Defining The New Smart-Casual

Smart-casual – the somewhat misunderstood middle ground between jeans and a t-shirt and a full suit. Previously a catch-all phrase that outlined an office worker’s ‘Dress-Down Friday’ uniform, now the term encompasses a new menswear dress code.

Today, getting smart-casual right will set you free from traditional rules, looking out of place or being either under or over dressed ever again. It’s considered smart enough to be appropriate in a relatively formal situation yet stylish enough to make you look great down the pub.

But, while David Beckham continues to do an excellent job of demonstrating just how it’s done – see his attire at this year’s Wimbledon final for a lesson in perfection – this dress code has its hazards and pitfalls.

However, you don’t need to worry about them, as we’ve outlined the key pieces that will help you find the perfect balance, no matter what the occasion…

1. The Jacket

A blazer is a safe bet, jacket wise, but try and choose one you wouldn’t wear to work. Textured wool in light blue should do the trick.

Versatile and easy to wear, it’s smart but not formal, relaxed but not casual. It will pair effortlessly with denim or trousers too.

We Recommend: Hudson Blue Plain Blazer, £229 at SuitSupply.

2. The Trousers

When it comes to smart-casual, what you wear on your legs will vary according to what’s on top.

Remember though, jeans are fine as long as they’re dark, clean, rip free and well-fitting.

We Recommend: Stealth Indigo Jeans, £95 at Reiss.

3. The Shirt

Treading the line between formal and relaxed perfectly, the classic Oxford shirt is an essential to any discerning wardrobe.

Typically with a button-down collar, an Oxford looks smart enough without a tie and, at the same time, retains a sportier downtime feel when worn with one.

We Recommend: Ami Slim Button-Down Collar Shirt, £120 at Mr. Porter.

4. The Shoes

Probably the most important part of an outfit, in terms of defining just how smart it is.

Ideally, try a pair of Chelsea boots with a rounded toe. Classic tan works well with navy/grey trousers and indigo jeans.

We Recommend: Bill Chelsea Boots, £195 at Russell & Bromley.

5. The Accessories

You’ll need a watch that isn’t digital to compete the look, but it doesn’t have to be eye-wateringly expensive. Any of the pared-back offerings we recently profiled will suffice, and they all came in at under £350.

If you’re carrying a bag, make it a leather document holder rather than a rucksack.

Finally, think about your belt – matching it to your shoe colour (not too precisely, mind) shows you pay attention to the finer details.

We Recommend: Anderson’s 3.5cm Woven Burnished-Leather Belt, £95 at Mr Porter.

6. The Finishing Touches

These are the same rules for pretty much any outfit. Polish, brush or clean your shoes, iron your shirt and see if your jacket is complemented by a pocket square.

It might seem like a bit of an effort, but when it comes to a subtle smart-casual look, these little flourishes leave a lasting impression.

We Recommend: Grenson x End Clothing Luxury Shoe Care Kit, £45 at End Clothing.