Smart Casual vs Business Casual Attire for Men: What's the Difference?

Smart Casual vs. Business Casual

Men’s dress codes have been changing tremendously over the past few years. As people are beginning to work in increasingly casual environments, dress codes (and ties) are beginning to loosen up.

To add to the confusion of men’s business casual attire, offices are implementing smart casual. It can be quite confusing navigating the waters of men’s clothing style: gone are the days of simple suit and tie attire. Fortunately for most men, this allows for a more comfortable outfit and relaxed workplace. The common question is: what in the world is the difference between smart and business casual for men’s clothing?

There’s a simple way to identify the main difference between the two dress codes, which will settle the smart casual vs business casual debate. Simply put:

Business casual is a style of dress for a professional work environment, without the suit and tie. Smart casual is a combination of professional and informal attire, usually accented by a blazer and more casual shoes.

How does business casual look?

Typically, men’s business casual attire aims to portray a sense of professionalism in a neat and elegant combination. While this dress code was revolutionary a few decades ago, it has now become the norm in much of the business world. Business casual is a widely accepted and standard attire choice for most companies.

The standard business casual look is a patterned dress shirt, combined with dress pants or khaki pants. This is as basic as it gets.

However recently, a trend has been to stray away from this standardized look, in search of more personality. Many men have been opting to wear a mismatched blazer with their outfit, which adds an extra layer of professionalism and seriousness. They are also experimenting with knit ties. Further, some men are substituting out the typical dress shoe from the look, and opting for a more casual shoe, such as chukkas. 

For 10 more tips on business casual, check out our guide on business casual outfits for men.

Men's Business Casual Outfits (via D'Marge)

How does smart casual look?

Smart casual for men is the epitome of professional ‘startup attire’, and has quickly been ushered in by the younger generation. While this style of corporate-wear is relatively new, it normally entails matching professional and informal elements of clothing.

An example of a standard smart casual outfit is a blazer with dark denim jeans, and a pair of loafers.

Most smart casual outfits include denim jeans, chinos or khakis. Typically, you shouldn’t combine smart casual with dress pants. In addition, this look can pair a blazer with a crisp and clean pair of sneakers: the epitome of professional versus informal. Sometimes, tweed jackets can be incorporated into the look as well. A bold pair of socks like the ones at Society Socks can complete the look, too. 

If you’re ever unsure of your outfit, err on the side of smart, as opposed to casual.

Smart casual outfits for men

When should you wear smart casual vs business casual?

Business casual is still the norm for many offices. However, some companies are loosening up their dress code, and are allowing a more informal fit. A new and exciting trend in men’s smart casual attire, is to wear smart casual outside of the office. Smart casual can often be a very fashion-forward and trend-setting combination, especially when you forgo the button up dress shirt, and replace it with a regular t-shirt. In addition, the smart casual dress code can be a perfect attire-choice for a night out.

Differentiating smart casual vs business casual can be difficult. Increasingly, styling requirements are becoming more complex. Keep in mind, these are fluid guidelines for dressing correctly for the occasion: don’t be afraid to push the limit on what each dress code means, given the right circumstances.

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