Reviewed & updated: October 19, 2022 by Jamie Wilson BA
It sounds like a tricky combination to pull off, particularly when you don’t know where to start. But when you’ve mastered it, it’s the easiest go to for most occasions. Here’s our top tips on how to dress smart casual at work.
We’ve all been there. You’ve had a brilliant first week in a brand new job, it’s 5:00 on the Thursday afternoon and someone tells you ‘Don’t forget it’s dress down day tomorrow.’ The first dress down day in any job is always the most stressful, perhaps even more stressful than the first day itself.
You’re told that the appropriate dress for dress down is smart casual. Those dreaded two bomber will give it a smarter edge, likewise with a smart casual shirt and jeans combination. words that every man hates to hear.
Smart over Casual
If ever in doubt always go with smart over casual, after all you’re still attending work, not nipping down the pub with a few mates. This means an ironed, casual shirt over a T-Shirt, well fitted jeans or work trousers, and shoes as opposed to trainers.
Now making the right decisions in terms of all these items is still essential. Make sure your shirt still looks smart. Dress down days are a chance to express yourself but if you come in wearing an Alfie Moon inspired get up, chances are you won’t make a decent impression. If you are feeling the need to mix things up a bit, go for a simple patterned shirt.
Footwear is simple enough- steer clear of trainers (depending on what industry you work in) and instead opt for brogues or loafers. These are the perfect compliment to the smart casual dress up.
Jeans, Trousers, and The Denim Debate
Do invest in a high quality pair of jeans. What you wear on your bottom half can often be the most important element of your outfit and thankfully, there are plenty of options available that suit a smart casual style. The basics here are simple enough: make sure your jeans are well fitted, ironed and don’t have any rips or blemishes on them. The denim debate will continue to rage on but providing the denim is of good quality and fits well it should do the trick. Though darker colours are often better suited to the style.
A pair of dark, well fitted slim trousers can perfectly compliment a casual shirt, as can skinny jean providing they aren’t spray painted on. Though well suited to casual situations low rise jeans are probably best avoided when putting together a smart casual outfit for the workplace.
If there is one item of clothing that can be perfect for the smart casual look at work, it’s a nice fitting jumper. Getting the right jumper is essential. First off, avoid any sort of novelty clothing- your Mr Potato Jumper might be the most comfortable one in your wardrobe, but you’re going to work, not cracking open a tub of Ben and Jerry’s ready to binge watching Fargo.
Like in most cases with the smart casual dress, less is more when it comes to jumpers. If you’re going to go for patterns keep it simple. Like with shirts, use it as a chance to express yourself, but don’t go over the top. A more straightforward and often prefered approach is to stick with a plain well fitted jumper, sometimes over a collared shirt. A jumper is the perfect way to bridge the dreaded gap between overly formal and smart casual.
Knitted jumpers also tend to compliment the look perfectly and if you have picked this style, then make sure it has a crew neck and is slim fitting. Baggy jumpers are a no go. There’s casual, then there’s baggy jumper casual.
Jacket or Blazer?
The final touch for a top class smart casual outfit is the jacket. The safest option here is to go for a smart jacket or a blazer. A casual blazer could prove to be one of the best purchases you will ever make. Not the kind of blazer you would wear for work, go for something like a textured wool blazer or a tweed one. These are adaptable for most situations and are the perfect way to compliment a smart casual attire.
Needless to say any sort of hat won’t be appropriate here, but you can still accessorise a little bit. A nice watch is ideal for the occasion, preferably a smart analogue one that suits the rest of your attire. Stick with simple belts- no big buckles or crazy designs, though feel free to toy with materials a little bit, a woven belt can fit the smart casual look just as well as a leather one.