Smart Casual for Men: The Definitive Guide to Dressing Up Your Dressed-Down Look
There's no doubt that the last three years have made a major impact on business attire. Between solopreneurs, work-at-home culture, and online meetings, business casual isn't what it once was.
But with offices opening again, and in-person meetings starting to become more common, it's time to take the dress down style we've gotten used to and dress it up a bit.
We're talking about smart casual: the crossroads between the classic suit-and-tie look and the weekend warrior aesthetic. It splits the difference between casual and formal. And it's the perfect bridge between the work-at-home routine and the new face-to-face custom to come.
What Is Smart Casual?
Today's smart casual incorporates more casual styles with refined quality and style. While business professional may only allow for a dark suit and a button-down shirt with tie, smart casual allows more variety in patterns, fabrics, fits, and colors. Basically, it's reworking classic casual style to incorporate more formal elements.
Add a formal touch to your favorite pieces, like this denim-and-khaki combo.
Dress down elements like well-tailored tees and polos blend together with soft-lined sport coats and chinos. Sharp-lined shorts and an untucked button-down shirt offer comfort while still looking nice enough to step into an upscale bistro. And for a society that’s used to comfortable tops and pants, it’s the easiest way to take the relaxed dress down aesthetic out into the public eye without looking sloppy.
How to Dress Up Your Dress Down
So how do you elevate your home office attire to make a good impression now that we’re back in the open air? At Ox & Bull, we see it as more than just the right clothing. Solid accessories can make a huge difference with any outfit while still giving you the comfort you’re accustomed to. This balanced approach to formal and casual fashion allows you to dress down without losing the intentional look you want. And the right piece of jewelry, the right pocket square, or the right tie can take that look to a whole new level quickly.
If you want a quick start to your smart casual, it's easy to dress down some of your favorite formal elements by giving them slight twists to conventional styles. It can be as simple as unbuttoning the top two buttons of a fitted dress shirt. A pair of simple cufflinks can keep the shirt sharp at the same time.
It might be wearing a simple tie with a bright tie bar or tie clip as an accent underneath a light-washed jean jacket and chinos.
Instead of worrying about buying an entirely new wardrobe, take a look at what you have and make those little modifications that give a more relaxed statement compared to the intended formality.
The key is that the pieces have a sharp fit so they maintain a clean look against the casual elements you'll add later.
Funky and Bold
Generally speaking, neutral colors are the hallmark of smart casual looks: navy, grey, khaki and tan, and pale blues keep things looking more earthy and grounded.
But once you have a strong base, don’t be afraid to step up your look with some bold pops. After all, a single bold statement over a subtle look makes an incredibly strong statement without being too forward.Consider using a bold pocket square or patterned tie against a navy or tan sport jacket. Choose a funky floral pattern under a simple khaki jacket with tailored no- break chinos and a dive watch.
Even just some brightly colored sneakers or a pair of suede chukkas can take formal slacks and button up shirts into the smart casual dress down look. Your goal with bold accessories is to demonstrate that you know what the rules are and you’re not afraid to bend them a bit.
Here is where your accessory choices shine. Perhaps you're going with a linen sport jacket and pants. Your shirt may be a simple navy or black.
This is the foundation of a fairly traditional look, but add a pair of distinctive loafers or a unique lapel pin to the outfit and you'll draw attention in just the right way. A chronograph watch with a high-quality leather band can show class and sophistication without looking ostentatious.
No matter how you choose to express yourself, the smart casual look has plenty of room to step out of the restrictions of conventional style.
Feeling Over Form
Now, with these basic concepts in place, it's time to determine your style statement. Instead of meeting standards or protocols, set the feeling you want to express to those you encounter.
Dress down your business attire with softer fabrics and elements. Sweaters over dress shirts provide a softer look for that formal wardrobe. You can still wear the shirt with the top button and a tie, but a full-sleeve sweater keeps your look relaxed. Keep it upscale with geometric cufflinks or a pair of Oxfords.
For a relaxed meeting that deserves a bit of class, start with casual and add the formal look over the top. A black pocketed tee and light jean jacket pair well with slim no-break chinos and leather Chelsea boots. A simple leather jacket and striped tee combined with navy dress pants and low-tops look intentional, not restrictive. And that's the sweet spot you're looking for in smart casual.
Finding Your Accessories
Smart casual is about expressing yourself everywhere you go without looking out of place. Keeping that confidence, whether it’s in a nightclub or a conference room, requires the right pieces to balance sophistication with comfort. Ox & Bull knows what it takes to make a great impression, and our accessories are the perfect place to start building your collection of formal, casual, and smart casual accents.
Combining quality with personality, we make affordable pieces that are designed to create moments that sustain memories. Whether it’s just the right pocket square and tie, or the perfect stud set and cufflinks for your wedding day, or even just the tie bar that sets the tone for your board meetings, Ox & Bull is the place to find men’s jewelry for every occasion.