What Makes Men's Smart Casual Style Smart?

If you still think that fashion is the female's prerogative, then you are wrong! It's 2021, and men are just as interested in looking good as women.  

Smart casual man wearing shades and dress shirt on train

There is a roadmap to dressing up with style and in accordance with an occasion. Keep on reading to discover the secrets of a man's wardrobe that stands out.

Colors differ as much as tastes do

Remember Ross from Friends and his salmon-colored shirt? And how everyone laughed at him, thinking the extravagant shirt looked like a womanly garment? Well, things have changed since then. Now men don't have to choose between black, blue, grey or brown to look "manly". There is no differentiation between female and male colors in fashion nowadays ( just like in the commercial of the Italian brand United Colors of Benetton).

men wearing stylish dress shirts with different type of suits and pants

Men are tired of choosing from a narrow choice of suits, jeans and shirts. They don't want to look "boring" or underdressed. The smart casual style is the magic wand for men to look elegant and chic, yet laidback and simple.

Where did it come from?

Although the first mentioning of the word combination "smart casual" goes back to 1924, when it was used to describe a sleeveless dress in The Davenport Democrat Newspaper in Iowa, 1980s are believed to be the birth era of the new fashion style.

The smart casual became a sort of "escape" from the shackles of formal office dress code in the early '90s, when millionaires from the Silicon Valley started looking like long-haired hippies wearing khakis and jeans. Steve Jobs preferring a black turtleneck with blue jeans over an elegant suit became the iconic look of the whole epoch. Being unable to resist the new fashion tendencies, global corporations were forced to "weaken" the inner dress code of their companies in order to stay appealing to the new rich Americans. That's how the smart casual trend won over the general public.

So what does it mean to wear smart casual clothes?

Let's take an average wardrobe of a man who works in an office and leads a sporty lifestyle. You will, most likely, find the following list of clothes in his closet: several T-shirts or shirts, jeans, shorts, light summer suit, a classic fine wool suit, a pair of shirts, a thin jumper, a warm sweater, a sports suit, a few linen sets, seasonal tops, hats, ties and accessories.

men casual clothing essentials

At first glance, it seems like a pretty small wardrobe, but it's actually enough to fill out a small closet. How to downsize the number of clothing without sacrificing the look? It's simple-stick to the minimum number of clothing items with maximum mix-and-match pairs. Twelve clothing items ( excluding socks and accessories) can make up to fifteen combinations.

The casual smart style is easily composed of six basic elements:


Jeans are quintessential piece of clothing. They will fit in well with the everyday, party or business looks. Choose a convenient pair that fits you like a glove and is easily combined with shirts, T-shirts and jumpers.

denim jeans for men


Chinos are the second most widely preferred men's pants. They are the official alternative "bottom". Chinos are a great choice for attending events with difficult-to-set dress code.

different colors of chinos

A long-sleeved shirt

Long-sleeved shirt is the basic must-have "top" in any wardrobe. Experiment with colors and textures, but don't forget to get some shirts of base colors. That way you could alternate and wear them for various events, including parties and job interviews. Ordering a pair of cuffs might be a good idea if you are looking for a more elegant look.

men wearing casual long-sleeved shirts

A dark blue blazer

Dark blue blazer is a "multitasker". Being the basic element of the smart casual style, it can be easily combined with any other garment. Look out not only for the fashion design, but also for quality materials-this way your blazer will last for many seasons.

smart casual man wearing dark blue blazer with black pants


Shoes are extremely important. The rule of thumb is to never save money on buying a new pair of shoes, your footwear must be of high quality. The more various shoes you own, the better: classic oxfords, sturdy sneakers, light summer loafers. All of them will enable creating a variety of looks that draw attention.

types of men footwear


Accessories are watches, belts, scarves, glasses, caps. Accessories are the small clothing items of high importance as they show off your personality more than any other basic elements of the smart casual style. Combining accessories is a challenging art, but it's worth mastering for those who want to stand out in the crowd and present themselves to the world in the most authentic way.

man different accessories

Other types of clothing acceptable in the smart casual style are: a tweed jacket, a V-neck sweater and wool pants.

A tweed jacket

This has been in the men's wardrobe for centuries. It's a good choice for cold seasons. However, it is less official than other jackets, and adds up a chic look to chinos ( preferably, of mustard color). By the way, a corduroy jacket can be your alternative choice when dressing up casual but smart.

man wearing dress shirt and tie with tweed jacket and beret

A V-neck sweater

A V-neck is another option for an office outfit since it goes well with a tie.

different style of v-neck sweater for men

Wool pants

Wool pants are for fashionistas who fell out of love with jeans and chinos. They are usually combined with a cardigan, a V-neck sweater, and a simple belt with open buckle.

man wearing gray wool pants with denim jacket

Collecting a basic wardrobe should be based on understanding of style. Determine the goals of your new image. Clothing can boast your confidence if chosen correctly, or it can ruin your self-esteem. The "capsule" approach is convenient because the minimum number of clothing items allows you to look different every single day, yet in accordance with an occasion. Your friends might think you spent hours choosing what to wear, but, in fact, you had more important things to do.

Men's "capsule" kit of clothing that will be good for both: work and party settings:

  • appropriate and seasonal clothes
  • natural fabrics, tactile-friendly textures
  • comfortable clothes of correct sizes
  • no extremely tight pants, shoes that are to be worn without socks
  • matching colors

Smart casual is a universal style. It suits anyone, regardless of their age or occupation. As a rule, self-assured, active and successful men chose it as their everyday style. It is also popular among movie stars, famous designers and artists. It is not a secret that men want to feel comfortable in their clothes, while also look presentable. It seems like a blessing to them to avoid the constant need to change multiple times a day for various events while also following a busy work schedule.

Fashion style with benefits or why everyone preferers it

man checking his smart casual clothes and accessories

The smart casual style is convenient. It is also known by its versatility. Unlike more conservative styles, you don't have to draw a strict boundary between office clothing and outfits designed for leisure time. The main goal is to ensure a harmonious combination of colors and no lack of comfort. Choose suits, blazers, shirts, jumpers and vests for the office environment. While on holidays, give your preference  to monotone T-shirts, hoodies, slip-on sneakers.

smart casual pieces

Outwear should also match the casual smart look. For example, a coat goes well with classic pants and business attire. And a light windbreaker or a warm jacket look their best with sneakers and jeans. When trying on shirts or T-shirts, buy two or three of similar shades, so that they could be interchanged. This trick will help you to create layered combinations, which are the basis of most good looking outfits. Don't forget to purchase light toned clothing items, as they always add up freshness to the look.

To be or not to be: shirt tucked in or untucked?

You have been asking this very question million times! Someone might say: "It's a piece of a cake! Tuck your shirt in when going to an important business meeting, and leave it casually untucked when you getting ready for a date". Unfortunately, its not all black and white. There is no standard answer to this almost Shakespearean dilemma.

men tucked and untucked shirts

But first things first. All men's shirts can be divided into three categories:

  1. Shirts you can wear untucked.
  2. Shirts you absolutely must tuck in.
  3. Shirts you can either wear untucked or tuck them in.

There is a number of occasions when your shirt has to be tucked in. Here they are:

  • if there are additional buttons under the bottom one. In this case the shirt must be tucked in, whether you are wearing pants or jeans.
  • if your shirt has a classic collar to it. It indicates a type of a shirt that would look sloppy if it is worn untucked.
  • if the shirt is designated to be a part of a classic office suit.

man showing how to tuck in or tuck out

There are a few conditions that indicate the choice is yours. You can consider wearing your shirt untucked if:

  • it is short and belongs to the casual style
  • it has a rounded hem
  • it has a slim silhouette

Still not sure if you did the job right? There is a way to check it. Look for the following indicators to make sure your shirt is looking good:

  1. There are no noticeable parachute-like folds.
  2. Your torso line is clearly defined, and the buttons are placed vertically in the center.
  3. You can freely move, raise both arms and feel comfortable in the shirt.

It goes without saying, that in order for any piece of clothing to look good on you, it has to be of a correct size, appropriate style and perfect shape. The shirt should be not too long, but not too short; it has to have the right collar size and optimal sleeve length.

Nothing screams elegance like formal attire, but often occasions don’t call for a full suit. With the smart casual dress code being admired by many, how does a man pull it off? Watch this video to learn more of casual styling.


Few more smart tips for creating a smart casual look

  1. A tie is not a mandatory accessory if you don't want to look too official. But certain situations might demand a tie, in such cases, choose a thin knitted one. It will serve as casual smart accessory which points out your style. You can even try to match a pair of sunglasses with it.
  2. Stay away from classic pants or strict lines. Khaki or chinos would be the best options for someone giving preference to the casual look.
  3. Shorts are acceptable, except for the beach models. They should be simple, without any additional elements.
  4. In the casual smart style there are no strict rules of matching shoes with belts or other accessories. Freedom of expression overrides fashion boundaries.
  5. Funny colorful socks are quite okay if you are dressed in smart casual style. Make them match your tie or scarf.

Formal and informal smart casual styles: what is the difference?

informal and formal casual attire

In his "Guide for the Modern Gentleman" Tom Bryant draws a line between formal smart casual and informal smart casual styles. Formal substyle comprises the following clothing: a jacket or a blazer, a flannel shirt, corduroy pants or chinos ( no jeans!), a collared shirt ( T-shirt is not acceptable), and a pair of comfortable shoes ( "no" to sandals as well as sneakers).

The kit for the informal smart casual style is less detailed, but it mentions some "comfortable dark jeans without extra fringe", and points out that "polo shirts are better than sleeveless jackets". The final piece of advice the author shares is to "move away from everything we would wear at home".

The last instruction can definitely seem weird, but within it lies an essence of the smart casual style. The thing is that it embodies wearing totally different clothes in different contexts. To sum up, smart casual is not just a fashion style, it is more of a state of mind, a philosophy in its core.

So what is in fashion at the moment?

Hot trends in the men's smart casual style 2021-2023:

Bomber Jacket

A bomber jacket ( it looks great with shirts, sweaters, jeans or pants, it can also be combined with shorts).

smart business casual bomber jacket with tie

Jackets with prints

It can be (plaid or stripes) or monochrome jackets of unusual shades.

casual man wearing stripes jacket


Denim total look with combinations of (shirts, jackets, jeans).

man wearing smart business casual and denim jeans

Tweed, Cashmere or Wool coat

These types are the perfect mix of versatility, elegance and functionality, with their sought-after quality fabrics. 

casual man wearing tweed coat

Casual and streetstyle shirts

Can wear with stand-up collars ( they are worn with either chinos, or jeans).

casual men wearing chinos

    Fashion trends come and go, but creativity and good taste should always stay as they guarantee you the right to express yourself through clothing, and show your true self to the world!

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