Decoding a sometimes-confusing dress code.

GET TO KNOW THE DRESS CODE

HERE’S WHAT THIS POTENTIALLY CONFUSING DRESS CODE LOOKS LIKE
• WORDS: T.MACINNIS

You’ve just received an invite to an event. Maybe it’s a garden BBQ, maybe it’s a city wedding, or maybe it’s a dinner party. But you’re stumped, because the dress code says smart casual. Here at Moss, we call it smasual, and if you don’t know what’s expected of you when it comes to that dress code, we can help.

Initially, when the term “smart casual” was coined, it was meant to capture a slightly less casual suiting look relative to what you might wear at an office job. Now, it’s a bit more flexible and open to interpretation… which can kind of make it more confusing.

The good news is, as long as you look put together, you can’t really mess this one up. Keep reading to see some examples of typical smart casual looks, and remember, don’t be afraid to get creative with this dress code.

Two men in smart casual suits.

WHAT DOES SMART CASUAL MEAN?

Again, this is open to interpretation. But typically, it’s a look that lands between a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, and a full-on suit and tie look. You can mix elements of those two outfits, or you can add or takeaway things to make it smart casual.

If that sounds confusing, fair enough. Smart casual is one of those terms that isn’t as easy to nail down as formal or black tie or even business casual. While that might seem annoying, look at it as an opportunity to do you own thing with it.

For example, choose a suit that’s patterned, and pair with with a crisp white T-shirt and a pair of desert boots. Or, layer a knitted jumper underneath a navy suit. You can also take your suit apart, wearing the blazer with a pair of chinos or jeans, or the trousers with a bomber jacket or zip-neck polo.

The one rule we’d recommend sticking to, regardless, is to avoid a tie or a classic white Oxford shirt. Both of those might make your smart casual look veer into stuffy territory. As we said above, as long as you look put together and your outfit reflects your personal style, you’ll be in smart casual territory.

A smart casual suit and a knitted polo.

WHERE CAN I WEAR A SMART CASUAL LOOK?

These days, as dress codes soften and the requirement to wear a suit in spaces like the office and to weddings is less prevalent, smart casual looks will work in loads of environments. Especially if you work in a more creative environment, chances are, you’re probably already wearing smart casual outfits on a pretty regular basis.

As weddings become smaller and more casual, too, you might find a smart casual dress code on those invites. Here, we’d recommend erring on the side of slightly more formal, opting for a suit or a blazer and trouser combo, a patterned shirt, and loafers. This is good to remember particularly if the wedding venue seems more elevated or you know the couple favours a little style.

Otherwise, smart casual is great for a first date if it’s at a cocktail bar or a restaurant, an office party, a dinner party, an engagement party, or really any evening event. Of course, that changes if you know the dress code is formal or black tie. It’s all about paying attention to the details and the amount of information you’ve been given about the event.

A smart casual suit and white trainers.

WHAT DO I WEAR WITH A SMART CASUAL OUTFIT?

This is the fun bit. If you have a favourite pair of trainers, a T-shirt you love or a go-to polo, you can work any of these elements into your smart casual look. Just make sure that whatever you choose, there isn’t too much happening in your overall look.

What we mean here is that, to keep your look a bit more understated, don’t pair patterned pants with a patterned shirt. And if you’ve chosen a brightly coloured suit, avoid equally bright trainers. Let one element of your outfit be the focal point, and let all the other parts play off it.

For example, go for a suit that pulls a particular colour out of your patterned shirt. Or, choose a pair of trainers in a solid colour to let your bold suit do the talking. And, be careful not to over accessorise. If you’re going to wear a pocket square, leave the tie at home.

As with any fashion “rule” we always encourage you to be creative and let your personality shine through, and that’s especially important when you’re building a smart casual look. As long as you feel good about your outfit, you’re happy with the fit, and you’re comfortable, we bet your look is bang on form.