How To Dress For A Smart Casual Business Environment
A smart casual dress code opens up a huge variety of options. It also causes a lot of concern and confusion for many men - the majority of us know how to dress down (jeans and tee shirt), or dress up (suit, shirt and tie)... but that bit in between is a like the Bermuda Triangle for many who just don't know where to start.
One of the big challenges is that the smart casual look allows more flexibility for personal taste in fashion and rather than comprising just three elements of suit, shirt and tie it can include jackets, dress trousers, dress shirts, sweaters, waistcoats, ties, matching leather accessories and shoes and boots. Employees who want to look ready for their next promotion within a smart casual environment will often pay more careful attention to getting smart casual right. Senior managers in a business casual environment also need to pay attention in order to preserve the projection their authoritative positions demand.
It should also be noted that you shouldn't try to cut corners with your budget and see smart casual shirts, trousers and jackets as investment pieces. Not only can they be worn for work when the dress code allows/demands, they can be used at most times outside of work too so go for quality in order to get the most mileage out of each piece.
The easiest place to start is to ensure your wardrobe contains the following as a minimum foundation (all tailored if possible to achieve the best look and level of comfort):
1. Five smart casual shirts with button cuffs. If you tend to stick to plain whites and blues and want to keep doing that, it's absolutely fine.
2. Trousers: One pair of navy chino style, one pair navy wool, one pair grey wool.
3. Jackets: One navy blazer, one medium grey blazer, one earth-tone (with subtle texture or pattern) blazer.
Once you have got used to mixing and matching the above and worked how much usage you are getting out of them, you can then start to work with your clothing advisor/tailor on expanding the smart casual wardrobe from there.
Here are some additional Do's and Do Not's for your consideration!
• Do not wear worn-out shirts – the shirt has long been the common piece in the smart casual wardrobe. The type of shirt a man wears says a lot about his level of class. Shirts that are ill-fittings or that have stains, worn collars or worn cuffs can send the wrong message and leave people assuming a man is uncaring and unkempt.
• Do not wear low-quality or ill-fitting jeans (if jeans are permitted in your company's dress down policy). Jeans are another popular casual staple worn on weekends and sometimes brought to the workplace. But low-quality denim can leave a man looking disheveled and frumpy instead of simply dressed down. You will realise that bespoke jeans, while often being 4 or 5 times more expensive than off the peg, are worth 4 or 5 times what you pay for off the peg the moment you put them on. Our range in particular are made using over 15 different measurements to ensure a perfect fit first time every time, guaranteeing a jean you will ever want to take off!
• Do wear casual trousers with a comfortable but high-quality fabric that will look good and keeps it's shape throughout the day.
• Do not wear hoodies as a fashion statement – unless you are under 15 years old. They may be casual but they are never smart! Traders in particular take note...
• Do stick to more structured, mature outerwear when it’s chilly, even on casual days. This can include a fine knit v neck sweater that can be worn on its own or over tailored open collar shirt.
• Do not shop for ready made clothes where you have to make tough choices – if you are a man who has a hard time making choices when it comes to what to wear and what to buy, avoid thrift stores or cheaper clothing stores that leave you faced with having to sort through racks of usually out of date clothes or simply just the stuff that no one else wanted!
• Do shop for ready made at retailers that consistently carry high quality clothes. It is also a good idea to shop in a store that offers a free styling service and / or employs experienced staff that understand fashion and know how to style men. They will help you stay on the right track toward creating a good wardrobe. Alternatively just find a good tailor who is well-versed and able to deal with different modes of dress (e.g. smart business, business casual and casual). Like me!
• Do buy tailored shirts that can be worn tucked in. To express some personality, prints or bold colours with detail such as contrasting cuffs, buttons etc will take you out of work mode into smart casual. Wear a shirt that expresses your personality. If you are ultra conservative, step out of the box and try wearing something different to what you normally wear – you will be amazed at the compliments you will receive and in return, how good that makes you feel. However like I said previously, when starting off if you want to stick to plain whites and blues that's also fine.
• Do invest in good smart casual shoes that look good with tailored jeans or trousers. At Roberto Revilla London we love Oliver Sweeney’s range of dress-down shoes, they have personality (in an understated way) and are super-comfortable to wear!
• Do invest in a waistcoat to go with your Blazer / Sports Coat / Jacket. If it’s a bit on the chilly side, instead of pulling on a sweater, team your jeans with a stylish jacket and waistcoat. Again this is easier to pull off with a good bespoke tailor rather than off the peg.
And that is basically it - now you know how to look like a gentleman on days when you don’t have to wear a suit. Also don’t forget that a small but fundamental trick to pulling of any smart casual look is confidence. So hold your head up, straighten that back and smile!