Defining Smart/Casual

Men often disregard smart/casual looks as they struggle to find the balance between one and the other. Summer means less layers (but by no means none), we rely on key combinations more so than in other seasons and accessories are just as practical – only in a different sense.

Achieving that elegant smart yet casual look this season is a lot easier than first thought. With high street retailers such as All Saints, along with high-end designers such as Michael Bastian, developing elegant touches into their casual summer looks, it was only right we covered this article.

The downsizing in over-apparent layering usually leads to 90% of men establishing an overwrought t-shirt & short combination. We’re not playing down this look. It can be worked using good colour combinations, good accessorising, and of course a considered tee/short combination that is going to draw attention to your style.

Today we’re going to be looking at the key pieces for establishing a smart/casual look this summer, along with showing you a few product recommendations to get the ball rolling. I also teamed up with a photographer to step out of my camera-shy comfort zone and put together some basic looks for you to build on… We’re too good to you!

Key Pieces
The Blazer

By any stretch of a men’s magazine this season, you could have seen it coming. One of the defining features in establishing a smart/casual look this summer is the blazer.

Now you’re automatically assuming the addition of a blazer is surely going to add unwanted warmth? Not so. There is a way around appearing to adorn an outfit you’ve been wearing for the last 2 continuous days in your office job.

Layering with lightweight clothing isn’t going to add a great deal of warmth, but its definitely going to allow you to add a great deal of originality and style to your look. The blazer needs to be lightweight, either by choosing a linen blazer or one made from lightweight cotton. Your typical, heavyweight suit blazer is going to be the culprit of added warmth. A linen or lightweight cotton blazer is not going to make you look too top heavy either.

Popular colours for the blazer remain neutral; stone, navy, grey and any other variant hue. A neutral coloured blazer will allow you to play in most looks. Remember, you always have the ability to add colour through your t-shirt, shorts or accessories.

If you feel a return to neutrals in summer is a backwards step for your already established wardrobe, make the blazer a focal point using block colours such as red, yellow or green. Here are some of our favourites:

  • Selected Floyd Linen Blazer
  • Foreman Jacket
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Stone Cotton Patch Pocket Blazer
  • A.P.C. Blue Seersucker Summer Blazer
Tailored Shorts

Tailored shorts are again as popular as ever. If you didn’t want to wear a blazer, the shorts can act as the smart, structured element of the outfit when paired with a pair of brogues or loafers.

Tailored shorts, as opposed to casual sorts, are generically a lot more fitted and slimmer than your ordinary. Tailored shorts add that touch of class, removing you from your average loose fitted, long-length shorts.

We covered the structured appeal of the tailored short with the come-around of last season: Summer Essential – Tailored Shorts. Needn’t we say – the same rules apply.

Their popularity is certainly going to consistently follow through the S/S season, and may even increase. When moving the structure downstairs, the same colour rules apply as the blazer; a neutral coloured short is going to allow you to wear it with most items but won’t limit you to a neutral palette.

Other alternatives are chino shorts, rolled up to create that shorter length allowing them to look more fitted.

  • Brown Chino Shorts
  • Farah Vintage Armitage Slim Fit Tailored Prince Of Wales Check Shorts
  • Lyle & Scott Red Cotton Twill Chino Shorts
  • MR. by Roland Mouret Cotton Blend Tailored Shorts
Final Touches

So you now know the two key pieces for achieving a smart/casual look this summer. However, both tailored shorts and blazer scream SMART to you, do they not? So we’re going to show you how to use final touches to add the casual element, and balance the look.

Start with what you’re going to be wearing under the blazer. A t-shirt would be the obvious choice but polo shirts can add to that preppy lawn-green look. Make sure you don’t clash colours unless it is in consideration. These final touches are your chance to play with brighter colours and vivid patterns to add the summer element.

  • Adidas M Block Stripe Tee Fresh Gold
  • Velour Inside Out Stripe Tee
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Stripe Slim Fit Polo Shirt
  • LYLE & SCOTT KC648-V22 Bright Rose Polo Shirt
  • YMC Indigo Fade Jersey Polo Top
  • Jack & Jones Red Orta T-Shirt

Footwear is key, but luckily there aren’t really any rules. It depends how smart you want to go, or how casual. Brogues, loafers and smart boat shoes can all be found in alternate colours. The structure of the shoe will add a smart element to your look while the bold tone will bring it back from office hours.

  • Sebago Docksiders Pink Nubuck Leather Deck Shoes
  • YMC Orange Deck Shoes
  • Sebago Lavender Nubuck Docksides
  • Florsheim By Duckie Brown The Suede Lace-Up Shoes
  • COMME des GARÇONS SHIRT Camo Print Leather Loafer Plimsolls
  • B Store Suede and Canvas Tassel Loafers

You may want to analyse what to wear on your feet once you’ve cemented the other pieces you are going to be wearing. Do you need to add a smarter feel? Or make it more casual? If the occasion errs on the causal side, use espadrilles, toms or plimsolls to walk you in.

  • Rivieras Red Mesh Slip-On Shoes
  • Hudson Navy Mesh Caymen Plimsolls
  • Vans Red Authentic Trainers
  • Common Projects Five Hole Slip-On Trainer

Accessorising, as ever, helps add the final touches to your look. Whether you want to add more colour, neutralise the colours, make your look smarter, or more casual – accessories become key. A belt can break up colours, whilst a watch, trilby hat or lightweight summer scarf are all options that allow you to individualise and personalise your look when compared to everyone else.

  • toy watch Unisex Time Only Plasteramic Fluo Metal Teal Watch
  • PS by Paul Smith Striped Seersucker Trilby
  • Fred Perry Natural Straw Trilby Hat
  • PS by Paul Smith Yellow Burnished Leather Belt
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Striped D Ring Belt
  • ASOS Red Braces
  • Gant Paisley Pocket Square
  • RALPH LAUREN Aberdare border scarf
  • Woolrich Pink Multi Check Madras Scarf

A small holdall is undeniably functional, as stuffing your shorts with your wallet, your phone, and anything else you normally carry around (each to their own) into a string-bag isn’t going to be a good idea. Remember, get playful and use these final touches to really create your own personal style.

  • Adidas Originals Holdall
  • Puma Holdall Bag
  • Fred Perry Laurel Wreath Holdall
  • ALLY CAPELLINO Dave Navy Bag
  • Gant Holdall with logo detail
  • Fred Perry Vintage Barrel Bag Orange Amber

As promised here is my personal lookbook, using the tips and tricks I explained earlier. I stepped out of my camera shy comfort zone, shrugged off my hangover, and tried to look as elegant as possible for you:

Smart/Casual Lookbook for Men 1

This look is a favourite of mine. The chino shorts add a casual touch; where as tailored shorts would have been over-elegant for the occasion. To casual the look up, roll the blazer sleeves up and unbutton the blazer, as shown. You could also change your footwear to something more casual such as plimsolls or toms. To smarten the look up, accessorise with a pocket square and opt for brogues or loafers. Keep your sleeves rolled down and button the blazer up.

Smart/Casual Lookbook for Men 2

I wanted to go for a strictly casual approach with this look to show you the possibilities. You can achieve this look by pairing a basic t-shirt with a casual linen blazer and chino shorts.

Again, sleeves rolled down and a buttoned up blazer will add a smarter feel. You could also opt for a navy shirt, and accessorise with a bow tie or pocket square to add more of an elegant touch. Casually though, just wear the blazer loosely showing more of the t-shirt. The possibilities are endless and its up to your personal preference or the event in which you’re dressing for.

Good luck!

If you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments section and get involved with the discussion – how do you wear yours?