There are few words that strike panic into the hearts of partygoers more than seeing the phrase “smart casual” for the dress code. “Bring your own bottle” arguably comes close, we’ll admit, but the ambiguity and conundrum of worrying about being both underdressed and overdressed at the same time makes picking the perfect outfit just that little bit harder. To help you avoid any embarrassment, here are our suggestions of the best items to wear for your soirées this summer.
Ditching the jeans
It seems that jeans have become the quintessential smart casual clothing item of recent years; the go-to partner for shirts or blazers, shoes or trainers, but popularity often begs for variety. The Financial Times’ Robert Armstrong has denounced jeans – along with their ubiquitous sports jacket companion –and we have to agree. They will, of course, remain an immortal fashion icon in almost every situation, but we give jeans the backseat here. What we prefer to wear instead are Dickies work pants. The slim fit versions have the same comfortable wear-ability of jeans and will make sure you don’t get caught up in an identity parade of denim again.
Going for brogue
If jeans have become to define smart casual, then the footwear you can choose to couple with them is certainly the embodiment of what the term encompasses. Derbies? Absolutely. Loafers? Sure. Canvas basketball trainers? If you must. Cowboy boots? Well, you get the idea; there’s very little which doesn’t seem to get the go ahead for smart casual. Our preference for this year, however, is brogues. As The Art of Manliness tells us, broguing is the addition of small holes to the shoes’ leather, but there’s a specific style which constitutes the classic brogue; an Oxford shoe with a wingtip toe. The shape of the shoe itself ticks every “smart” box, while the broguing adds casualness, with more extensive holes decreasing the formality but keeping the style.
Topping off your look
To complete the smart casual look, you need to get the top half of your outfit right, and choosing the wrong thing can lead to multiple kinds of awkwardness. While you don’t want to look like you forgot to get dressed by only donning a tee, you also want to avoid the stuffiness associated with the jacket, shirt and tie combination of a full suit. A fitted shirt by itself is sleek, while a blazer over a plain crew neck is undeniably comfortable, but for this, we’re picking an often underrated garment in the cardigan…just hear us out. A thin, buttoned cardigan has the versatility to work with both a shirt – whether with or without tie – and tee equally, without compromising any aspect of “smart casual.” It can also offer the added benefit of being comfortable and light and beats its nearest challenger the waistcoat by guaranteeing that you won’t be mistaken for a member of the bar staff when you’re out. It’s an underappreciated item that we’re sure to be wearing more of this year.