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7 Common Questions About Smart Casual

How, when, and where to wear smart casual styles.
February 1, 2021
By Oliver Charles

What Is Smart Casual? Continued...

Last week we wrote a post answering, “What Is Smart Casual”.

In short, smart casual is a modern workwear style made up of clothes that you’d wear every day without a pretense of formality.

It’s the ultimate, versatile style that’s based on elevating wardrobe basics, like jeans, running shoes, and t-shirts then mix and matching them with business-appropriate staples like sweaters, a blazer, or a button-down.

This week we chose to write a continuation of that post answering the 7 most common questions regarding smart casual.

Read about the differences between the casual, smart casual, business casual, and formal styles. Also learn when to wear smart casual, and why you’d want to wear the style in the first place.

1. Difference Between Formal vs. Business Casual vs. Smart Casual vs. Casual?

Let’s take a small step back and look at the types of style categories that define almost all outfits we wear: formal, business casual, and casual.

Each of these categories has a myriad of sub-categories and is defined by how the clothing is worn, its design, and its intended audience. 
  • What's Formal Wear? Clothing that’s considered formal (sometimes called business professional attire) is the extra fancy attire that someone would wear to weddings, important meetings, and some jobs (finance and law most likely). 
  • What's Business Casual Clothing? Business casual fashion takes inspiration from formal dress, but it’s slightly more casual… basically, lose the tie or heels… maybe both. 
  • What’s Considered Casual Wear? If you’re wearing things along the lines of sweats, baggy flannels, tank tops, and flip flops, you’re a casual cat! 🐈 
We have a hunch that for many, after spending the last year working remotely from home, personal style has taken a turn towards casual, but how casual are we talkin’?

There’s a style category you’ve likely been wearing for a while that encompasses the best of each of the 3 categories above, and as you may have guessed, that category is smart casual. 

2. Is Smart Casual The Same As Business Casual? 

While we think this distinction is overkill, the biggest difference between business and smart casual is smart casual can be less formal.

The key word is, “can”. Smart casual can be made of any and all outfits included in business casual, but business casual tends to avoid smart casual items like light-wash jeans, t-shirts, and brighter colors. Generally speaking, business casual wardrobes are more restrictive and less personal than the smarter option of smart casual. 

3. Is Smart Casual The Same As Semi-Formal?

Some people say smart casual and semi-formal are the same. Others insist they are different. What's true? Who can tell? Time to set the record straight.

In our humble view, semi-formal is more akin to business casual, so no, if you care to make the distinction, smart casual and semi-formal are not the same. 

4. Is Smart Casual Okay For Interviews?

In short, it depends. If you wore a smart casual outfit to interview at Oliver Charles, that would be more than okay… assuming you're wearing your favorite sweater of course.

On the other hand, if you wore jeans to an interview at a big 4, then we can't promise you’re going to get the job… but it would be cool 😎.

The most important thing that you need to know is: do your research on the company that you are interviewing with. What kind of business style are they using? Are they with the times or more formal? When in doubt, wear an Oliver Charles sweater

5. Are Jeans Smart Casual? 

Heck yes! Jeans are a staple of smart casual. While we don't believe there’s a need to put too many rules on what constitutes smart casual, some would argue that jeans that are straight cut, slim, or tapered are “smart”, and jeans that are baggier, ripped, patched, and bedazzled are just “casual”.

We think that if you can rock a pair of jeans with something like a classic knit crew neck sweater and walk into an office, Zoom call, or presentation feeling confident, professional, and authentic, then you’ve nailed the premise of smart casual: everyday outfits that are personal and made up of extremely versatile clothes. 

6. Where To Wear Smart Casual?

By now you hopefully have a good idea of what smart casual is. You might be thinking that smart casual is the style for you. But something we have yet to address is, “when is it good to wear smart casual?”.

The answer: pretty much anytime all the time. Smart casual is the perfect work from home attire for the WFHer who needs to look presentable for both a zoom call and their general sanity. It’s also perfect for the office goer who wants to balance presentability and authenticity. Beyond those two examples, smart casual is ideal for any event where you want to carry an aura of professionalism/polish (dates, presentations, dinners) yet remain cool, calm, and collected for less serious times. 

7. Why Wear Smart Casual?

Because smart casual is about mixing, matching, and elevating the comfortable clothes we wear every day, it’s the style of choice for modern professionals who want to own less and own better. If you’re wondering why owning less and owning better is a compelling shift for modern professionals, read our post on “How To Build A Minimalist Wardrobe”.

The smartest thing you can own in a smart casual wardrobe is a versatile sweater like ours.

It’s the foundation piece that you can rock as both a casual and professional sweater by wearing alone, dressing up with a blazer, tucking into jeans - there are many ways to wear our lightweight crew neck sweater. Add your own signature to the look.

If you have any other questions about smart casual please leave a comment below and we’ll be happy to answer them. 
If you believe that every good wardrobe starts with owning less and owning better, consider buying yourself an OLIVER CHARLES sweater.
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