mount Evans

The Mount Evans is a square version of classic aviators, and I'm a big fan of the gold and green combo.

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Fall 

Ah, fall. Everyone’s favorite transitional season for fashion.

Smart casual outfits are great for fall, as they usually have a number of layers that are perfect for moody weather.

Here’s a good example:

Starting with a pair of brown leather Chelsea boots, add in dark wash blue jeans, a crewneck sweater, and a quilted vest. Finish this outfit with a classy watch and a good pair of shades, and you’re ready for a modern day business meeting or first date at the hot new restaurant in town.

Fall is also a great time to break out your quarter zips.

To achieve a camping vibe that’s appropriate for the office, start with leather, lace up boots. Pair these with quality, slim blue jeans, a collared shirt, and a quarter zip. This look says, “Let’s do business so I can go sip bourbon by a campfire.”

Mizzen+Main’s ProFlex Quarter Zip is perfect for this outfit.

Mizzen+Main ProFlex Quarter Zip

Mizzen+Main's ProFlex Quarter Zip offers great flexibility and breathability, which makes it perfectly comfortable for wearing over a collared shirt.

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As the name suggests, this quarter zip offers great flexibility and breathability, which makes it perfectly comfortable for wearing over a collared shirt.

Winter

The coldest months provide the best opportunities for wearing an obnoxious number of layers, and smart casual outfits fit right into this.

For the above, start with a pair of brown leather lace up boots and a pair of neutral-colored chinos. Then, get ready to layer. 

Use an Oxford as a base, like one you can find from Charles Tyrwhitt. Top this with a light cardigan, put a light blazer over that, and finish the outfit with a neutral peacoat. 

Charles Tyrwhitt Button-Down Collar Washed Oxford Shirt

Multibuy legend, Charles Tyrwhitt brings the goods with their Button-Down Collar Washed Oxford. They feature a split back yoke, which allows for a greater range of movement and comfort and have been garment washed for a softer handfeel.

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You’ll definitely be warm, and this outfit is great for the office, dinner with your significant other, or a wedding.

If you experience more temperate winters, you can take a heavy wool or corduroy suit, grab a trusty pair of white leather sneakers, and put a white or cream hoodie under the suit jacket.

You’re all the best parts of classy and casual, and super comfortable to boot.

More Smart Casual Examples

2 Jeans Smart Casual Outfit Ideas

Another staple of a smart casual wardrobe is a solid pair of jeans. As such, here are two more outfit examples to help you nail this look without question. 

The first, all the best parts of a premium suit, but in the comfort of jeans:

This outfit is helped along by the thoughtful details, from the color of his socks and how they match his tie, to his watch and his pocket square. 

You can easily rock this for your next presentation at work, and be comfortable enough to go to happy hour afterwards and be the best dressed guy there. 

Pairing this outfit with loafers is perfect for a smart casual outfit, too. Loafers are comfortable and slightly more casual than lace-up brogues or oxfords, so the loafers help keep the casual current running strong in this outfit. 

For a slightly less formal take, try this:

Instead of opting for the tried and true dark wash blue jeans, throw some color in there. Cuff the jeans, wear a good pair of tassel loafers, and top it off with a button-down and sweater. 

I love the versatility of this outfit. It’s perfect for the office, but also comfortable enough to go to the movies.

Smart Casual Dress Code for a Restaurant: 2 Outfit Ideas

Restaurants are the perfect venue for a sharp, smart casual outfit. 

I’ve been to a few fancy dinners in my time, and trying to shovel food into your face while wearing a suit just isn’t that comfortable. 

Thus, this is a perfect time for a smart casual ‘fit to shine. Below are two outfit examples.

Back to a base of leather dress sneakers, pair these with cropped trousers, a simple button-down, and a good peacoat. This is a great outfit for those business casual restaurants that are more hip than stuffy, and is a perfect choice for a first date. Or really, any date. 

Cropped trousers like those are super comfortable, so no matter how big your food baby is you’ll be able to leave in comfort.

This one is another great choice for classy restaurants, especially those with exterior seating in the summer. It’s light, breathable, and it looks like you just walked out of Miami. 

The outfit additions, like his watch, ring, and sunglasses, help keep this outfit formal. Even if he were to take the jacket off, his tucked t-shirt and formal details help keep him on the dressy side of smart casual.

Will this outfit be more comfortable than wearing a three-piece suit to dinner? You betcha.

Smart Casual Dress Code for Men: The Essential Guide

The smart casual dress code is broad, and it can be daunting to wrap your head around where to start. 

To help, we’ve compiled a list of basic essentials for each category of clothing that will be a good starting place to getting more smart casual pieces in your wardrobe.

Shirts

Shirts are a good place to start when planning your smart casual outfit. 

First, decide if you want to wear a button-down or t-shirt. If a button-down, you can plan to wear jeans or a more casual pair of pants. If a t-shirt, plan to wear nicer pants, like chinos or suit bottoms. 

Let’s say you want to start with a button-down. If you want it untucked, I recommend Mizzen+Main’s Leeward No Tuck Dress Shirt. This shirt comes in a huge variety of colors and patterns, and is made from a fabric blend of polyester and spandex.

It comes in classic and trim fit and a wide ray of sizes, so you’ll definitely find a fit that works for you. 

Mizzen+Main Leeward No Tuck Dress Shirt

This classy quick-drying / wrinkle-resistant performance dress shirt is 2" inch shorter in the body for a no-tuck look, perfect for smart casual wear.

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While we’re on the topic of Mizzen+Main, they have two other shirts that are perfect for smart casual outfits.

The first, the City Flannel, wears like a premium dress shirt but looks like a cozy flannel. This shirt is perfect for layering in the fall with a neutral sweater or waxed jacket, especially when finished with some chinos and brown leather boots such as the Clarks Desert Boot

Mizzen+Main City Flannel

The City Flannel wears like a premium dress shirt but looks like a cozy flannel. This shirt is perfect for layering in the fall with a neutral sweater or waxed jacket, especially when finished with some chinos and brown leather boots.

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The second is the Upstate Flannel, which has a heavier fabric weight and double chest pockets. This shirt is made with a polyester and nylon fabric blend that ensures the shirt won’t wrinkle, while staying breathable and flexible.

Mizzen+Main Upstate Flannel

This is one of our favorite flannels. It's made with a polyester and nylon fabric blend that ensures the shirt won’t wrinkle, while staying breathable and flexible.

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While the City Flannel is lightweight, the Upstate Flannel is midweight, which could also make it appropriate for use as a shirt jacket. 

If you’re looking for shirts that are slim fit and great for layering, State and Liberty has what you need. The brand advertises to athletes and bodybuilders, so most of their shirts are fit to display that body type. If you’re looking for more of a regular fit, stick with Mizzen+Main’s offerings. 

If you’re tired of synthetic, light dress shirts and want something with some heft, check out Charles Tyrwhitt. This legendary British clothier makes some of the best Oxford shirts on the market. The brand offers a good deal on multibuys, so if you’re looking to stock your wardrobe, this is a good place to start.

Charles Tyrwhitt Dress Shirts

Charles Tyrwhitt dress shirts are oldies but goodies. They have a multi-buy program that's perfect for guys who need a new set of dress shirts, pronto. Pick up two or three for an excellent discounted rate.

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T-shirts are also important staples to any smart casual wardrobe, and one of my favorite brands for quality threads is Fresh Clean Threads. The brand specializes in fitted t-shirts, and sells them in bundled packs that help save you some money if you need a few at once. 

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Industry Guidelines

  • Traditional white collar. Stick with classic dress shirts like Oxfords, and keep the colors to white and light blue. If you want to wear stripes, keep them thin and stay away from plaid or gingham.
  • Tech startups and creative roles. This is where you can rock your pattern shirts, flannels, ginghams, and plaid button-downs. T-shirts aren’t appropriate here, unless you’re a long-standing team leader of a tech startup. Also, you can wear these shirts more casually, meaning untucked, slightly unbuttoned, or with the sleeves rolled up.
  • Sales and service roles. If you’re in direct contact with customers, dress to impress. It’s safe to stick with crisp white or light blue button downs, but formal plaid and gingham dress shirts will also be appropriate here.

Pants

mizzen main grey pants with boots

Now that you know where to get your smart casual shirts, let’s move on to the pants. 

One of my favorites here, again, is Mizzen+Main. Their Helmsman 5-Pocket Pants look like a dressy pair of chinos, but fit and feel like joggers. These pants are wrinkle-resistant, moisture wicking, and slim fit to help give a sleek profile. I love the versatility of these pants, and they’re perfect for dressing up or down in a smart casual outfit.

Mizzen+Main Helmsman 5-Pocket Pant

Wrinkle-free pants that are classy enough for the office, but comfortable enough to run a 100 yard dash in.

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Mizzen+Main also has the Helmsman Jogger, which looks like a pair of chinos apart from the very subtle elastic cuff at the hem. These are perfect for working out, but also great for going out for drinks with friends. Regarding the fit, these pants fit slim through the leg and are made from a blended polyester and spandex fabric.

Mizzen+Main Helmsman Jogger

It's rare to find pants that are genuinely as comfortable as they are sharp from a style perspective. Mizzen+Main's Helmsman Joggers are those pants.

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Everlane is a top-notch supplier of men’s essentials and basics, and this is a great place to find your jeans, chinos, or slacks. They have a wide variety of jean washes, fits, and materials, so you can find the perfect piece for your smart casual outfits. The brand also has a good selection of khakis, chinos, and corduroys that are perfect for everyday wearing.

Everlane Uniform Slim 4-Way Stretch Organic Jean
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Another one of my favorite places to find jeans and chinos is Taylor Stitch. They’re a men’s essentials and basics shop, and their fashion caters to the rugged outdoorsman. Their dark wash jeans slightly taper to the hem, which give them a perfect fit that’s tidy but not too tight.

Speaking of jeans, The Perfect Jean NYC is a great place to find quality jeans at affordable prices. The brand has irreverent marketing, which makes for a fun shopping experience, and from the reviews it’s clear that they might actually be making perfect jeans. 

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The dark indigo option from The Perfect Jean has a slight wash to it has a casual vibe that's a great fit for Saturday afternoons at the park with the buds.

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Asket is another great place to find men’s clothing essentials, and especially a good place to find denim. Their jeans and chinos stick to classic styles and washes, so you can easily find a pair that’s perfect for a host of different outfits. That versatility, after all, is what the smart casual dress code is all about.

Asket The Chino
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Industry Guidelines

  • Traditional white collar. It’s best to stick to suit bottoms, slacks, and nice chinos here. If you’re wearing a blazer, white button-down, and tie, you can get away with a pair of dark wash jeans. Just make sure they’re slim cut and don’t have rips or any signs of distress.
  • Tech startups and creative roles. Jeans and chinos are the name of the game here, and even joggers if they look enough like chinos. This is a great place to let your fashion sense run and pair more adventurous colors and patterns.
  • Sales and service roles. Like traditional white collar jobs, it’s best to stick with chinos and slacks. You can get away with jeans only if they’re a premium, dark pair and the rest of your outfit is formal.

Shoes

Wolf and Shepherd monaco loafers on model 1

Shoes are an important style consideration for any outfit, but especially smart casual. Since it’s often the shoes that help tip a formal or business casual outfit into the realm of smart casual, below is a list of some of my favorite places to get good footwear.

I’ve talked about white leather sneakers and dress sneakers in almost every smart casual outfit, and one of my favorite brands in this realm is KOIO. They make a range of men’s footwear, but are best known for their dress sneakers, like the Capri Triple White

KOIO Capri Triple White

The KOIO Capri Triple White is as loud as a white dress sneaker can get without leaving the minimalist realm. Go for these if you're all about quality in your footwear. They're super comfortable with outstanding build quality and an aesthetic that sits in between the dress and athletic sneaker worlds.

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I’m also a huge fan of Oliver Cabell for dress sneakers. Like KOIO, their sneakers are made with full grain Italian leather that provides optimal comfort and durability. I especially like Oliver Cabell’s Low 1s, which feature Margom soles for all day comfort. 

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If you’re looking to step up your dress shoe game, one of our top picks is M. Gemi. This Italian-inspired brand has loafers, oxfords, monk straps, and more that feature sleek profiles without being too old-school. These shoes are professional enough for boardroom meetings and comfortable enough for drinks on the weekend.

M.Gemi The Sacca Donna

With its top-quality suede, stylish color options, and limited break-in period, The Sacca Donna by M.Gemi is one of our favorite loafers. We especially love the unlined interior which keeps your foot both cool and dry.

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Another solid footwear brand is Beckett Simonon. They have a wide selection to look through, from leather sneakers to Chelsea boots to a full range of dress shoes.

closeup beckett simonon douglas jodhpur boot

The brand is slightly cheaper than their competition because their shoes are made-to-order. This means that they’ll start making your shoes only once you’ve ordered them, which ensures quality, but also means it takes weeks to get your shoes.

Beckett Simonon Leonard

Beckett Simonon's signature last has a sleek, modern profile, and the Argentinian full-grain leather feels like butter.

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Industry Guidelines

  • Traditional white collar. Classic dress shoes, like oxfords, brogues, and wing-tips, are your best bet. They’ll pair well with slacks and chinos, but also with a premium pair of jeans.
  • Tech startups and creative roles. Any smart casual shoe goes here, especially leather sneakers. White is a great choice for any outfit, but dark brown leather and black also work well for dress sneakers.
  • Sales and service roles. I recommend keeping your footwear formal here, but dress sneakers can also be appropriate if the rest of your ensemble is formal.

Optional Smart Casual Extras

As we’ve seen, layering and accessories are crucial to nailing the smart casual look. I’ve included some of my favorite brands for these optional extras below. 

Jackets And Blazers

model buttoning up blue suit with pink floral dress shirt underneath

Banana Republic is an excellent choice when it comes to jackets and blazers. They have a wide range of products and materials, from linen or corduroy to double-breasted and derby suit jackets. While many of their jackets are flashy, they also have a good selection of classic, wool pieces.

J. Crew is another solid spot for all your suiting needs. They offer a huge selection of blazers and suits, so you can match any formality or use case. This makes their products perfect for smart casual wardrobes.

Sweaters And Cardigans

Brooks Brothers merino wool sweater

Sweaters and cardigans are perfect for layering in smart casual outfits in the colder months, and Mizzen+Main’s ProFlex Quarter Zip is one of my favorites in this case. It’s flexible and comfortable, and won’t make you feel like you’re in a straightjacket when worn over a dress shirt.

Mizzen+Main ProFlex Quarter Zip

Mizzen+Main's ProFlex Quarter Zip offers great flexibility and breathability, which makes it perfectly comfortable for wearing over a collared shirt.

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If you have luxury tastes and want to add some cashmere to your wardrobe, check out Gobi. Their cashmere sweaters are ethically sourced and produced, and the brand works with local Mongolian herdsmen to source the finest quality, 100% Mongolian cashmere.

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Gobi brings sustainable business practices and quality craftsmanship to cashmere production. I love how soft and durable their sweaters are, and I’m impressed by the number of styles they have and the fact that they partner with nomadic, Mongolian herdsmen to source their cashmere. I didn’t find their garments to be much more affordable than competing cashmere brands, but their quality justifies their price.

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Another great spot for sweaters is Unbound Merino. Their Merino wool basics are perfect for layering or wearing by themselves. The sweaters in particular are lightweight, moisture-wicking, and great for keeping the chill at bay. 

Accessories

Need a good pair of shades to finish your smart casual outfit? I’m a big fan of Knockaround Shades, whose sunglasses are affordable but offer all the bells and whistles of luxury, brand name sunglass providers. Whether you’re looking for something flashy or classic, Knockaround is a great place to look, and each pair offers full UV400 protection.

For watches, I mentioned Vincero earlier, and Nordgreen is another great choice. The latter specializes in Scandinavian, minimalist watches, which are perfect for dressing up or down. These watches won’t cost an entire paycheck, and their versatility makes them the perfect complement to any smart casual outfit.

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Can You Wear A Tie With Smart Casual?

You can definitely wear a tie with a smart casual outfit. In fact, some of my favorite smart casual outfits include a tie and suit jacket. Here’s a good example:

Starting with a pair of leather tassel loafers, pair these with dark wash, slim jeans, a crisp button-down, tie, and suit jacket or blazer. You’ll look sharp as a tack, and be incredibly comfortable in a wide range of formalities. 

The History of Smart Casual Style

The term “smart casual” was first used in 1924 to describe an emerging women’s fashion style. 

It wasn’t until the 1950s that smart casual began to describe men’s clothing and fashion, and it was first applied to suits that were more relaxed than what you would wear to the office at the time. 

The dress code persisted quietly for a few more decades until the 1980s, when the formal lines between office wear and streetwear began to blur. As offices became less formal, smart casual gained more and more traction, ultimately landing where it is today.

What Does the Future Look Like for Men’s Smart Casual?

Smart casual is trending towards men’s performance wear, and these styles will play a large part in the future of the dress code

Men’s performance wear refers to shirts, pants, joggers, sweaters, and more, that are made with synthetic fabric blends for a more comfortable, breathable wearing experience. These garments have the stretch and feel of workout clothes, but are formal enough to wear into the office. 

This versatility makes performance wear perfect for smart casual outfits. With a pair of joggers that look like slacks, you can pair them with a button-down and a quarter zip, be dressed well for the office, and not even have to change when you head to the golf course after work.

Brands like Mizzen+Main have been creating office-appropriate performance wear for years, and we expect to see more of this movement as the workplace continues to prioritize comfort and versatility over formality.

Smarten Up

Although the smart casual dress code is difficult to define, you now have the knowledge and examples to rock this style without hesitation. 

The most important thing to remember is the blend of formalities. If you’ve put on an outfit that’s composed of all formal elements, you probably don’t have a smart casual outfit. Mix and match your formal pieces with informal to find an ensemble that’s versatile and sharp.

Taylor Stitch chinos and denim shirt

Smart casual is a great medium to express your personal style and make a fashion statement. Remember to include accessories like watches, sunglasses, bracelets, and pocket squares to give your outfit an extra personal touch. 

If you’re not sure where to start getting smart casual essentials, I recommend Mizzen+Main. All of their clothing is stylish, well-constructed, meant for performance, and ideal for smart casual outfits.

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Do you know a guy whose wardrobe is firmly stuck in business casual purgatory? Share this article with him. He’ll thank you when he’s the best dressed guy in the office.

FAQs

Can you wear jeans in smart casual?

You can definitely wear jeans with smart casual outfits. I recommend sticking to dark wash, slim cut jeans and avoiding any that are loose, ripped, or patterned.

Is a polo shirt smart casual?

A polo shirt is great for smart casual outfits. Pair it with jeans, leather tassel loafers, and optionally, a bomber for an easy smart casual ensemble.

Can you wear sneakers in smart casual?

You can wear sneakers in smart casual, but they should be dressy. Brands like KOIO, Oliver Cabell, and Beckett Simonon make great leather dress sneakers that are perfect for smart casual.

What is smart casual dress code for a restaurant?

Smart casual dress code for a restaurant can be leather loafers or comfortable dress shoes, a pair of dark wash, slim cut jeans, a crisp button-down shirt, and a blazer. Another example would be white leather sneakers, a pair of nice chinos, an untucked button-down, and bomber jacket on top.

What is smart casual attire for a wedding?

Smart casual attire for a wedding depends on the season. If it’s a summer wedding, wear a casual suit with dress sneakers and a quality white t-shirt. If the wedding is in the colder months, wear your best dark wash, slim cut jeans, a pair of dress shoes or loafers, a white button-down shirt, a tie, and a jacket or blazer.

How should teenage guys dress smart casual?

Teenage guys should dress smart casual just like anyone else. Invest in quality, dark wash jeans, neutral-colored chinos, leather dress sneakers, a few button-down shirts, and some optional tops like blazers, sweaters, and cardigans.

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