The majority of clients that come to see me need help with how to dress in a "smart/casual" style - they're fine with jeans and a t-shirt or a suit and tie but it's the in between bit that's tricky.
It's often due to a change in their situation at work for the following reasons:
1) They've been promoted and work for a tech company or similar where everyone dresses casually but they want to look more authoritative.
2) They want to be promoted and feel they need to up their game with how they dress and be taken seriously.
3) The company has introduced a smart/casual dress code and they've lost the uniformity and ease of wearing a suit and have no idea what to wear.
4) They can't bear the stress of deciding what to wear on Dress Down Fridays or for business away days or trips where they don't have to dress in a suit.
If you're in any one of the situations above, here are some guidelines to follow on what to wear. I've put 3 options in each category (starting with the most formal) so it covers a sliding scale of smart/casual depending on what type of office you're working in eg: If you work in finance you may want to opt for the more formal option and if you work in tech and everyone wears jeans and hoodies, then the more casual option is probably smart enough for you. I've stuck to the basics so you can pretty much mix it up depending on how you want to look.
This shirt is made slightly more casual than a regular business shirt by the bold print. It still has a structured collar but in a regular shape not cutaway, which you should avoid for smart/casual looks, along with double cuffs.
Pale blue and white striped shirt - Suit Supply - £79
The softer, unstructured collar (which you wouldn't wear a tie with) makes this shirt a little more casual. It's also in an Oxford cotton which is very slightly textured and thicker and more relaxed than a business shirt would be.
Slim fit Oxford cotton shirt - Glanshirt / Slowear - £185
Chambray button down shirt - Orslow at End Clothing - £199
A button down is a good default option for smart / casual dressing. It's origins are in sport (on the polo field to stop the collars of players shirts flapping around) so it's always thought of as more casual. And in a chambray fabric which is heading towards denim it looks even more dressed down. If you did want to dress it up a bit more, then wear a knitted or cotton tie with it.
These trousers are in fact part of a suit but because of the texture and fabric which is a linen and wool blend they look slightly more casual than a pair of plain wool trousers from a suit. Anything with a texture like herringbone or Donegal tweed, or even needlecord will be less formal than smooth wool.
'Ruck' linen and wool blend slim fit trousers - Reiss - £125
A default option for smart casual dressing would be chinos like the ones above. These are fairly casual as the finish looks slightly washed in, but if you want some that look more formal choose a pair that are crisper looking with a sharp crease down the front.
'Fielder' garment dyed slim fit chinos - Reiss - £110
You really need to have a pair of dark wash jeans in your wardrobe if you want to nail the smart/casual look. No rips or fading or weird washes, just a uniform wash in a dark colour which look smart. The classic shape at the moment is a slim cut so opt for that and keep the more fashion forward shapes and washes for out of work.
'Delaware' slim fit denim jeans - Hugo Boss at Mr Porter - £120
One of the contributing factors to the smartness of a blazer is how much padding it has in the shoulders and whether or not it has flap pockets or patch pockets. Also the darker the colour, the smarter it tends to look. This one has lightly padded shoulders and patch pockets and is in a smooth wool so it's one notch down from a suit jacket but still smart.
Navy wool blazer - Stella McCartney at Harvey Nichols - £715
Coming down the scale of formality, is this jacket which is unlined and in a jersey fabric. The fabric is still quite thick which will give it some structure, but there's no lining. Other fabrics which will bring down the formality of a blazer are cotton, tweed, seersucker, and linen mixes. Also if there's a texture to the fabric it usually makes it more casual but it will also depend upon the structure.
Navy slim fit unstructured jersey blazer - Mr P at Mr Porter - £425
The most casual of all is a knitted blazer. It bridges the gap between a cardigan and a jacket and for those working in a more casual environment but who want to look smarter, this is ideal. Opt for something that still looks refined and not too chunky otherwise it will start to look too casual.
Textured cotton blazer style cardigan - Massimo Dutti - £79.95
In this section, I haven't split them up as all knitwear is more casual, so I've just given different options of styles and tips on what to look out for. The main pointer is to avoid a chunky knit and go for fine gauge smooth merino wool. Avoid logos too which make a sweater look more weekend than work.
Navy fine honeycomb knit jumper - Sunspel at Opumo - £175
Some people love them and some people say "it'll make me look like my grandad!". Personally, I'm partial to a cardigan - in a fine knit and under a blazer it can look like a waistcoat, so adds a smarter twist to some outfits. Ensure it's s neat fit and I like the bottom button(s) undone too.
Navy merino wool cardigan - Suit Supply - £79
This is slightly more casual but roll necks are very "of the moment" and can look very sleek and smart. Avoid this look if you have a short neck though and stick to darker colours if you have a little extra weight around your middle. Again, stick to fine knits for work rather than the fisherman type chunkier ones - unless you actually are a fisherman that is!
'Caine' merino wool navy rollneck - Reiss - £90
These are still relatively smart as they're Oxfords but the brogueing, brown colour and suede all bring the formality down a touch.
Brown suede semi brogue Oxford shoes - Sons of London at Opumo - £195
For a more casual look, choose something like these Derbies which with their heavy brogueing, and commando sole are a lot more laid back than the suede shoes above.
Dark brown 'Archie' commando brogues - Grenson at Opumo - £210
I'm sure you can figure out that trainers are very casual, but there's trainers you can wear to work and sport trainers. Opt for leather and simple styling with small logos if any, for a smarter look that you can style with jeans or formal trousers for a work look.
Original 'Achilles' full grain leather trainers - Common Projects at Mr Porter - £260
Get your FREE downloadable smart/casual checklist here!
If you'd like some help putting together a capsule wardrobe of smart/casual items, then of course contact me, and I'll be pleased to assist.
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