Smart Casual: What Does it Really Mean?

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Why does the term “smart casual” strike fear into our soul? Put simply, it’s because there are no hard and fast rules to follow. Black tie means you’ve got to wear a black tie. Casual means you dress like you do on a Saturday morning. “Smart casual”? Cue nervous sweats, hyperventilating and arguments with your other half about when a Marmite stain appeared on your good chinos.

But now you can relax. Let Matthew Pike, founder of awesome men’s fashion, design and lifestyle blog Buckets and Spades, guide you through the most difficult wardrobe worry of them all…

Clean Up


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Slim Indigo Japanese Chambray Shirt, £90

Simple things first – rocking up to your event straight from the office wearing a day-old work shirt with your gym shoes isn’t going to fool anybody. Everything you wear, from top to toe, needs to be clean, crisp and with no evidence of your lunch down it. Iron that classic button-up chambray shirt and scour your “smart” slim fit jeans for rips and tears – one spot, blemish or crotch-revealing hole and you’re starting on the back foot. 

Strike the Shoe Balance


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Picking the right pair of shoes that can turn even the most confident man into a mess of tears and panic. So let’s not beat around the bush, here’s two options we’d always consider reaching for: never-go-wrong Clarks Wallabees, or a pair of slightly less vibrant Saucony trainers (but only if they’re in box-fresh condition). Sorted. 

Saucony Jazz, £60

Clarks Wallabees, from £75

Let Your Socks Pop


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Stance Montanoso Socks, $10 (around £6.60)

If in doubt, block it out. Steer clear of brain-melting patterned shirts and wacky piano ties – simple but bold blacks, whites and pastels are your friends if you want to own the dress code. But, as with everything in life, there’s an exception to the rule. If you want to catch the eye of someone important (or really pretty), let your socks sing. A pop of colour from Stance Socks’ range of sole-warmers will up your chance of getting noticed for the right reasons.

Know Your Crowd


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Gregory Texture Knitted Tie, £69

To tie or not to tie? There’s a simple rule to knowing whether or not to put something around your neck: think of three other people you know will be attending the same event, then decide if you’d be comfortable telling a “Yo mama” joke in front of them. If yes, leave it at home – you’ll only end up sticking it around your head later on anyway. If no, stick one on, son. An on-trend knitted tie should do the trick.

It’s in the Bag


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Forbes & Lewis Oxford Holdall, £175

Great work, pal – you’re just one step away from leaving this sartorial minefield unscathed. Yet there’s one small but important detail left that could undo all your hard work: the bag. For the love of all things holy, leave the battered backpack in the boot of your car and carry your essentials/party invite/emergency hip flask in a smart, manly tote bag or canvas holdall instead. Your accessories should be as clean and crisp as your clothes – plus either is ideal for grabbing at short notice should you need to make a quick getaway.        

Matthew Pike

Menswear, design and lifestyle blogger at Buckets & Spades.