The smart-casual dilemma has plagued the fashion-conscious since the chino burst onto the scene in the 1940’s. Suddenly there was a trouser for everything – dinners, theatres, work, home, holidays, interviews, lazy Sundays, Wimbledon, everything. You could be a beat, preppy, academic, entrepreneur, or show biz superstar and you’d still be wearing the same kind of trouser.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a shoe for everything. Throwing on a pair of chino’s, matching it with a casual shirt and smart jacket, and finishing off the look with any old pair of basically brown or black shoes is not going to cut it, and it’s easy to veer to far on either side of smart-casual line. So, how do you walk the fine line between smart and casual and create that harmonious blend of the two, without looking like you simply dived into your wardrobe and came out wearing whatever stuck?
Tip 1: Read the reviews. Find out what others are buying, and visit a fashion search engine like Style in View for a wide range of casual shoes where style is not hindered by the limitations of a particular brand or seller.
The trick to smart-casual is generally to stick to the understated. Be subtle, be practical, but consider choosing a designer label so that you don’t compromise on quality. A good quality shoe can go a long way to bridging the smart-casual divide. Brogues from H by Hudson are great example of a quality shoe that had all the essential elements of formality – top-of-the-range materials, sophisticated design and functionality – together with that casual flair that comes from fine detailing and hardwearing comfort. Check out the Rene Oxford Brogue or the Swinger Wing.
Tip 2: Go for quality. Designer labels offer simple shoes that are unquestionably smart, without being reserved solely for the office.
Brogues lean more heavily towards the formal side of things, and while they’re ideal for offices, restaurants and theatres, they might lack the heavy-duty dependability required for a more active lifestyle. The Momentum Esq Wedge Wingtip Chukka is the embodiment of a shoe that straddles the best of formal and informal wear, with a more robust look and greater comfort matched by details borrowed from the brogue.
Tip 3: Avoid informal footwear. It sounds simple, but smart-casual does not really mean mixing informal with formal wear. As sophisticated as they are in design and label, trainers will never be smart-casual.