Guide to Smart Casual Dress Code

Sometimes, you need to dress perfectly for an event or date that straddles the line between "casual" and "formal." Luckily, there's a perfect style for just these occasions: smart casual. Let’s take a look at the smart casual dress code in detail.

Defining “Smart Casual”

Of course, if you ask 10 people what smart casual means, you’ll get 10 different answers. That’s because what counts as smart casual is heavily dependent on personal taste, the occasion you need to dress for, and other factors.

But in a nutshell, smart casual means:

  • Dressing “casually,” meaning you can wear casual clothing items like jeans, a T-shirt, and so on. BUT…
  • Dressing “smartly” means put a little thought into the outfit and you include at least one clothing article associated with formality

By including one more formal clothing article, you can elevate your entire outfit to a level beyond standard casual. For example, you can wear basic chinos and sneakers with a collared T-shirt. Add a nice blazer on top of that and suddenly you are in smart casual territory.

Shirts and Jackets

When dressing for a smart casual event or occasion, your shirt and/or jacket will heavily define your outfit’s feel. Therefore, to dress smart casually, wear:

  • Oxford button-down shirts. These collared shirts are great for straddling the line between casual and formal events. These are also great shirts for men since they come in white and dark masculine colors like navy and gray
  • Unstructured blazers. These don’t have padding in the chest and shoulders and are great for pairing with semi-casual or relatively casual trousers
  • Collared t-shirts. If you're dressing smart casual and the weather doesn't permit a long sleeve shirt or jacket you can opt for a collared t-shirt

Trousers and Footwear

Of course, your legwear will also impact the overall look and feel of your outfit. For the best results, try to wear tailored trousers whenever possible. Avoid jeans unless your upper wear heavily compensates for it. The best trousers for a smart casual occasion include:

  • Dress khakis. These are a good option if you are going to an after-work event. Berle’s Charleston Dress Khakis are ideal solutions in this regard. They come in several styles and colors and are perfect as trousers for both a day at the office and a celebration afterward
  • Cotton or polyester dress khakis. Once more, these versatile pants work with all manner of collared shirts and/or blazers or jackets
  • Drawstring trousers. These prioritize comfort rather than fit. They might be better choices for a more casual affair or event where your other outfit elements will compensate
  • Chinos are great. These cotton twill trousers often come in navy or other colors and are best worn with a tapered fit
  • Some jeans can work, but not all. Generally, darker jeans are preferable to lighter jeans

Don't forget to consider footwear, as well. Generally, minimalist or basic sneakers or Oxford shoes are perfect for smart casual dressing. Brown Derby shoes can also work if you want to lean more toward the formal side of things.

Accessories for Smart Casual

Accessories for smart casual outfits are fairly straightforward. A basic watch helps to accentuate your outfit and elevate it above a casual ensemble. Try to avoid ties, though, as these will make your outfit seem more formal. Choose a leather belt in a color that complements your other clothing articles.

Colors and Common Sense

Colors will impact the overall look of your outfit significantly. Try to use common sense and pick complementary colors that don’t overwhelm each other. Complementary colors include gray trousers with a navy blazer and a white undershirt. The more complementary your colors, the better.

When to Go “Smarter”

As noted earlier, you should set out your smart casual outfit based on the event you are dressing for. “Smarter” events are closer to the formal end of the spectrum or might be focused on academics. For example, a college graduation ceremony is a common example of a “smarter” smart casual affair, especially if you’re a student.

When to Go More “Casual”

On the other hand, keep things as casual as possible and only include one “formal” item or accessory if the occasion is more casual. These are things like certain date nights, after-work cocktail parties, and similar get-togethers.

Berle Has What You Need for Smart Casual

As you can see, the smart casual dress code is pretty easy to get a feel for once you start to experiment. Try on a few outfits and don’t forget to check out Berle’s collection of tailored trousers for all your smart casual legwear needs!