For guys, there are two common situations that require a specific dress code: casual and formal. The former does well with t-shirts, jeans, chinos and the like while the latter requires a suit, a tuxedo and some appropriate dress shoes and dress shirts.
But there comes a time when an outfit that blurs the lines between the two is your best bet: smart casual. What does smart casual mean? is a question posed by many a man, with the answer being an outfit that is neat, clean and conventional, yet relatively informal in style.
But while clothing may be easy to define, you’ve still got to think about your footwear choice. You don’t need to dig out your very best pair of leather Oxfords if you’re just teaming them with jeans, and neither do you want to have a sharp blazer, shirt and chino ensemble finished off with a pair of bright white sneakers.
No. What you need is a pair of smart casual dress shoes. This very specific footwear category is pretty simple to master when you put some thought into it. You can take a pair of brogues, for example, but instead of choosing a fine brown calf leather, you would simply choose suede instead, and perhaps in a slightly less-common colour such as blue or grey.
Certain boot styles can be considered smart casual too, such as Clarks’ Originals desert boot, or you can even turn to loafers and moccasins, such is their versatility.
It could very well be a shoe you’ve not given much thought to before, but get it right and your outfits will be upgraded to unrivalled heights.
Here are the best smart casual shoes for men.
Best Smart Casual Dress Shoes For Men FAQ
Can I wear sneakers to smart casual events?
Yes, you can wear sneakers to smart casual events, but they can't be any pair of sneakers such as something loud and garish. You can wear minimalist sneakers in a dark colour such as black or navy, and you should also make sure they are leather, as opposed to canvas.
What is the difference between smart casual dress shoes and business casual shoes?
Not a huge amount separates smart casual and business casual. The two are essentially the same, however business casual commonly means anything worn to the office, while smart casual refers to everything worn outside of the office.
Business casual shoes will be more like brogues and oxfords, while smart casual dress shoes can include sneakers.
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These Zerøgrand Wingtip Oxfords, for example, benefit from a sole that is made from a triple-density foam to provide incredible amounts of cushioning and comfort for easy all-day wear.
The company's desert booot is easily one of the most iconic boots of all time and is one of the absolute masters within the smart casual space. Helped by its crepe sole, these boots are about as informal as you can get, without going into sneaker territory. If wearing for a smart-formal event, we'd suggest looking at the full section of colours first.
They only have one shoe to offer, ‘The Original’, which is a smart-casual dress shoe available in four timeless colours. But this shoe is secretly a serious game-changer when it comes to men’s dress shoes. The soles of The Original are crafted with new, proprietary materials created by Amberjack that deliver comfort all day long! The shoes also feature heat-activated arch support made with foam (that’s more durable than memory foam) that when heated by your body warmth will mould to your foot for custom arch support.
Not to mention a dual-density outsole with high-performance athletic technology in the front for flexibility and strong hiking boot material in the back for support. Oh, and the sustainably sourced Italian suede used for the upper is water repellent, meaning you can wear these dress shoes in rain or shine, and the suede will stay protected and fresh.
This pair of chunky-soled loafers take a formal shoe style in the loafer and make it decidedly more casual with the addition of a chunky sole. Made from premium leather, they're sure to look good with a pair of cropped pants and a shirt. Embrace your inner Michael Jackson.
Scarosso's Luigi Blu Scamosciato is a classic driving shoe, which, while it may be a divisive shoe style, works perfectly as a smart casual option. Certainly better suited to warmer weather situation, their blue colouring will add an extra layer of style (and pretentiousness) to your look.
The Pix lace-up is a prime example, arriving in either this safe all-black model or a number of more outlandish colour combinations, they're made from a full-grain leather and rock an EVA lightweight outsole for all-day comfort.
The Ludlow penny loafer, for example, does sit firmly on the fence between formal and casual, but being a slip-on design, it will look just as good with a pair of jeans (no socks, of course) as they would a pair of suit pants.
Johnston & Murphy
The Casteel Plain Toe model takes on a more formal Derby silhouette, but its colour contrasting sole with fully visible stitching gives them a more casual appearance. Put together in Italy and made from a selection of fine leathers, they also gain a cushioned "sport sole" to help you endure long periods on your feet.
The Moc-Toe 6-inch work boot may be a work boot first and foremost, but we feel it has that certain je ne sais quoi that allows it to moonlight as an everyday boot that looks great with a pair of dark denim jeans, shirt and blazer. An ideal option for the colder months.
The Urban Turnout boot stands out within R.M's collection as being a slightly more casual offering compared to its more famous Craftsman cousin. Made in Australia from a single piece of Bovine leather, they also receive a Vibram EVA lightweight treaded outsole and a flat heel, which goes some way to supporting their casual credentials. A contrasting stained edge finish also helps to draw them away from more formal occasions.
Duke & Dexter
The Bowler black loafer is quintessential Duke & Dexter, combining a custom matte black upper with a rubber sole and a quilted lining, they're a comfortable, versatile footwear choice.
The Vacum shoe arrives in a suave dark fig colour, eschewing the more conventional black and grey in favour of one that may be a little trickier to pair with outfits, but pull them off and you'll be the centre of attention.
They also make a damn fine Espadrille, which may not be the first footwear style you'd associate with smart casual, but they're a suitable summer smart casual staple. Able to be worn from beach to (wedding venue ) bar, they're a quirky alternative to a loafer.
Now, we know we said no sneakers, but these Capri Nero rock a triple-black colour finish, making them suitable for camouflaging with suit pants, as others around you will barely take a second look to realise you're wearing sneakers and not a pair of Oxfords.
The Maxfield Tassel Loafer perfectly merges the worlds of formal and casual together into a pair that can look great with chinos or some other casual pants, just as much as they could be worn with a suit. Handsewn and made from a premium calf-skin leather, they're certainly built to last.
Grenson is best known for its Oxfords and Brogues, and this pair of Archie brogues is a perfect example of how this often formal shoe can be presented in a more casual way.
The Sperry boat shoe has long been associated with preppy style, which in itself is synonymous with smart casual. Made from a full-grain leather that is resilient to both salt and freshwater and they also retain the one-piece lacing system that can be customised in a variety of ways. And of course, they rock the Wave-Siping non-slip sole design.
These grey lace-up brogues may not necessarily win any contests for the most luxurious shoes ever, but being the very epitome of smart casual, they make the cut for this list. Grey is a perfect colour for smart casual, as it sits in the middle between formal black and casual white, while the brogue detailing makes them more suitable for the office party than your pair of runners.
The Eizzg derbies are made from a brown suede with a leather heel piece, making them destined to be paired with jeans, while the two-tone colouring on the sole injects that little bit of aforementioned fun.