With more and more businesses bringing in a “smart casual” dress code, it’s easy to feel confused about what exactly constitutes appropriate office attire. What seems suitable for a corporate law firm might be entirely inappropriate for a startup, and vice versa.
However, some universally accepted principles can help you maintain a professional appearance without going overboard. Here’s a guide to dressing “smart casual” in the office that will help you look polished and put together in no time.
What does ‘smart casual’ mean?
Smart casual is the term used to describe a professional dress option that places emphasis on comfort and style. More informal than business casual, smart casual is often considered to be an easy way to dress for work because it doesn’t require much thought or expensive clothing. All you need is a few key pieces that can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion.
How to make sure you look your best in the office
Here are a few ways you can make sure you look your best in the office:
1. Understand the dress code
First, make sure you understand the dress code of the company you work for, as not everyone’s definition of smart casual will be the same. If your company has a specific dress code written down, you need to follow that.
If there is no official policy, it may be a good idea to ask your manager or HR representative what the company likes its employees to wear. If there is still some doubt, opt for smart casual as you’ll be striking the right balance between casual and formal this way.
2. Invest in quality pieces
If you want to hit the smart casual dress code in the office, it’s important to invest in a few quality pieces that will last and can be worn in a number of ways. If you’re going to splurge on one piece, we’d suggest investing in a great pair of smart trousers or a blazer. These never go out of style and can be dressed up or down accordingly. For example, a blazer works really well with a pair of chinos or jeans.
3. Don't forget about grooming
Of course, when it comes to dressing for the office, you need to think about more than just your clothes – grooming is equally as important. Your hair should be clean and styled, and if it’s quite long, you’ll want to make sure it’s pulled back away from your face. If you have facial hair, keep this well-groomed as well with regular trims.
Remember, you want to look put together, not like you’ve just rolled out of bed and straight into work.
4. Accessorise appropriately
Accessories are a great way to add some life and personality to your outfit, but it’s important not to overdo it. A good rule of thumb is to keep it simple with one or two items. If you’re wearing a suit, a nice watch and some cufflinks will be enough. If you’re wearing a smart shirt and chinos, a patterned sock (that isn’t too striking!) can add interest to your outfit. A brightly coloured tie is another way to make an outfit pop without being too distracting.
5. Layer up
The key to dressing smart casual in the office is layering. You need a solid base, so start with a collared shirt and a pair of smart trousers like chinos – some companies might even allow dark-coloured jeans. Once you have this layer, you can build on it.
In winter, your top layer could be a sweater or cardigan. This will give you some extra warmth and make sure that you don’t look too formal. In summer, it could be a light jacket. Layering helps to add some extra style and flair to your outfit while achieving a smart but casual look.
6. Remember that fit is key
The key to looking your best in the office is to remember that fit is key. Whether it’s a blazer, shirt or chinos, everything should fit well without being too tight. The goal is to appear professional without looking like you’ve spent hours getting ready for work! Remember as well that you’ll be wearing this outfit all day, so you want it to be comfortable to sit in.
Wardrobe basics for nailing the smart casual style
To nail the smart casual look, you need to have some wardrobe essentials on hand so you can whip up an outfit in no time. Here’s what we recommend:
Make sure you have a mix of shirts, sweaters and cardigans. You’ll want something with short sleeves for summer and long sleeves for winter. Tops made of natural fibres like cotton or wool tend to work better than synthetics like polyester or nylon because they’re more comfortable. You should also invest in some staple neutral colours like black, white, grey and beige, although there is no harm in adding a pop of colour now and again.
Invest in a few staple trousers or dark-coloured jeans. Again, natural fibres tend to work better and will be more comfortable if you’re sat down for long periods of time. You should also invest in some brighter-coloured chinos to add some vibrancy to your wardrobe, especially in summer.
It’s worth having a few options here so you can dress your outfit up or down. In particular, we’d recommend that you have at least one pair of smart leather shoes in your wardrobe. While some companies may allow you to wear a nice pair of trainers, it’s likely that they will provide some guidance on the colour.
Upgrade your Smart Casual style today with The Chapar
If you’re looking for a way to upgrade your style, look no further than The Chapar. Our personal stylists can help you find the best smart casual outfits for work that suit your personality and lifestyle. We’re here to help you find what makes you feel like the best version of yourself, so contact us today to upgrade your style.