Fashion Guides

4 Important Elements to Outsmart the Smart Casual theme

This is a concept that has evaded many. Your friends invite you to a gathering and say the dress code is smart casual and you are completely lost because it is not exactly formal and it’s not even exactly casual. It is somewhere in between those two.

To quote John Green – “There are an infinite set of numbers between 0 to 1”, just like that there are infinite possibilities of what smart casual could be.

To make things clear, formal wear is suits (double-breasted, three-piece, etc) with stiff collared crisp shirts with ties and casual is a simple tee and track pants. And to flaunt our smart casual look we need to find an “in-between.” (And no it’s not just wearing a suit jacket with track pants, in case you were wondering.)

Smart Casual is a combination of 80% of you – your confidence, attitude, and “smart” personality and 20% your clothes. Now it may take some time to work on yourself, it’s a journey we hope everyone takes. But it’s very easy to work on your clothes and have them say volumes before you speak anything.

In this story, we will narrow down for you how you can nail the “smart casual” dress code. We will walk you through a few elements of smart casual that you need to keep in mind while building your look.

  1. Blazers.

Blazers have the power to make or mar your smart casual look because honestly the rest of the elements are pretty straightforward. Blazers, when extremely structured, are considered formal. When it is unstructured it falls under the category of less formal.

So a blazer is a powerful tool you can use to dress up your plain tee shirts and show up to events without any hesitation. Look at different options in terms of the texture of the blazer from worsted wool to tweed, explore the range to get variety.

You can style your blazer with a shirt like this dark blue and muddy orange look by A-Cold-Wall, or you can opt for polos or tee shirts like Hermes and Tom Ford respectively.

Smart Casual theme

The trousers do not have to necessarily match the blazer, you can style the look with dark jeans or different colored chinos.

  1. Outerwear Jackets

Outerwear pieces like trench coats will allow you to maintain that eerie sense of neither formal nor casual. You can style long coats with your regular shirt and trousers and it will just elevate the look to a new level giving you the main character energy vibe.

Keep in mind the overall color scheme of the look while selecting a coat, style green/red coats with a black outfit to look like a member of a very fashionable mafia gang.

The thing about smart casuals is that darker colors seem much more formal than bright, vibrant colors which tend to look very youthful and playful. These dark looks by A-Cold-Wall and Raf Simon’s seem much more formal than the lighter looks by A-Cold-Wall and Acne Studios.

Outerwear Jackets

The length of the coat can vary from knee to mid-shin to ankles too depending on how you want to layer the outfit.

  1. Polos

Let’s move inwards now, polos in themselves are a mixture of two garments – a shirt and a tee-shirt, so it would make sense to include it in your smart-casual look.

You can style them with coats, jackets, or even a matching blazer and trousers that look like this 3rd Hermes look and play around with it.

While styling it you need to bear in mind the occasion, location of the event, and people that will be attending. If it is a formal smart casual event with your colleagues and superiors a polo with a blazer and trousers/chinos makes sense.


If it is a beach party with acquaintances, a loom along the lines of knee-length shorts and an unstructured blazer with a polo can be put together. You need to evaluate the occasion well and take the call.

  1. Shirts

This is where you can really bring the casual in the “smart casual” theme. Blazers may have different textures but are mostly plain, so you add in a fun element.

A colorful shirt, maybe pastel, or printed can be styled. First, make sure it’s clean, pressed and the collars stay up.

Then, look at the color story. Style lighter shirts with dark Blazers and trousers and vice versa. Like these Hermes and A-Cold-Wall looks. You can also carry on this same principle when styling polos and tee shirts.

Smart Casual theme

To dress up a little more, add some bling, a good watch, and matching boots. Not slippers, not slip-on but boots.

A very frequent mistake is that smart casual is misconstrued as business smart casual. Business smart casual is when you mix and match plain, versatile pieces. Business pieces are plain so that they do not cause distraction from important matters of business dealings.

Smart Casual does not have to be plain pieces. You can dress on the theme while still looking chic and fashionable. We’ve pulled some bold references to prove our point.

From Acne Studios to Valentino to Tommy Hilfiger. These are still the same elements- a blazer, an overcoat, styled with shirts and trousers. They are only in bold colors (that work well together) and seem very fashion-forward. Feel free to incorporate “out of the box” garments into your daily wardrobe. 

You need to focus on the fit of the look. It should look well thought out and put together and flatter your body/fit you like a glove. It should not be extremely baggy, crumpled with creases, and shabby. Then it takes the “smart” out of the theme.

If you’re feeling bold, try out the hot and popular style of no undershirt suits. Just like Harry Styles performing his superhit song Watermelon Sugar high at the Grammys in just a black leather suit with no shirt.

Take a look at these Acne Studios looks to get a clearer idea.

And let’s be clear you are still on theme. The blazer is “smart” and no shirt is “casual” so you are doing no wrong. A printed suit like the snake print suit by Acne Studios becomes more appropriate for a fun party rather than a corporate gathering.

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