smart casual dress code

How to nail a smart casual dress code this summer

Smart casual is one of the trickiest dress codes in the book; but luckily, we’ve got the formula you'll need to nail it every time.

Smart casual is a dress code that — while easy and relaxed on the face of it — can actually be very difficult to get right. It’s a frustrating invite to decode – which side of the spectrum do you lean? Smart or casual?

Pulling off this divisive dress code is about creating the perfect balance – you want to blend into the crow, without getting lost but, equally, you want to stand out without looking out of place. So let’s start with the don’ts. In general, it’s better to err on the side of smart so you don’t end up spending an entire event feeling underdressed and disrespectful. With this in mind avoid jeans, T-shirts and casual accessories such as baseball caps.

And now to the dos. Turnbull & Asser can help in this regard; they’ve just launched a new Al Fresco capsule collection comprising light linen, silk shirts and tailored suiting. Inspired by the relaxed elegance of Luca Guadagnino’s 2015 film, A Bigger Splash, the collection encapsulates cinematic romance, and alludes to the inherent liberation that comes with summer — particularly when it comes to its luxury lightweight materials, harmonious colour palette and summer-inspired styling (more on this later) — and it sums up the perfect approach to summery smart casual dressing, with options ranging from formal to weekend wear.

More generally, though, the art of perfecting smart casual is all in the execution. It’s about creating balance, and the easiest way to do this is to mix and match smart pieces with more casual designs. With this in mind, we’ve created the ultimate smart casual capsule wardrobe – all you need to do is build your outfit as the situation demands.

The jacket

In warmer weather, you can certainly drop the coat; but a decent jacket is still a must. Its capabilities in terms of smartening up or dressing down are unparalleled — and the right jacket denotes chic, effortless styling from the moment you slip it on. Your smart option here should be a tailored blazer or sport coat, while a suede jacket is a more casual investment that will see you through this summer (and beyond).

Smart: A good blazer instantly smartens up any outfit and you can’t go wrong with navy. This two-button, unstructured offering from Oliver Spencer is an ideal piece of summer tailoring; crafted from a soft seersucker fabric, it’s more than able to cope with any heatwaves that might be en route, and its notch lapel gives it that additional dapper finish.

Casual: If your Casual Friday look requires outerwear that can take you seamlessly from the office to the bar — or a weekend away — then a suede jacket, like this brown safari offering from New & Lingwood, is the piece you’ve been looking for. The most luxurious of the brand’s popular four-pocket safari jacket, it exudes rugged comfort, provides lightweight warmth, and can achieve an even suaver look with its toggled drawstring at the waist — perfect for a trim, dapper aesthetic.

How to nail a smart casual dress code this summer

Oliver Spencer Theobald Jacket

£369

Buy Now
How to nail a smart casual dress code this summer

New & Lingwood Suede Safari Jacket

£1250

Buy Now

The shirt

In the interests of keeping the smart in smart casual, opting for a shirt is always a good choice. It’s instantly smarter, slicker and essential for getting that balance right – but that doesn’t mean you can’t experiment with your styling. Untuck the shirt, roll your sleeves and loosen your top button – we’re talking smart casual, after all.

Smart: It’s a common misconception that ‘smart’ necessitates ‘uncomfortable’. This is a misconception that Emma Willis can promptly dispel: especially when it comes to this lightweight Italian shirt. It’ll cater to all your smarter needs with its mother of pearl buttons; and its lightweight Italian linen will ensure complete cool throughout a scorching summer, whilst also ensuring your ensemble looks smart, elegant and chic.

Casual: With its airy, open structure, Turnbull & Asser’s beige weekend shirt (from their Al Fresco collection, naturally) is perfect for summer: and its collarless element provides the perfect relaxed alternative to the conventional spread collar. Style it with chinos, and settle into a relaxed summer weekend. And speaking of the brand’s excellent shirts, you can win a Turnbull & Asser Luxury Linen Shirt as part of the Gentleman’s Journal Spring Summer Bundle

How to nail a smart casual dress code this summer

Emma Willis Linen Shirt

£240

Buy Now
How to nail a smart casual dress code this summer

Turnbull & Asser Weekend Fit Linen Shirt

£275

Buy Now

The jumper

If you’re not entirely sure what an occasion calls for, adding a layering piece like a jumper allows you to easily tone things up or down. Make sure you keep the shirt collar inside the neck of the jumper and keep your knit plain. Alternatively wear a lightweight knit on its own as an elegant shirt alternative.

Smart: Aurélien’s beige v-neck, crafted from its trademark Cashwool material, is the ideal smart addition to an otherwise casual ensemble. The Cashwool gives it a lustrous sheen, ensuring it’ll shine like silk: and the brand’s Mediterranean inspiration adds a distinctly summery nod to this jumper, in particular. 

Casual: Artknit Studios’ vintage navy offering, meanwhile, is “perfect for casual days” (their words, not ours): it has a relaxed, cropped fit and looks great when paired with a white t-shirt or even — dare we say it — denim, for the really casual days. 

How to nail a smart casual dress code this summer

Aurélien Extrafine Merino V-Neck

£106

Buy Now
How to nail a smart casual dress code this summer

Artknit Studios Wool Vintage V-Neck

£149

Buy Now

The trousers

Chinos are the ultimate go-between for both smart and laid-back affairs, as there’s basically nothing they won’t go with. Having said that, you don’t want to be the guy who turns up in the same pair of beige chinos time and time again. That guy is boring and predictable; two adjectives that certainly can’t be applied to a true gentleman. Choose the right pair of tailored trousers and they’ll fit seamlessly into your smart casual looks.

Smart: Turnbull & Asser’s Al Fresco collection has delivered the goods again, with their Rust Linen-Wool-Silk Gerry Trousers. Cut from a lightweight rust-coloured cloth, these pleated trousers have straight legs with a classic fit and pair well with smooth linen for the ultimate summer aesthetic.

Casual: If you’ve never yet invested in a pair of linen trousers, this could be your year. Love Brand’s White Randall Linen Trouser is crafted from 100% linen and comprises a timeless, relaxed fit. If you’re after a pair of casual trousers for the beach — or, indeed, for a more casual evening out — this is the pair for you.

How to nail a smart casual dress code this summer

Turnbull & Asser Linen-Wool-Silk Trousers

£395

Buy Now
How to nail a smart casual dress code this summer

Love Brand Randall Linen Trouser

£140

Buy Now

The shoes

The final — and, arguably, most important — addition to any outfit. A loafer is ideal for meeting that halfway point between smart and casual, while the smart, minimal trainer has made its way into the style conscious man’s wardrobe and can act just as well as the aforementioned options in this scenario.

Smart: Loafers and driving shoes are highly adept at perfectly treading the smart casual line. Scarosso’s Stefano Moro loafer has been handcrafted into an elegant take on the classic Penny Loafer: with its dark brown suede leather and natural-coloured calfskin lining, it’s guaranteed to look suave and sophisticated while remaining relaxed and effortless.

Casual: There are casual sneakers; and then there are smart casual sneakers. Oliver Cabell’s Low 1 — Off White pair are in the latter category; crafted from butter soft Italian leather, this timeless tennis shoe will be the perfect casual addition to any smart casual ensemble, whilst maintaining that stylish flair that no gentleman should ever be without.

How to nail a smart casual dress code this summer

Scarosso Stefano Moro Loafer

£215

Buy Now
How to nail a smart casual dress code this summer

Oliver Cabell Low 1 — Off White

£241

Buy Now

Now we’ve got that sorted, it’s time to find out how to style a short sleeve shirt this summer

Become a Gentleman’s Journal member. Find out more here.

Further Reading