“Office wear can be a notoriously tricky subject for writers to approach. The vast number of professions, dress codes and budgetary restrictions to cater for means that finding middle ground is often difficult. Today we’re attempting just that.

Hopefully by breaking down the subject into various scenarios and codes of dress, a point of interest can be found – or, if not, a solid foundation for personal interpretation – for every individual who identifies as a FashionBeans man.”
Spring/Summer Office Wear Part One.

In part one of this miniseries I explored the world of formal office wear found at the smarter end of the spectrum. Today it’s the turn of the more relaxed working environments and the dress codes that centre on a more creative workplace.

That’s not to say the smart-casual conundrum isn’t equally as pertinent. Whatever the situation, we will attempt to deliver a solution to this ever-tricky subject.

Smart-Casual Dress Codes

It’s safe to say that smart-casual, as a codified dress code, largely pertains to the smarter side of the spectrum. However, it lacks the uniformity of the boardroom/corporate formal that is expected in certain workplaces. Conventional style and fashion wisdom also dictates that it’s better to be over-dressed rather than under-dressed, so keep that at the forefront of your mind.

Smart-casual opens up more possibilities than a strictly smart direction. In my previous instalment I discussed the pitfalls of linen as office wear. For strict formal dress codes, linen on its own should be avoided at the risk of looking unkempt when those around you are likely to be freshly pressed. Linen just doesn’t present the same formality that wool, or even cotton, does.

Nonetheless, a linen suit (or separates) is absolutely perfect for spring/summer smart-casual office wear. Cotton or seeksucker is the go-to alternative if you’re not a massive fan of linen and its wrinkles.

Essential Reading:

Lookbook Inspiration

Below you will find a selection of some of our favourite SS13 smart-casual outfits that would be suitable for a variety of office environments – ranging from a notch below boardroom to typical ‘dress down Friday’. Use them as inspiration and apply common sense to create outfits that are appropriate for your specific scenario and profession.

It is also important to note that SS13 lookbooks will often create looks without socks in order to emphasise the season, but again this is something you need to determine whether appropriate for your own place of work:

Men's Smart-Casual Office Dress Code Lookbook - Spring/Summer Inspired

he by mango ss13drykorn ss13massimo dutti april 2013h&m spring 2013h&m summer 2013strellson ss13jaeger ss13diegel aw12he by mango ss13ted baker ss13ti for men ss13perry ellis ss13
Smart-Casual Outfit Examples
Look One: Smart-Casual Suiting

A full lightweight suit, such as this linen-cotton blend, is perfect for the summer months and will keep you much cooler than your usual tailoring. The simple, neutral colour acts as a great backdrop for you to inject lighter colours through the shirt and a pocket square. This look forgoes a tie; although if you feel one is appropriate or you’re just looking to accessorise further, a block-colour version is the best option.

Loafers are the perfect smart-casual shoes, especially in lightweight suede or soft leather. Pair them with invisible shoe liners in order to really give off a warm weather vibe (not to mention the practicalities of helping keep you cooler):

  • Reiss Wine Checked Shirt OrangeReiss Wine Checked Shirt Orange
  • Acne Drifter Slim-fit Linen And Cotton-blend Suit JacketAcne Drifter Slim-fit Linen And Cotton-blend Suit Jacket
  • Allsaints Ravine Pocket Square SetAllsaints Ravine Pocket Square Set
  • Acne Drifter Slim-fit Linen And Cotton-blend Suit TrousersAcne Drifter Slim-fit Linen And Cotton-blend Suit Trousers
  • Topman Black Invisible Shoe LinersTopman Black Invisible Shoe Liners
  • Asos Penny Loafers In LeatherAsos Penny Loafers In Leather
Look Two: Jeans and Colour

Inject colour into your office wear through a seasonally styled blazer. Anchor one similar to this slim fit version with a classic white shirt and dark indigo jeans. The use of denim is something that has become more and more accepted among many smart-casual working environments. When worn as part of a stylish ensemble that incorporates sharp tailoring, no one will question your choice.

Accessorise with a chambray tie that complements the colour of the blazer. Add a pocket square in a similar shade – this simple polka dot pattern adds personality without the risk of being too overbearing.

Finally, finish with some suede shoes. Feel free to experiment with colour if you’re feeling bold or anchor the look with something neutral like brown or grey:

  • Long Sleeve ShirtLong Sleeve Shirt
  • Asos Slim Fit BlazerAsos Slim Fit Blazer
  • Beams Plus Cotton-chambray TieBeams Plus Cotton-chambray Tie
  • Reiss Winehouse Modal Polka Dot Pocket Square NavyReiss Winehouse Modal Polka Dot Pocket Square Navy
  • Allsaints Machida Iggy JeansAllsaints Machida Iggy Jeans
  • Florsheim Doon Suede Wing Brogues In NavyFlorsheim Doon Suede Wing Brogues In Navy
Creative-Casual Dress Codes

Few are lucky enough to work in an office that encourages casual clothing and creative attitudes. In this environment, suits and stiff collars are not often found. Instead, employees are encouraged to showcase their individuality and flair when picking out what to wear each morning – something we’d all like to be able to do a little more.

However, not having an off-duty/workwear divide in your wardrobe can mean that your pieces often merge into one – although many would consider this a great dilemma to have.

Of course, it’s hard to judge every casual office and the intricacies that subtly dictate the dress code. Nonetheless, this section will attempt to offer an almost blank canvas on which looks can be adapted to suit needs.

The essential things to remember are, despite the casual tag, keep the fit great and the fabrics lightweight and seasonally appropriate. By doing this you’re very much on your way to creating a great spring/summer look – whether it’s for the office or not.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Creative-Casual Dress Code Inspiration

h&m ss13zara man aw12the kooples ss13the kooples ss13el burgues ss13ami ss13CERRUTI 1881 ss13h&m spring 2013reiss ss13dondup ss13he by mango ss13club monaco aw12
Creative-Casual Outfit Examples
Look One: Shirt & Knitwear Combinations

Keep it somewhat structured and smart, regardless of the casual nature, with a lightweight knit. This choice presents an option to inject some colour, alongside a short sleeve shirt for some great spring/summer layering.

Anchor with light grey chinos and brown suede desert boots for a look that will take you from the office to after work drinks and beyond:

  • Asos Oxford ShirtAsos Oxford Shirt
  • Reiss Juke Mutli Yarn Crew Neck Jumper RoseReiss Juke Mutli Yarn Crew Neck Jumper Rose
  • Allsaints Charge ChinoAllsaints Charge Chino
  • Tods No_code Suede Desert BootsTods No_code Suede Desert Boots
Look Two: The Denim Jacket

Learn to make use of the denim jacket as a year round essential in both your work and off-duty wardrobe. Layer it over a printed shirt to add a dash of personality that is perfect for a creative environment.

Neutralise the bolder shirt with timeless navy trousers, keeping them somewhat structured and constructed from a lightweight fabric, before finishing with some tassel loafers to add a little sophistication and panache:

  • Band Of Outsiders Sail-boat Print Shirt 152952Band Of Outsiders Sail-boat Print Shirt 152952
  • Allsaints Kiku Denim JacketAllsaints Kiku Denim Jacket
  • Slowear Slim-fit Cotton And Linen-blend TrousersSlowear Slim-fit Cotton And Linen-blend Trousers
  • Reiss Stasko Tassel Loafers TobaccoReiss Stasko Tassel Loafers Tobacco
Look Three: Suits & Sneakers

Dress down suiting with a pair of sneakers and a plain t-shirt. A lightweight suit in a seasonally appropriate colour is perfect for the task. A plain white t-shirt underneath the jacket is a great way to reduce the structured nature of the jacket to something more fittingly casual. A pair of New Balance work to further reduce the inherent formality that inhibits the suit.

Finish with nonchalance – a pocket square, a trouser roll or two and even go as far to push the sleeves up to really complete the look and perfectly dress down one of menswear’s most formal of pieces:

  • Wolsey T-shirt With One PocketWolsey T-shirt With One Pocket
  • Reiss Rushby Three Button Notch Lapel Linen Suit Airforce BlueReiss Rushby Three Button Notch Lapel Linen Suit Airforce Blue
  • J.crew Floral-print Cotton Pocket SquareJ.crew Floral-print Cotton Pocket Square
  • New Balance Mens Grey M577gna SneakersNew Balance Mens Grey M577gna Sneakers

The smart-casual dress code is one full of complexes. Even the name itself offers more confusion than clarity. The subject of navigating smart-casual dress has been covered in several previous articles, although most have only touched on the subject in a work place setting.

Hopefully this article has given you some inspiration on shaking up your office wear for the spring/summer months, especially with the smart-casual confusion hanging over your head.

But now we want to hear your view:

  • How do you approach your smart-casual wear in the summer?
  • Are you fortunate enough to have a casual dress code for work?
  • How do you style it for the warmer months?

Let us know in the comments section below…