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How to master the smart-casual dress code

What is casual for one is smart for another, so be aware who has set the dress code and the occasion or event which you are attending. The smart-casual code’s definition shifts with its context, so engaging in some basic social intelligence will take you a long way.

We would, for starters, emphasise the “smart” side of the amalgam, since going in too smart, rather than too casual, is always a better bet. If you wear a suit with an open-neck shirt you can always remove the jacket should you feel overdressed.

Thanks in part to the past year of lockdown and in part to Silicon Valley’s laissez faire approach to office dressing, smart-casual is becoming more accepted in business circles, so it’s a good idea to get a grip on it now.

What counts as smart-casual?

One piece of clothing cannot be defined as either smart or casual. Again, context is is everything. If you wear a suit with a T-shirt, it becomes smart-casual. If you wear dark, clean jeans with a blazer and a shirt, it becomes smart-casual. The key is to avoid anything with excessive pattern or logos and to ensure that everything is cut to fit, unimpeachably clean and infused with a touch of lowkey élan.

Can I get away with wearing jeans?

Jeans span a wide spectrum. Of course, any jeans that have rips in or are too tastelessly bleached or tight fall strictly within the casual realm and wouldn’t pass the smart litmus test. However, darker indigo denim can be smart-casual as long as the clothes around them are formal. Just be aware that some places ban wearing jeans despite having a smart-casual dress code.

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