A Style Guide To Smart Casual Menswear

15 May 2021

Here at Trunk, we like to think we know a thing or two about men’s ‘smart casual’ clothing as we’ve preached its merits for more than 10 years now. We can’t, however, speak on behalf of others. After a tumultuous year in sweatpants, and the preceding 10 years of the luxe-sportswear-infused uniform of the modern man, this subjective dress code has become even more confusing. As a result, many men are now asking what ‘smart casual’ means and now look like?

In the last year in the US, suit sales were reportedly down by 17% which should come as no surprise. Now the world has opened up again, there will undoubtedly be a shift towards formality in the post-Covid world with a renewed interest in tailoring following a year of loungewear. Wearing a three-piece suit, shirt and tie on a daily basis is more than a stretch. However, opting for a soft-shouldered casual jackets with a chic yet casual shirt beneath feels more modern and appropriate.

It’s worth taking note of smart casual garments’ enduring characteristic traits. They should be flattering and never tightly fitted, which means jackets with a natural shoulder line should be the go-to. In tone, they should never be loud or showy, but flat, muted and therefore modest. They should also be versatile to ensure longevity, and elegant in a relaxed sense.

With that said, we’ve curated a handful of smart casual looks for some inspiration that combines tone and texture with ease. They’re not groundbreaking, and nor are they meant to be, as we believe that this conundrum only means a return to order: how it was before sweatpants became one’s uniform, remember that?

We start with a fail-safe combination of a soft-shouldered navy sports jacket and indigo denim jeans. Navy is by all accounts a formal tone, and this outfit is a union between relaxed and comfortable clothing with durable items, which is exactly what we need today. The jacket in question is from Boglioli’s cotton pique k jacket and the fabric has an open structure which makes it impressively breathable. It’s then been garment-dyed for further comfort.

It’s been paired with Gitman’s blue stripe vintage oxford shirt, which has sporty and relaxed connotations, and Resolute’s 710 Denim Jeans, which has a flattering slim fit and therefore is appropriate for smart casual attire. From home to the office and then out, it passes all security checks.

A more flattering and elegant take on the navy blazer is to pair it with a light trouser, in this case, Lardini’s cashmere, wool and silk Easy Jacket with our Duke corduroy 5 pocket trousers in off white. While the contrast might be striking, it’s confident and but still subdued thanks to the Orlando super light olive polo shirt from Finamore which has a sporty handle. Finished with brown suede tassel loafers, it’s classified as being smart casual but the effort gives it a further lift.

For a softer palette, casual blazers like Lardini’s silk and wool Prince of Wales check Easy Jacket reflect this idea of smart casual. The earthy tone gives it a casual sense, while the tailored lines elevate the jacket. It’s unstructured for maximum comfort and therefore rests atop of casual shirts with greater ease. It’s worn with our Moxon short sleeve polo shirt and paired with Incotex’s Chinolino trouser in olive, both of which can easily be called upon to create a smart-casual ensemble.

We trust that many of our customers and readers have a handful of navy and grey suits that haven’t seen much light of day for over a year. While their moment will no doubt come, there’s still an opportunity to use them in a more casual way. Take, for instance, Ring Jacket’s navy wool 'Calm Twist' suit, a wardrobe staple for financiers and lawyers; it can be paired with Gitman’s vintage Oxford shirt in navy for a tonal look that’s sharp and elegant and works for all professions. Great for an evening event without feeling too dressed up, especially when paired with a brown suede pair of loafers without socks.

Alternatively, it can be broken down and the jacket used as a blazer but due to the crisp nature of the fabric, sporting a T-shirt beneath will bring it down a notch. Or, you could add some casual colour via Finamore’s superlight cotton short sleeve shirt in a dusty pink shade.

The combination is anything but formal due to the resort-style shirt and therefore relaxed and comfortable. Providing they’re devoid of detailing, a pair of sleek sneakers like CQP’s Jetty Sneaker in tabac suede can drop down the formality of the corporate suit even and make it appropriate for smart casual attire.

The same goes with the Ring Jacket’s wool 'Calm Twist' suit in grey, which can be seen paired with Fedeli’s Supima cotton knit skipper shirt in stone. Due to it being knitted, rather than woven, it’s instantly more casual with a textured handle, meanwhile, the soft collar and open neck give it a relaxed touch. Overall, shirts like these are a great alternative to more formal options in summer when putting together a smart casual look with more formal pieces. All in all, you hope that this provides you with enough assurance and confidence in how to appropriately dress in a smart casual way.

All too often it’s complicated for the sake of it. When, in fact, smart casual is perhaps the easiest dress code to carry out and it suits more occasions than any other style – after all, how often do you see black tie at a breakfast meeting or loungewear at a restaurant? If you have any questions, do get in touch or pop into the store. We’d love to help you.

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