The Style Blog

Mastering the Art of Smart-Casual Dressing: Men's Edition

By Olivia Mitchell on 2021-10-06

what is smart casual dress

If you’re trying to make the right impression at an after-work hangout or a laid-back casual Friday, understanding the art of smart casual dressing is a must. Whether you’re a man who’s trying to expand his own personal style or you’re holiday or Christmas shopping for the man in your life, there are a few key tips to keep in mind. With these tricks in your back pocket, you’ll be able to master the art of the smart casual dress code in no time.

Dress Down with Accessories

Imagine this: you’ve just left your job in a formal office setting, and you’re rushing to meet some friends after work. You don’t want to show up to the restaurant with a full suit and tie, but you don’t have time to change into something more casual. What can you do? With the help of some key accessories, your small adjustments will make all the difference.

Your basic task is to take your outfit down a couple notches from formal-professional to smart-casual. The easiest way to make that transition is to remove the jacket and tie, roll up your sleeves, and add some accessories that give off a relaxed vibe. For example, jewelry that features colored beads, dark Tahitian pearls, or distressed leather are often associated with vacation, so they contribute very effectively to the overall casual feel of your outfit.

dress down your work attire by adding accessories to style your workwear for night time festivities

Dress Up with Statement Pieces


But what should you do if you’re trying to bring a very informal outfit up the smart-casual dress code level? There are a few ways that you can dress up your everyday casual wear to make your look a bit classier.

For instance, you can add a neutral-colored blazer on top of a polo, or even on top of a t-shirt. The addition of the suit jacket adds an extra element of formality to the whole outfit, even if you’re still sporting jeans and sneakers down below. This is one of the most widely-used techniques for dressing up a casual look. In the cooler months, subbing in a sweater or sweater vest can be just as effective, as well.

Another way to dress up your casual look is to upgrade your belt. This is one accessory that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. Simply tucking in your t-shirt or polo into your favorite jeans and adding a nice, stylish belt takes the whole outfit up a level. This means that even if you’re just coming back from the gym, you have an option to spice up your look with very little effort.


Let Your Shoes Carry You

Shoes are an important part of every look, even if they’re not the first accessory to come to mind. So, you always have the option to swap out your shoes: if you want something more casual, exchange your fancy loafers for some trendy sneakers. Or, if you need to upgrade your outfit to something a bit more elevated, trade out your running shoes for some boat shoes. Simply changing your shoes can have a huge impact on the overall elegance of your ensemble.


The Big Picture


You can achieve your smart-casual look in a few quick steps either by  dressing down from a formal-professional ensemble or dressing up from a purely casual outfit. In both of these cases, just adjust your accessories and statement pieces to change the formality of your outfit. In fact, buying a whole new wardrobe really isn’t necessary to achieve that smart-casual style. Plus, opting for versatile pieces that are made to last (instead of investing in fads) promotes mindful shopping habits, which is always a plus.


Remember, mastering the art of smart-casual style isn’t about wearing exactly the right clothes at the right time. Rather, it’s about using what you’ve already got in your closet and mixing and matching to come to a nice balance between your favorite formal pieces and your comfiest casual staples. 


Stepping into that balance with your attitude and outlook is a great place to start: when your outfit feels as relaxed and as confident as you do, you’ll know you’ve hit the sweet spot!

About the Author

Olivia Mitchell

Olivia Mitchell is a writer focused on fashion, lifestyle, and wedding planning content, currently working at The Pearl Source. Classically trained, fashion-savvy, and with a background in styling as well as in digital marketing, Olivia is all about bringing you the latest on closet curation, trending must-haves, and wedding style & décor.