The origin of Smart Casual
A combination of both formal and more relaxed clothing choices has been present throughout our sartorial history. The modern interpretation however requires a slight variation on the format of the formal suit as it started to emerge in the Victorian era.
The first instance of the term smart casual is believed to date back to the 1920s in the Davenport Democrat and Leader in Iowa, US. The emergence of the smart casual approach is often seen as being an American led phenomenon, rather like the black tie look. This is in no small part because of the more regimented and formal attitude towards dress codes in Britain.
By the 1950s Smart Casual had branched into Business Casual and was invading the professional work space of offices in the US. This allowed for a broader variety of styles emerging in offices and for business purposes, with a greater number of colour options and the inclusion of a greater fashion emphasis.
This would soon go onto flourish on this side of the Atlantic, with the essential components of the suit remaining, but the single comprehensive unit of the suit as a consistent outfit starting to lose popularity in all but a handful of professions. Broadly speaking those being finance and law. The Smart Casual look has now become a common place professional dress code for both many business places and for social events that whilst not formal, require a sense of occasion.
What does Smart Casual consist of?
This is a question for which it’s difficult to provide a concrete answer. It’s something that in many cases you’ll have developed your own judgement about, with experience giving you a natural recognition for what’s appropriate for the situation.
The Smart Casual concept is on something of a sliding scale. Do you lean more towards the smart or the casual? We’d tend to advise more towards the smart if in doubt. There’s also a long standing debate about whether this ought to include jeans. Again this is something that you’ll have to consider within the context of the occasion but in most instances, if jeans are appropriate an invitation specification wouldn’t have the word smart in!
A smart jacket or blazer is a definitive component of the smart casual dress code and is often what sets it apart from just being a casual outfit. This can be combined with a broader range of shirt choices than might be considered for a business suit, with some room for manoeuvre between smart and casual for this particular element. A dress shirt is quite a common choice, but rather like the jacket option, a larger selection of colour and style options are applicable. Whilst jeans might not always be suitable, this does at least leave a number of trouser options open. From corduroy to a more casual fit of suit trouser being options, with many also opting for chinos.
One way to ensure that you’re on the right side of the smart casual spectrum is to have an outfit which is perfectly tailored to you. Just because you can allow for a little more casual license in your outfit, doesn’t mean you can dress sloppily. Matching your shape, measurements, posture and gait along with your personal stylistic preferences means that you’ll have a smart casual option that you know is going to do the trick and have you looking at your most presentable when these occasions come round. Combine more relaxed stylistic choices with the perfect fit and attention to detail of smart tailoring and nail the smart casual conundrum.