Decoding the ‘Smart Casual’ dress code

Decoding the ‘Smart Casual’ dress code

Smart Casual, a dress code so broad that it seems impossible to get right. Shrouded in ambiguity, the numerous questions that arise when seeing these two words on an event invitation is bound to cause some confusion and anxiety. That’s why we’ve tackled the vague meaning behind Smart Casual, so that you can feel confident in your outfit, whatever the location and occasion.

Not to be confused with casual wear or business casual, in its simplest sense, a ‘smart casual’ outfit should be able to take you from the office to a date without causing a second guess on your style. Being aware of the location and occasion of your event is the first step to understand what is expected of your outfit for the day.

For example, a fancy garden or beach party in the summer may call for a dressy pair of belted shorts and a light, tucked in shirt. On the other hand, a nice pair of chinos and smart dress shirt or casual blazer would work better at a birthday dinner with the in-laws. It’s all about understanding what is required for the event.

A good rule that’s often used in the fashion industry is ‘2 smart, 1 casual’. Wearing a smart pair of chinos and blazer, with a casual polo shirt underneath will become a ‘smart casual’ outfit. A fitted dress shirt and suede derby shoes, paired with a smart pair of jeans that compliment the outfit is also considered ‘smart casual’. Not only should you think about the type of clothing you’re wearing, but the quality as well. The state of your clothing will have as much impact on your outfit as the style of the garment itself. Think to yourself, if it’s something you’d wear casually around the house, it’s more than likely not acceptable to wear in a smart-casual outfit.  

If you’re still unsure on outfit expectations, there’s no shame in asking the event organiser. At the end of the day, they’ll know best on how you should dress for their event.

To make building your outfit for the occasion that little bit easier, we’ve listed our top 6 wardrobe must-haves and timeless essentials that you can mix and match throughout the years.

Relaxed blazer

A timeless piece to last you for years to come, you can’t go wrong with an unstructured blazer. With informal details like light fabrics and patch pockets, this must-have garment is the perfect addition to elevate any casual outfit and master the modern smart-casual style.

Oxford button down shirts

Commonly made with a heavier and rougher weave, an Oxford shirt is a perfect addition to any wardrobe due to it’s simplicity and durability. Being a blank canvas, it’s great to dress up or down depending on other garments you pair with it, and remains a go-to staple for any smart-casual look.

Derby shoes

A less formal version of Oxford shoes, Derby Shoes have a great range of versatility. For a more formal outfit, a dark range of colours like black and dark browns work best compared to lighter colours such as light brown and grey which favour a more casual look.


Every wardrobe should contain at least one pair of chinos. When doubting whether or not denim jeans are too casual, classic slim fit chinos are always the best choice. To make styling easier, chose versatile shades such as grey and black, and add a modern touch by turning up the hem on the ankles.

Smart jeans

Jeans, if styled right, can help create the perfect smart-casual look. Avoid jeans with rips and bleach marks, alongside jeans with signs of old age or wear, and remember the ‘2 smart 1 casual’ rule when completing the look to help push your outfit into the smart-casual bracket.

Polo shirts

Sitting between a classic t-shirt and button down dress shirt, the polo shirt combines style and comfort and remains one of the most versatile garments you can own. Tuck for a more formal look, or untuck to give off a more casual vibe.

Looking to get fitted for an upcoming occasion and don’t know where to start? Get in contact with Platts Menswear today.


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