Smart Casual: What are the rules?

One reader asked for advice on putting together a smart casual ensemble.  What are the rules? The problem is that there are no rules for smart casual. The more formal the context the more straightforward the dress.  I have received really formal invitations which tell me what the dress code is: black tie, or collar and bands, but the less formal the more difficult it is to know quite how to proceed.

One important consideration is some idea of what smart or casual might be for the context.  In a situation where the normal dress is tank top, Bermuda shorts, and flip flops, smart casual might be to wear a polo shirt, linen trousers and deck shoes. Alternatively, if the norm is suit and tie, then smart casual may simply be less formal blazer with different colour trousers and tie.

I confess that I am far more at ease putting together a formal ensemble.  Smart casual engages with far more variables. What follows, then, will not be universally applicable but might give some ideas for your own ensemble.

Cotton Blazer, J Crew

Assuming that we are not in a context at either extreme a good smart casual look can achieved by layering, which works best in spring and autumn, less well in summer.

Seersucker Blazer, J Crew
M&S Harris Tweed Blazer

A classic look is a grey/navy combination, either a mid grey jacket or blazer with navy trousers or navy jacket and grey trousers.  Combining this with a v necked jumper or button up jumper and button down collar shirt in pink, lilac or pale blue, preferably in a check or stripe would achieve a smart but relaxed look. Depending on how casual or smart the look one is looking to achieve one might wear brogues or deck shoes to complete the ensemble.

Navy Blazer, J Crew
Charles Tyrwhitt Tan Blazer

In the summer lighter and brighter colours perhaps with a linen or corduroy blazer would be worth exploring. Khakis and tans work well.

For those for whom this look sounds more smart than casual, a smart shirt with a pair of chinos or dark blue jeans and smart brown shoes, possibly with a jumper, might be more up your street.

Shawl Jumper, Theory

Charles Tyrwhitt produces a seasonal catalogue which includes casual wear. CT catalogue models might give you some idea of a look that works for you.  Why not experiment and see how you get on?

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