Easy and Elegant Life

The Search for Everyday Elegance and the Art of Living Well.

A Reader’s Thoughts on Smart Casual

The Cream Odd Vest
The Cream Odd Vest

(Purple tie, lavender shirt, grey flannel, cream vest and lime green pocket square. More in the — hopefully — elegant rather than easy vein.)

Hi Chris,
I enjoyed your blogs on smart casual. Since you’ve asked for reader input, here goes. In terms of dressing smart casual, California, has a couple of other of influences – first, it’s not just warmer here year round, there is also a lot of sunshine. It’s not uncommon to get a day in January that’s 75 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. This tends to lend itself towards lighter colors. Secondly, we also have a hip urban thing going which tends to lend itself to darker (black) and unusual colors (french blue and purple).

So how do you reconcile the two? I find the easiest way is to go with a darker top, such as a black single ply cashmere crewneck sweater with lighter pants such as tan, taupe, or light/mid grey. I think this works a lot better than dark pants and a light top or navy, both of which are seen as too conservative East Coast.

In addition, high end designer jeans are a uniform here. You can’t ignore them but you can upscale them – a black three button sports jacket (which works better without a tie), an open shirt in an unusual color, and shoes such as derbies, monk straps or chelsea boot. Accessorize with a bright silk pocket handkerchief and cool shades and you’re good to go. I remember about a month ago you wrote a blog of Glamour vs Elegance. I think I’ve come to the conclusion that elegance in southern CA is hard to come by but Glamour affords limitless possibilities.

Nicely put dear reader. I like the idea of strong colour, and while I tend toward white and tan in the warmer months and charcoal greys in the winter, I’ve been playing with more colour during the shoulder seasons of Fall and Spring. Here are a few combinations that might work very well. Sky blue and chocolate brown. Orange and loden green (or olive green.) Purple and navy blue. Canary yellow and charcoal grey. French blue and cranberry. And, as noted above, black and tan.

Largish party here tonight and author Stephen Elliott will be reading from his newest novel “The Adderall Diaries” next door, so if you’ll excuse the short post, I’ve got some polishing to do after I fire up the crock pot.

7 thoughts on “A Reader’s Thoughts on Smart Casual

  1. As usual Chris – it looks wonderful on you.

    I think I could use one of those color wheel thing-ies to try some differenct combos in dress. I rely a great deal on what I see in blogs like yours, ADG’s, The Trad’s, and very dependant on the shop clerks to help me with putting it all together.

    Great post!

  2. omg

    so beautiful.
    i went to nyc w/ my mom on my 18th bday…..
    i was at ‘daly’s dandelion’ and at noon when the lunch crowd rushed in, all the men were wearing vest.
    some even wore ascots.

    5 days later i was living on e 58th street,
    and my life would never be the same.


  3. Hi there!
    Everybody seems to ask your opinion so here I go with a question.
    What socks (design, color, …) do you wear with different type of suits, etc…
    How to match them (shoes, tie?…) Always black socks? What about sheer socks?
    Tell us all your tips!

    That was a question from France!

  4. Why does the photo have left and right switched? Regardless, a very nice look.

    Your reader’s California is different from mine. The one that everyone outside the state thinks of–including me before I moved here–is Southern California. Central and Northern California are different, but all regions share a relative lack of distinct seasons and general lack of cold weather (mountanous areas excepted). Non-Southern CA is cooler year-round and wetter during “winter” than down south.

    Completely different subject: Is this a picture of you?
    About halfway down the page, on the left.

  5. Great question and answer! Living in California does prove difficult for stylish dressing year round. It is really tempting to just be in my yoga clothes all day everyday (because of the heat and for comfort reasons) but, of course, I would never do that. I tend to wear a lot of skirts, jeans and blazers when I am in California- definitely more urban cool. Half of the year when I am in London I dress completely different- lots of dark colors, chic, chic, chic. Thanks for the advice!

  6. Hi Brent, Wow! I’d heard that I had a double back in the 80’s…. that guy on the left could’ve been me, I bought my sweater about 1980. Right vintage (I didn’t hit college until ’84, so he’s at least two years older than I.) But wrong glasses (mine were wire tortoise shell) and I carried an Israeli (?) Airborne shoulder bag that the old Banana Republic sold.

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