The casual look Featured

Playing it cool doesn't mean you have to dress down

by

Writer

27 June 2013

Casual doesn't mean you have to look like every other drone going on holiday. Dressing casual should look simply and chicly thrown together, and not too contrived. The days of wearing a jacket that was originally part of a suit (and survived long after the pants were jettisoned) on top of jeans and running shoes are long over.

We've all seen this guy, the guy in a sad sack of a shirt, chunky square-toe shoes, and billowy slacks. You've seen this guy. Hell, maybe you are this guy. Now, ask yourself: would you trust him to manage your portfolio? Do your taxes? Draw up your will? Maybe not. But in offices everywhere, guys roll in just like this. Listen: there's no need to get all Savile Row, but 'casual' isn't code for whichever shirt's within reach. So if you don't want to be 'that casual guy,' the one whose outfit says 'Corner office or bust,' I suggest you get wise to the new casual — and mix-and-match your wardrobe to elevate your look. From head to toe, here are some tips that work any day…

It all starts with a blazer… You’ll need one that's smartly cut and tapered, close to the body. You know why a jacket always works in and out of the office? Because it does virtually all the work for you. Put it on, and even if your shirt isn't perfectly pressed or your pants fit just a little funny, the jacket does the talking. And a navy blazer (with or without brass buttons) is the MVP* of jackets. Keep it trim – with high armholes and slim sleeves that reveal just a bit of shirt cuff – and you'll want to wear it all week. It has to be fresh and tailored. This gives your torso some much-needed shape – not to mention a place to stow your cell phone and wallet.

Under the jacket… Been working out? Too bad, no-one will notice. No-one can tell whether your arms are swimming in your shirtsleeves or in T-shirts that are 4 sizes too big for you, or whether your abs and pecs are like shrink-wrapped eggplant. Next time try a slim fit shirt.

Bag… Carrying everything in your hands will not work, nor will Clint Eastwood’s sheriff-like holster. This however, does not mean you need to pick a lady’s bag either. When in doubt, keep things simple, so opt for a bag that's as clean as the rest of your look.

Baggy or tight? Slim-cut wool pants (in winter) or a fitted pair of chinos (in summer) give you a leaner silhouette no matter your size. Not to mention the sad truth that baggy, pleated pants add about ten years – and ten kilos.

Never wear black leather dress shoes… It's chicer to wear a chocolate brown shoe or ankle boot in suede, especially if you pair it with a grey suit. It's an Italian thing. Polished brown loafers anchor any outfit with an easy sophistication.

In being casual, or even business casual, even though some looks can be conventional, the details make it interesting – flipping up the jacket sleeves, cuffing the jeans, a slim leather jacket on fitted jogging pants, the versatile running shoe or high-top, wearing a vintage belt. Dishevelment mixes perfectly with polish.

From business casual to smart casual is a small step, with pretty much the same principles. If that's the dress code at your new job, keep ahead of your clothing-challenged colleagues, and if you wear denims, keep them dark, and push them upfield with a button-down shirt and a tailored blazer. If you feel like a tie, keep it slimline. And the watch? Luckily there are lots of options for timepieces that have character without becoming an eyesore. Just avoid those half-melons that make you look that you're about to go diving instead of working on the budget.