What is Smart Casual and How Did It Come About?

What is Smart Casual and How Did It Come About?

Apr 01 , 2022


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Casual clothing has been around for centuries, but the term "smart casual" is a more recent invention. 

What does it mean to be smart casual? And how can you dress in a way that falls under this category? 

In this blog post, we will explore the history and evolution of the smart casual style. We will also provide tips on how to put together a smart casual outfit that will make you look and feel your best!

Where Does Smart Casual Come From?

In 1924, the term "smart casual" was first used. 

The phrase was being used to describe a “sleeveless dress with three-quarter overblouses, in a smock appearance that completed it for streetwear.” 

The women's dress, which was somewhere between flapper chic and office modesty, was comparable to what we consider smart casual today. 

In the 1950’s is when we began to hear the term used in menswear. The term here was simply employed to describe a suit that was more relaxed than what you would wear to the workplace at that time. 

So the concept was the same, despite the change in appearance. 

A man could wear a smart casual suit in nearly any scenario and feel confident. 

The concept of the "smart casual" as we know it today emerged in the 1980s. And the standards of formality began to shift, with the rise of informal workplace attire that blurred the line between work wear and street style. 

Now, it was possible to create a look that was completely personal and extremely versatile.

What is Smart Casual for Women

For women, smart casual is one of the most difficult dress codes to master. 

It's not quite a cocktail party, but it isn't exactly formal either, which is why it needs some planning. 

Smart casual, in essence, entails a well-kept yet relaxed style; the perfect look requires balance. 

However, before anything else, think about what kind of event you'll be attending because this will help you to get a feel for it. 

For example, if you're attending a professional work event, you'll need to finish your outfit with a blazer; however, if it's something non-work related, you may get by in a comfortable ensemble. 

Fortunately, matching the appropriate clothing will not be difficult; you probably already own all of the elements necessary, but you just need to pair them together:


Choosing which casual tees to add might be difficult, but it's not impossible. 

A white shirt should be your summertime go-to, and there are several different kinds available today. 

In the cold season, a turtleneck or chunky knitted top looks fantastic worn with trousers or jeans. 

However, you should avoid wearing cotton t-shirts with big printed graphics or sayings in a business casual environment. 

Then, finish off your top half with the correct jacket to make a casual appearance more sophisticated: a blazer, for example, will always look good, whether it's a basic one, a long-line or sleeveless style.


Chinos and trousers are typically a good choice for a smart casual style. 

Flowy skirts and pencil skirts will work if you're not really a trouser person, but avoid decorations like pinstripes, which may be too business-like. 

The great thing about smart casual is that you do not have to wear tailored pants. 

That's true: you can put on a pair of jeans, as long as you raise them to the next level. 

To elevate your outfit, combine a pair of dark-colored skinny jeans with a loose shirt and blazer.  

However, if the weather isn't cooperating with your denim apparel, you may also wear shorts. It's not a question of hot pants; rather, a pair of tailored shorts with a blouse and loafers is just what you need.


When you're dressing for a certain dress code, your shoes will have an important part to play. 

As a result, if you want to perfect an acceptable smart casual appearance, you must choose the right pair. 

To ensure that you appear competent yet not overly formal, stick to versatile yet practical footwear every time. 

For example, block heels, kitten heels and loafers make an excellent choice for this dress code. 

What is Smart Casual for Men

For men, smart casual is “pretty much anything smarter than a tracksuit, but less formal than a suit”, according to Mr Porter's Style Advice page

And this just complicates things - there's not one style, outfit or answer. 

But one thing to keep in mind, smart casual should still allude to a more polished look, so that you don't come across as slouchy or lazy. 

To do this:

Swap One or Two Pieces

As we all know, defining "smart casual" is difficult. 

But wearing a completely informal outfit is a good place to start. Then, try swapping one or two pieces for something smarter. 

Let's assume you wear a t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers as your primary clothing. Try adding a blazer and switching your runners for derbies, or if you don't want to wear a jacket, try swapping your T-shirt for a buttoned shirt instead. 

Essentially, you can upgrade your style, look sharp, and follow the smart casual dress code with ease by simply replacing one or two components.

Wear Darker Shades

Darker colours will automatically look more formal.

So smartening up can be as simple as wearing darker shades. 

Let's take this example: you wear a khaki bomber jacket, a white t-shirt, light blue jeans, and white trainers as a casual outfit. 

Now replace the bomber jacket with a navy one and your jeans with black - you'll immediately appear smarter! 

Whilst the style is exactly the same, the overall effect is different.

Choose the Right Shoes

Some trainers will not be accepted on occasion, so if you're unsure, go with shoes instead, such as derby shoes, loafers, Chelsea boots, and chukkas that are safe choices rather than Oxfords, which are quite formal. 

In terms of colour, black would be the most wise option. Brown is more relaxed, while tan is even more so. 

Take a closer look at the shoes' shape next. The more rounded the toe is, the more casual they will appear, as well as the sole's thickness. 

Moreover, material matters - nubby materials like suede are more casual than shiny leather, for example. 

If trainers are permitted, most men will opt for a fresh, white pair, and for good reason too as they can be paired with almost anything. 

The Final Say

Having a few simple wardrobe staples that can be worn in different ways will prevent any last minute panic when a "smart casual" event pops up. On the whole, wearing smart casual is simple - it just needs a little more effort than if you were running to the local shop for some milk!

Please get in touch to find out more.

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