If you want to be stylish, buy the latest trending threads. If you want to remain stylish then just keep it simple. Today we’re addressing the latter in a little game we like to call casual wear. Okay, it’s not so little.
In fact it’s often a massive question mark amongst many in the men’s style space. What is casual wear? When can you wear it? Are jeans casual wear? All valid questions which we’re about to tackle head-on in the comprehensive guide.
By the end, we guarantee you’ll be the king of casual cool.
What Is Casual Attire For Men
The dress term ‘casual’ is one of the most wildly overused words in the modern sartorial lexicon. For the uninitiated, it can run the full gamut of a Bintang and boardies to a sports coat and chinos. However, for the purposes of the modern-day gent, ‘casual attire’, more than anything else, should speak to an informal yet elegant mode of dressing. Not so much a dress code as an attitude and approach to personal style, casual attire is a true art that, once mastered, should be able to hold you in good stead for most occasions. Here, we explain how.
When Is It Appropriate To Wear Casual Clothing
The average chap spends most of his life in casual outfits. They’re the run about outfits you wear when grabbing a coffee; heading to sporting events; meeting mates for a drink and everything in between. In short; the garb you wear for the routine stuff in your life. However, just because it’s quotidian doesn’t mean it should be treated with any less care or nuance than ensembles for more formal events.
The very nature of casual attire is that it’s adaptable. A pair of chinos, chambray shirt and some classic sneakers should be able to carry you from Sunday morning brunch to an afternoon at the pub and beyond. And that’s why casual should not be misinterpreted as an excuse to be slovenly. Not to be mistaken for athleisure or beachwear, casual attire is understated yet stylish. It’s a pair of slim-fit jeans with a well-cut t-shirt, it’s a denim jacket paired with chinos and Chelsea boots. In short – and as a rule – if you wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing it to an informal restaurant for dinner, it’s probably not casual.
When Not To Wear Casual Attire
There are some who take inexplicable delight in flaunting the dictums of a dress code. I am not that person, and nor should be any discerning gentleman.
When it comes to when not to wear casual attire, the rules are simple; it’s simply when the dress code states otherwise. And sometimes a dress code isn’t stated – it’s simply implied via the nature of the event. For example, a cocktail party naturally calls for a lounge suit or smart blazer and trousers. In a similar vein, opening night of a play or even a gallery opening suggests a more elevated, formal code of dress.
This isn’t just a nod to convention either. To not meet the dress code signifies a lack of care and manners – not only to other guests but most importantly, to your hosts. Dressing to the attire standards is a nod of respect and an easy way to distinguish yourself as a true gentleman.
What To Wear On Top
If you’re starting to build your casual wardrobe, the first thing to focus on is some classic button-down shirts. Experiment with different brands to find a fit that suits you and then invest in a few classic colours and prints. What’s fantastic about this style is that it can be dressed up or dressed down throughout the day.
If preppy isn’t your thing, look at a slightly more rock-n-roll (but no less cool) denim shirt. Invest in a deep indigo version and a lighter wash and pair with pale coloured trousers in either white or taupe.
In the cooler months, look to layer over a shirt with a fine-knit, crew neck sweater. Navy is a go-to and looks equally sharp over a collared shirt as it does with a plain white tee. Once you’ve got some core colours covered off, sweaters can also be a great opportunity to experiment further with colour and texture. Uniqlo releases a range of fresh colours each season that can add some flare to your standard casual get-up. However, if you’re looking for something even more avant-garde, look to the likes of Reiss or Hugo Boss. You’ll find chunkier styles in bolder colours that are perfect for when the mercury drops.
To top off your outfit, round it out with a classic denim jacket in a dark indigo wash. Nudie Jeans has a great selection that leans more into urban cool than it does tired rocker. Alternatively, a quilted gilet is another excellent finishing touch. Try Brooks Brothers or Suitsupply for styles that give a nod to the British landed gentry and that’ll look just as at home in the countryside as they will in the big smoke.
What To Wear On The Bottom
Nothing says casual like jeans. And whether you favour a light wash or an inky, dark one, they’re a staple that numerous looks can be based around time and time again. When it comes to styling jeans, roll up the cuff to show some of the selvedge (the inside seam) and don’t be afraid to elevate them with a button down shirt or even a light sports coat.
The key thing with jeans when being worn casually is to steer clear of too much detailing. The motor-cross piping and the excess rips might seem cool but they ultimately detract from an otherwise chic and perfectly good ensemble.
When looking to up the ante on your casual look, you can’t go past a pair of classic chinos. Opt for a pair in a slim fit and seek out neutral base colours like olive, navy, white and beige. These pair excellently with either a tee or a button-down shirt and will comfortably take you from the pub to a mid-week dinner. Pair with some classic sneakers and a shawl neck sweater and you’re set to go.
In the warmer months, it’s perfectly permissible to wear shorts as casual attire. However, they can’t just be any old pair of boardies. Instead, look for tailored Bermuda shorts in cotton twill or seersucker. Top them off with a linen shirt, a canvas belt and some suede loafers or espadrilles for a look that screams summer style.
Best Casual Shoes
When it comes to casual footwear, it’s hard to beat a loafer. Whether you’re a fan of the penny style, tasselled or horse-bit, these shoes pair effortlessly with jeans, chinos or even tailored shorts and add a level of polish to casual attire that won’t go unnoticed.
In the warmer months, play with suede and canvas constructions that add a touch of texture. Also be open to experimenting with bold colours like azure, burnt orange or even yellow. This unexpected flourish gives personality and amps up the fun – just be sure to Scotchgard them first.
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When looking at options, G.H. Bass & Co. has a terrific selection in more traditional leathers and suedes as does Meermin Mallorca. If you’re bold enough to foray into more zesty styles, try the likes of Santoni or even Aquila who often releases a statement colour or two each season.
Of course, loafers aren’t the only option when it comes to casual attire and it would be remiss not to include the classic sneaker here. A fresh white sneaker is indeed the epitome of relaxed style and works with most styles of trousers and shorts. However, the key is keeping them clean. Nothing looks worse than a sharp ensemble matched with a pair of grubby plimsolls.
When it comes to finding the perfect pair, it pays to shop around for a style that marries comfort with elegance. Personal favourites include Common Projects, Vejas and Stan Smiths.
Best Casual Accessories
Accessorising a casual outfit is all about details. Whether it be your belt, sunglasses or watch, these final touches are an opportunity to inject some personality and panache to your outfit. First let’s start with the easy stuff – belts.
There is one strict rule with belts and that is to always think about them in relation to the shoes that you’re wearing. For example, if I’m wearing sneakers and a pair of chinos, I’ll generally opt for a more relaxed canvas or suede belt in navy or grey. Alternatively, if I’m wearing a pair of oxblood, polished loafers, I’d look at pairing with a similarly dark brown-ish coloured belt. This isn’t to say that they need to match exactly, rather it’s that they need to have a relation to one another.
In regard to sunglasses, it’s worth investing in a classic pair. Beyond giving a nod to timeless style, a classic set of sunnies can quickly become a personal statement. Whether you go for a pair of Ray-Ban Clubmaster, Dior SoReals or even Persols, they’ll add effortless cool to your outfit.
Jewellery isn’t for every man and it can feel a touch gauche if you’re not used to it. However, if you’re one to dabble, it’s worth looking for options that can become classics. Pieces like a gold chain from Cartier or a signet ring that’s been passed down through generations are simple touches that act as an extension of your personal style.
Casual Go-To Looks
You can’t have a guide without the right looks. From summer right through to winter, these are coolest casual wear looks you can steal today.
Linen Shirt With Fitted Pants
Light and breezy, the white linen shirt is a must-have when it comes to keeping smart and comfortable in the warmer-months. This shirt is designed to look relaxed – oozing effortlessness via an open-neck and the neatly rolled sleeves. The hem should be styled in a nonchalant half-tuck into pants at the front and without a belt.
Try teaming your white shirt with smart pants in a lightweight fabric and roll the cuff to expose the ankles. Add woven leather loafers, espadrilles or sandals (all no socks) for footwear that embodies summer nights. If you’re fully committed to the look, you can even buy your cotton pants pre-cropped, and do away with the hassle of rolling the hem. There’s something summery about short-length trousers (just like white linen shirts), so embrace it. You’ll soon be feeling like you’re on holiday in Europe, without leaving the comfort of Bondi, Byron or Burleigh.
Floral Shirt With Chinos
Floral prints offer more muted and mild in colour, letting florals venture into Autumn as well as Spring. However, there’s nothing heavily Hawaiian about floral shirts. These prints are more like abstract works of art; desert coloured and grubby-ed so the flowers could be seen as blotches or blurred colour until up close.
For the gardenia gent, fronds and ferns still abound but in subtle monochrome, appearing more textural and grainy than bold and patterned. For styling, juxtapose a button down floral shirt – in short sleeve or rolled – with heavy cotton chinos (lighter cheap chinos can also work during warmer seasons). Wear with penny loafers or monk straps in tan or brown.
Shirt Jacket With Jeans
Also known as the ‘shacket’, the shirt jacket – a hybrid men’s fashion item that combines the layering capabilities and sturdiness of the jacket with the design and lightness of a collared shirt – is taking men’s style further into fashion-cum-functional territory. And we aren’t complaining.
The perfect choice for when it’s Spring or Autumn, designers are making ‘shackets’ – in sporty nylons or breezy cottons – that work for every taste. To get the most out of it, wear the shacket closed (to the neck or slightly open) or layered over a basic t-shirt. The shirtjacket embodies the deconstructed elements of a casual blazer without the formalities of suit jacket, made all the more weekend-smart paired with your favourite tapered jeans.
Polo Shirt With Trousers
Polo shirts are experiencing a resurgence of late. No longer reserved for preppy jocks and pop-collared pimps, this season’s styles speak to a seventies revival (yes, designers are still loving the disco decade). Made from either lightweight cotton or piqué, they lend any outfit an element of authentic René Lacoste-cool.
Despite its aesthetic ties to the humble tee, a polo collar gives Summer pants a smart-casual finish, especially in the new season’s cuffed, army construction. Update this classic shirt with a change in textures, intarsia prints and an injection of colour, especially muted yellows, greens and blues. Worn solo, only button up the third button; never go all the way to the top.
Leather Jacket With Jeans
Nothing says casual weekend attire like a well-loved leather jacket flung over a fitted tee-shirt with a pair of jeans. However, buying a leather jacket can feel like a big investment – particularly if you’re looking at higher-end styles – so why not take a trial run with a classic style from the likes of ASOS or The Iconic first? A biker style is one that you’ll be able to wear time and time again, just remember that leather has natural give and it will stretch over the course of the first few wears.
When styling a leather jacket, adopt a less is more approach. Think basics with a good quality white tee-shirt from somewhere like Bassike and dark wash jeans. This looks sensational with a pair of fresh white kicks and no socks.