Guide to Smart-Casual Attire in the Workplace

Guide to Smart-Casual Attire in the Workplace

Why Workwear Matters

What you wear at work is a representation of yourself and the job. If you turn up looking unprofessional, then you make the company also look unprofessional.

In contrast, if you look smart and suitable for work, you will give a good impression to your colleagues and anyone who comes to visit the work site.

Sometimes workwear is an essential safety measure. For example, if you are working outdoors in a physical job, you will need the suitable equipment.

Without the right workwear in this case, you may be putting yourself and your colleagues in danger.

In an office space, you probably won’t be in danger from any falling trees or a haphazard accident. Instead, your workwear is your opportunity to showcase your style and seriousness.

It is best to think of your workwear as your calling card. It is the first thing people will see before they talk to you, and therefore it is the first chance you get to make an impression.

A poor outfit or suit will be remembered. Ensure that you are not an office disaster who people try to avoid at lunch or on a coffee break.

In this article, you will get the guide to impressing your managers and any external staff members. You will also learn about the things you need to avoid in the workplace.

Best Ideas for Smart-Casual Work Attire

There are many combinations you can choose from to impress your colleagues and managers.

The most important thing is to identify your style. Some lucky individuals can interchange most styles and still look good.

For the rest of us, it is best to find the items that fit both your shape and posture. If you are tall and slim, then you should look for slim-fitting suits and shirts.

Whatever your style is, find a good number of items that you can use in multiple outfits for different occasions. The flexibility of your wardrobe is a key part in looking impressive.

Here are some great ideas you can work with.

The Comfortable Look

Being comfortable is one of the main benefits of smart-casual attire. But there are some rules to observe.

Try and focus on items that replicate smart attire. For example, instead of suit trousers, you may opt for a fitted pair of chinos.

If you are used to wearing a long-fitted skirt with a suit jacket, you can instead choose a cotton skirt and a slim-fitting shirt.

These types of items will still give off the impression that you mean business, but you will not feel restricted or uncomfortable.

Smart-casual means that you can experiment with different fabrics and combinations. Try to replicate the suit-and-tie style but in your own way.

Footwear Focus

A great pair of shoes or boots can be a gamechanger in the office. They are often considered to be the staple of a good outfit.

Whatever footwear you choose, you must ensure they are clean and in good condition.

Even if the laces are worn, this will be noticeable. Pay attention to all facets of footwear, and do not overlook the small details.

When you are choosing a shoe, ensure that it matches with the rest of your outfit.

If you are wearing a smart skirt and a pair of tights, you will want to opt for a slim boot or a subtle pump. In contrast, you should only choose sneakers if you have the right pair of trousers.

The length of sock and the amount of ankle you want exposed also plays into the shoe you will choose for work.

With a boot, you can choose looser fitting trousers and a larger sock. If you are choosing a brogue or a slim shoe, you are best combining this with a smaller sock and a tailored pair of trousers.


Sometimes a fitted cardigan or a neat jumper can really make an outfit stand out, especially in the winter months.

Knitwear can help take the attention away from the body of a shirt. It can also draw attention to the collar and its button alignment.

If you have an Oxford-style shirt, then a slim wool jumper can accentuate the collar well.

Avoid poorly made knitwear and jumpers that are too baggy. They may be great for keeping you warm, but they do not look appropriate in the workplace.

Knitwear can also help an individual show personality in their outfit choice. A turtleneck or a jumper that is cut off at the waist is a great way of demonstrating your style.

The Jacket

Your suit jacket and your coat should match with what is underneath. This applies to its shape, its color and the way it sits with the rest of the outfit.

Try and choose structured jackets that bring out your best shape. Jackets can sometimes detract from your figure.

Trench coats are some of the most popular jackets because they are shapely. They structure the shoulders while allowing the waist to sit freely.

Depending on the trousers and your footwear, you can opt for a long or a short jacket.

Longer jackets tend to look better in winter, while short and thinner jackets look better in the brighter months.

Blazers can also look good in the summer months for both men and women.

Ensure that you choose a jacket that is also a suitable color. Loud jackets and flamboyant coats do not look right in the workplace.

Use of Color

The colors you choose to express with your workwear are also an expression of your personality.

If you are confident and feel you can pull off brighter colors, then you can feature these with your shirt choice or through a scarf or tie.

However, if you want to be more subtle, choose simple colors that match well together.

The accentuation of the color in your outfit should not be too loud. As mentioned above, if you do want to choose flamboyant colors, then restrict these to smaller items and accessories.

Avoid using loud colors with your basic staple items. For example, footwear should follow a strict color scheme.

Black is always the best choice, but a polished brown or even a dark green or purple can look good. However, avoid white and bright footwear.

The colors you choose to display in your outfit can really turn heads, but make sure they are turning for the right reasons.

Guide to Smart-Casual Attire for Men and Women in the Workplace (With Examples)
Guide to Smart-Casual Attire for Men and Women in the Workplace (With Examples)

Things to Avoid for Smart-Casual Work Attire

Getting the right type of impression is harder than getting the wrong types of looks.

In most working environments there are rules to observe so you avoid any disasters. However, despite the rules being in place, some people still get their outfits wrong.

Watch out for these things when picking outfits and dressing for work.

Exposure of Skin

Make sure that you pick an outfit that is not too revealing.

Avoid shorts if you are a man and short skirts if you are a woman. There is nothing wrong with wearing these items, but they will not give off a good impression in the workplace.

Also avoid any clothing items that are see-through. The colors you use should not be transparent, and you should not be able to see your skin through the clothing items.

As this is smart-casual wear, it is okay to choose something that you can button down to show more of your neck, but make sure that you are choosing items that are purposely revealing.

On hot days, opt for short sleeves and light jackets. You can even choose lighter fabrics to help with the heat.

Wrong Type of Footwear

As discussed earlier, all the footwear you wear to work should be in good condition. If they are not, then do not wear them.

Try to choose footwear that follows the color scheme of your outfit. Avoid anything too loud.

It is also important to choose something comfortable. You might think you have found suitable footwear, but if you struggle to walk in them, then it will knock your confidence.

Anything too flashy or flamboyant is not worth spending your money on. Avoid gym sneakers or running trainers.

If you are a woman, avoid picking heels that are too high to walk in. They may suit the color scheme of the outfit, but they are not appropriate for a working environment.

Being Too Casual

Even though the theme of this article is smart-casual, ensure that you do not take it too far.

You are still there to set a tone of professionalism. Anything unclean or unkempt should be avoided.

It is also worth avoiding T-shirts and anything baggy. If you wear it to the grocery store or to pick the kids up, it might not be suitable for a working environment.

Ask yourself if you would be impressed by the outfit. If you cannot honestly say that you are, then avoid wearing it to work.

Loud Brands or Logos

Like loud colors, big brands and explicit logos should be left at home.

Any shirts with comical patterns or large wording across the front should be avoided.

Fortunately, most of the smart-casual attire discussed in this article does not include this type of clothing, but be aware of these items if they are in your wardrobe.

Branded clothing is fine, but make sure that it is not the centerpiece of the item. You do not want to look like an advertisement.

Frequently Asked Questions

Jeans can be a tricky item to get right in the workplace.

There are some things to avoid with jeans. A pair with rips or tears should not be worn and neither should jeans that are too baggy nor faded.

Choose jeans that are of a darker color and are more fitted to your figure. Dark blue and black can look smart if they are worn correctly.

They can also be more comfortable than wearing a pair of trousers or a skirt; just ensure that you choose the right color.

Sneakers are to be avoided in the workplace. Unless you must wear them, always choose a shoe or a boot over a sneaker.

If you need to wear sneakers, then try and choose a pair that is subtle enough, so they do not get noticed.

Sneakers are often branded with big logos and loud colors. Try and choose a subtle sneaker if you are going to wear one.

Casual is what you would wear anywhere. You do not set out to make an impression with casual, and you do not have to wear it in the workplace.

Smart-casual is an outfit that you can both wear at work and to other events. You will look professional but not overly dressed.

It is always good to look smart in the workplace, but you can overcook it if you are not careful.

In a smart-casual environment you may want to avoid full suits and anything that is overly expensive. Any special jewelry should be left for special occasions.

You should also avoid dinner suits, tuxedos and bow ties. These are not appropriate for the workplace.

The idea of smart-casual is that it makes your normal look professional. Smart-casual is about the combination rather than individual items.

If you are struggling to find anything that will suit you, try and think of things you would wear out to dinner or to an event.

Sometimes the pressure of a work uniform can detract from the purpose of smart-casual.

Keep it simple and do not overthink your dress sense. It is very likely that you already have the appropriate items in your wardrobe.

Final Thoughts

With more diversity in the workplace and a relaxation on style, smart-casual attire is becoming more popular.

You can use this guide to pick out the best items in your wardrobe and purchase those special items like a trench coat and footwear.

Remember that smart-casual attire is about a professional combination. Avoid clothes that do not go together, and pick colors that suit your personality.

It is very likely that you own all the right items. Play it safe, and you will eventually find the style that suits you.

Read This Next

You might also be interested in these other WikiJob articles:

Or explore the Jobs & Careers / Employment sections.