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5 x tips on how to put together a smart/casual wardrobe for men

More and more of my clients are moving to dress in a smart/casual style and leaving the suits behind. But the smart/casual area is a large one - pretty much anything in between jeans and a t-shirt and a suit, so no wonder it leaves a lot of guys confused. 

So to get you started, here are my top 5 tips on the do's and don'ts of creating your smart casual wardrobe. I'm also putting together a guide with a sliding scale of items from smart to casual, if you'd like to receive it, please join my mailing list and I'll be sending it out in 2 weeks time (25th Feb 2022). Or if you're reading this after the date has passed, just email me and I'll send it over.


How to put smart casual looks together for men - menswear stylist

Image on left: 
Beige cotton sweater - Canali at Mr Porter - £195
Tan suede bomber jacket - Valstar at Mr Porter - £900

1. Do get a softly tailored blazer

Boggi unstructured blazers - personal styling for men

The two blazers shown above are ones I got with a client last week (on sale, so hurry up and order if you like them!). They're both really lightweight and unstructured so look great with jeans and a t-shirt, as well as a shirt and chinos.

My client was at the more casual end of smart/casual so we decided he'd be best layering them over knitwear rather than a shirt. We bought some crew necks, and are also looking into getting a polo knit and cardigan (to wear with a t-shirt) to give a variety of looks. 

If you need to be at the smarter end of the spectrum, a pale blue or white Oxford shirt will work well under either of these or a chambray shirt to keep the look interesting. You could also try a darker coloured shirt.....maybe navy, or dark green would look good under the one on the left....it's hard to tell from the photo but it has flecks of green in it.

Left: Blue b-jersey printed cotton herringbone jacket -  Boggi - £314.30
Right: Grey printed wool jersey jacket -  Boggi - £384.30

2. Don't combine very smart with very casual

Smart casual looks for men - menswear personal stylist

Don't do what I saw on a guy wearing on Facebook the other day, and combine a really casual top, in his case a half zip sports top with logos and panelling, and a really formal stiff collared shirt and tie! He definitely hadn't nailed the smart casual look! 

Instead you need to come in a step from either end of the smart/casual scale. For example, if he'd come in a few paces from the very casual end, and worn a half zip knitted jumper instead of a sports top it would have looked better. Then instead of a formal, collar shirt, he'd slid away from the smart end and worn an Oxford shirt instead, it would have all sat much more harmoniously together. And to finish off, he could have either left off the tie completely, or gone for a more casual knitted style rather than a silk one. The whole look would have worked a whole lot better!

3. Do get some fine gauge knits

Uniqlo and Sandro fine gauge knitwear - personal shopping for men

In general, the chunkier the knit the more casual it is so if you go for fine gauge (thin, lightweight knit) you're in pretty safe territory. I'd go for a crew neck for versatility so you can wear with both a shirt or t-shirt, and even under a blazer. Also a knitted polo shirt is a good option - it still has the collar so it's closer to the look of a shirt, but more casual. A half zip as mentioned above, is a good classic and a button front cardigan can be nice to layer with a jacket and shirt, for extra warmth or for a more casual look, wear it with a crew neck t-shirt instead of a blazer.

Left: Long sleeved merino wool polo shirt - Uniqlo - £34.90
Right: Textured knit sweater - Sandro - £219

4. Don't ruin the look with the wrong shoes! 

Smart casual outfit ideas for men - menswear personal shopper

Your shoes can make or break your outfit. You may have on a great smart casual outfit, but if you finish it off with some smart black Oxfords then the balance is likely to be all wrong. Instead, go for brogues (open Derby lacing rather than the closed Oxford lacing), Chukka boots, leather trainers, or some soft soled shoes, or possibly some Chelsea boots....though personally I find these are not as versatile as Chukka boots. Dark brown goes well with a large range of items and will go with light or dark trousers. And also don't forget to tone in your belt with your shoes, in colour or texture.

Third image from left:  
Navy cashmere sweater - Tom Ford at Mr Porter - £920  
Stone wide leg brushed cotton trousers - Stoffa at Mr Porter - £290

5. Do get some well fitting jeans or 5 pocket trousers

5 pocket trousers Loro Piana and Incotex - personal styling for men

You can't go wrong with a pair of dark, clean wash slim fit jeans. You may want to try out the wider leg styles that are coming through, but for a more classic look, I'd go with a slim (not skinny) fit. One step smarter than denim jeans are the 5 pocket style - so trousers that are in the shape of jeans but in a fabric other than denim.

Chinos are also a good bet and they have varying degrees of smartness, depending on the wash (more washed in = more casual) and how they're pressed (a front crease = smarter). 

Left: Slim fit garment dyed cotton blend trousers - Loro Piana at Mr Porter - £390
Right: Slim fit stretch cotton twill trousers - Incotex at Mr Porter - £205

Do you struggle when it comes to putting together smart casual outfits for work or going out? Would you like a helping hand to guide you through the smart casual conundrum and shop with you for outfits? Book in your shopping trip now:

Book in for your shopping trip today

"Having dithered for ages about updating my wardrobe I finally got my act together and decided to do something about it.

A day spent shopping with Sarah is a great investment. Prior to meeting we chatted on the phone and I filled in a questionaire which helped her to plan a range of clothes for me to try at a number of different shops. Her notebook was crammed with ideas and suggestions she wanted to try out.

The day was fun, informative and most importantly I walked away with a range of new clothes / outfits I love. The following day Sarah sent me a document with a list of outfits I could put together with both my new clothes and items from my existing wardrobe.

When the time comes I won’t hesitate to ask for Sarah’s help again."

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