There are many dress codes that people enjoy making men suffer through for different occasions. The most confusing of them all is the "Smart Casual" option. Is it smart? Is it casual?
What does the hybrid actually consist of if you are trying to be smart and casual? Does that even exist in most men's wardrobe options? It's a minefield, but we're here to help. Let's break this all down from the top to the bottom.
It's probably a bad idea to wear a hat if you are undecided. Most people will not be wearing hats at a smart casual event. Hats are certainly more casual. However there is an exception; if you have a fedora that matches your outfit, it can add a nice flair to an otherwise potentially boring outfit.
If you're a legitimate cowboy and are attending the event looking like you , then a cowboy hat would be acceptable too. No baseball caps, no "NY" black caps with flat peaks, no beanies (unless it's winter, a wool knitted beanie and it matches your outfit) and definitely no trucker caps.
If you are attending an event outdoors, a hat is almost a must. A neutral Panama or even a Trilby can set you apart from the crowd. Once again, avoid caps, but you can still pull off a classically shaped hat with ease.
Here is an easy way to style your hat, and where you should wear them.
Jackets are completely acceptable and actually help your outfit reach the "smart" smart casual. They are the easiest way to meet the formal brief, and you should not overlook the power of a well-tailored jacket or blazer.
In the summer, go for something lightweight, such as cotton or linen. There is no need to sweat for the style. In the winter months, a wool jacket will serve you well and you will most likely not need to take a coat with.
With regards to colours, you have two options. You can keep your jacket neutral, and match it with a bright shirt. Or you have a bright jacket, and more neutral under layers. Just don’t match bright with bright; you want to look smart, not like a billboard.
This is where most men begin to fall off the wagon. Do we go for a button up or a t-shirt or a golf shirt or a v-neck? Here are some guiding principles. There is no correct answer here, it depends on the collective outfit you are putting together.
T-shirts are acceptable if you are wearing a more formal suit jacket, pea coat, quilted jacket or overcoat. The jacket makes the t-shirt more formal. If you are going to wear a less formal jacket with smart pants (like chinos) then you should go with a golf shirt or button up. But don't button up the top buttons unless the shirt is tailored that way.
A button up shirt is always a great option if you are wanting to lean towards the smart side of the dress code. Neutral colors are always acceptable. Don’t be afraid of patterns, stripes or houndstooth shirts that can add a little flair to your outfit.
It's important, for whatever shirt you are wearing, to avoid logos. Your favourite "Nike tick" t-shirt won't cut it, sadly. Plain t-shirts are always a better option unless you're a 12-year-old boy or sponsored by Nike.
For a smart casual event, you want to avoid ties or bowties. These immediately remove the casual part of the dress code. However, if this is the intention and you are trying to raise the game, then go for it. Just try to make sure it's a fun tie or bowtie. You don't want to wear a black tie to a smart casual event.
If it’s cold, a scarf is also a fun way to spice your outfit up. Most people just drape them over their shoulders, or simply wrap them, but there are many different knots and ways to wear a scarf to make it more unique.
Smart casual events are made for stylish and fun accessories. You can go for fun socks matched with bright shoelaces. You could put a crazy lapel pin on your jacket and match it with a polka dot pocket square or even go for it with all four.
This is where you'll be able to really show people who you are and how you like to dress. Don't shy away from wearing colour in your accessories, it's only a splash of colour so it will come across as intentional and well planned.
Don’t go too overboard with the accessories though, you don’t have to wear every bracelet or chain you own. Keep it simple, but once again, use this as a chance to express yourself, if you like pink, don’t wear a pink suit, a pink pair of socks will add that subtle hint of fun.
Sunglasses shouldn’t be underestimated either. Don’t be that guy who wears sunglasses at night, you aren’t a bodyguard. But a sleek pair of shades will add a touch of mystery but also a touch of class.
The rule of thumb for suits is to never wear the jacket and pants separately. This can be complicated if your only nice pair of pants is the bottom half of your nice suit. A safe bet is to wear a pair of dark blue denim or chinos if you've got them. The next best option is a pair of tailored pants.
The colour isn't important in isolation but remembers to try and match or complement colours in blocks - pants with a tie, shoes with a belt, socks with pocket square but not necessarily in that combination of things.
You don't have to match pants and jacket or shirt and socks or pants and shoes at all. As long as it looks like you're making an effort and you aren't going with tweed pants and a denim jacket, you should be OK.
Shorts can also be an option. No, not the boardshorts you wore at the beach last week, but a pair of chino shorts or tailored shorts. They work well with jackets and blazers, they look smart, but without feeling like you have overdressed.
Running shoes are never an option. Skater shoes are most likely not an option for you either. Some guys will be able to pull off the skater shoe but they usually have a lot of tattoos or actually are skaters.
You should be aiming for a more comfortable shoe - mostly because smart casual events often mean a lot of standing around and talking. Don't go with something too formal, it's not a wedding.
Slops are not an option at an event like this. A good combination if you're wearing those dark blue denim is a brown pair of shoes with a brown belt. You can always brighten up any pair of shoes you might have with a pair of bright shoelaces.
You do not need to wear your best pair of formal shoes, but like we said above, you aren’t going for a run either. Anything leather will work.