Easy and Elegant Life

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

First Steps: Understanding the Idiom of Smart Casual.

Perhaps a poor choice of title, since it may not be possible for all concerned to agree upon the definition of “smart casual.”
I may have put the cart before the horse in my last post when I “started from the ground up” to construct the smart casual wardrobe.

I say this because the comments when I announced my intention to follow this course of enquiry were conflicted, passionate, polarised, insightful and hopeful. In short, everything that one could hope to see in the comments section when one begins a blog: a true discussion developing! I couldn’t be more pleased. Thank you one and all for commenting and to those of you thinking about the topic and waiting to see where I might go with it! There are no right or wrong answers here. And for those of you concerned, don’t worry; I won’t stop fighting the good fight to advance the idea that we dress better than we have to.

“We Don’t Follow Fashion/That’d Be a Joke/You Know We’re Gonna Set Them/Set Them? So Everyone Can Take Note/Take Note.”

OK, enough’s too much. What exactly is “smart casual?” Let me guess, you know it when you see it, right?

(Iranian Author Hooman Majd carrying off the very difficult sweater tuck.)

Ok, so we have an idea in our collective imagination what ‘smart casual’ might look like. Actually, I bet we have more of an idea what it doesn’t look like. Can it involve sneakers? Jeans? T-shirts? “Distressed” anything?

Before we get to that, let’s talk colour and fit.

Don’t abandon your colour profile. The object is still to have everyone’s gaze directed inevitably upward to your handsome mug. So, if you are high contrast, wear high contrast, etc. . Not sure? Try downloading the BeSpeak App from Maestro Flusser. It’s fun to play around with and will help spark ideas. You shouldn’t be afraid of adding colour to your shirts and trousers, socks and scarves. And don’t forget that pattern will add visual interest to whatever you’re wearing. That’s especially important if you’re dressing monochromatically.

In terms of fit, we’re at the mercy of two schools. The more prominent of the two is the Thom Browne/Italian aesthetic which consists of trim cut, shorter length jackets, and tighter “hi-water” trousers. If you can get away with the look, it can be a bit flattering. I stick to the corduroys, chino and twill trousers in that style. The B² Milano and Clark cuts are good starting pieces.

If you prefer more traditionally cut trousers, remember that a fuller trouser pairs very nicely with a trimmer shirt and sweater combination sort of as seen below (from some collection… Bottega? D&G?)

The trimmer, flat-front trousers are worn with or without cuffs (if cuffed, they are deeply cuffed– think 2″) and both finishes are worn without a break. The trouser must hover right above the shoe, unless you like the ankle-baring Browne look.

In general, a slimmer cut is more desirable for casual wear, and that applies equally to an odd jacket or outerwear. A little shorter, a little narrower, but I think it best to avoid the ‘bum-freezer’ jackets and coats and severe pulling about the buttons on anything is simply a sign that the garment is too tight (and by extension: you are too … errr … large for it.)

9 thoughts on “First Steps: Understanding the Idiom of Smart Casual.

  1. Ah…a man who slides a little Adam Ant into a post about clothes is a man who knows what’s what.

    My husband has been flirting with narrower cuts lately and finding it difficult. In our suburban life, veering away from khakis and baggy sweaters can be a fraught effort. I can see him in an adaptation of that second look, though. Thanks for posting!

  2. I suspect that the runway photograph may be from Ferragamo or a similar house

    I’ve been crafting an article on this topic, so this has made my task a little tougher – you’ve certainly covered a lot of ground. Well played

    All best,


  3. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a scarf tucked into the neck of a pullover sweater before. I wouldn’t recommend it myself, and especially not outside of Manhattan.

  4. Hi John, I wear my scarf like that a lot. (Did today as a matter of fact, with a purple sweater.) And I live in Richmond, VA.

    Barima, looking forward to your post.

    Marsha, many thanks! And tell your husband to keep fighting the good fight. Eventually, people will accept it as his look and not think twice.

  5. TE, if you do it, then I’m sure it’s OK. I really don’t think I’ve ever seen it, & I’m 61. In New England we may think about clothing more like puritans than cavaliers.

  6. Hi John, Just takes a bit of swagger to pull it off. Not necessarily ok or not. Just different. It is very warming though. Especially if you tighten up the wrap.

  7. I’ve been following your blog for several weeks, but this is the first opportunity I’ve taken to comment.

    I really admire what you are doing! Many of us wives want to support our husbands dressing smartly without dressing dandified. There is so little support, outside New York or Europe, for men to look like men instead of overgrown frat boys mowing the lawn.

    My husband has an unusual shape: tall, very slender, and short body/long legs. He would’ve been a great model for Burberry. He has taken an interest in dressing stylishly ever since I forced him into a pair of Varvatos dark-wash jeans and a slim-fit Hugo Boss button-down shirt.

    It is easy for a man to dress like a man at work or during the colder months, but more difficult once warm/hot weather approaches. Any suggestions or future blog posts would be much appreciated!!

  8. Cupcake, stayed tuned! I’m sorting it out. Thanks for reading and taking a moment to comment. It is much appreciated!

    DP, Yes, I’ve been aware since the launch and love the site. It’s smart. In many ways, it is what I set out to do, but they have more of a retail and fashion focus.

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