Men Casual Wear: Back to Basic

7:07 pm Contributed by JW

In my previous article, I have highlighted the differences between business attire and smart casual, and how to choose your smart casual wear. But I do received some e-mails asking what is smart casual wear and what is the different between smart casual and casual wear? In the following article, I have classified casual wear into 6 broad categories. 6 Categories of Casual Wear

1. Smart Casual You are going to an informal dinner with friends in an upscale restaurant. You are wearing dress trousers (or even crisp jeans*), a long-sleeve shirt, maybe a tie, leather loafers or dressy slip-on's, patterned socks or solid-colored dress socks, a tipped belt, and you may or may not wear a sport coat. You are dressed in the Smart Casual category.

*If you are wearing crisp jeans, you must wear a sport coat for Smart Casual.

2. Business Casual Business Casual is only one category of business attire. Business dress has three primary categories: Power Business, General Business, and Business Casual. While Business Casual attire is a recent addition to traditional business dress, it is no longer considered to be a trend. Human resources experts claim that it is here to stay as a permanent fixture in corporate America.

A simple definition of Business Casual is “A comfortably relaxed version of classic business attire, with no sacrifice of professionalism or personal power.”

Business Casual draws from the aforementioned Smart Casual and Dressy Casual categories, with many distinctions. True Business Casual attire incorporates the more tailored garments from those two classifications.

3. Active Casual You meet friends for cappuccino after working out in the gym, running, roller blading, biking, playing tennis, racquetball, golf any sport of your choice. The appropriate clothing for these activities clearly indicates that you have been physically active. This type of casual wear is called Active Casual. Jogging suits, warm-ups, wind suits, running shorts, tennis skirts, biking shorts, leggings, leotards, snow-ski garb, etc. exemplify this classification. With the exception of some golf clothing, Active Casual has NO business in the workplace.

4. Rugged Casual Let see, it's Saturday and it’s cold! You are helping friends move some antique furniture from storage, and you will have lunch together while you are out. You have chosen to wear your heavy socks and a hiking-type boot, a flannel shirt with jeans or heavy khakis, a camouflage shirt, or a sweater topped with an insulated parka. You are dressed in Rugged Casual attire. The Rugged Casual category draws garments from the typical apparel of the more outdoorsy sports, like hunting, fishing, backpacking, rock climbing, etc. Unless your job is related to these types of industries, this apparel does not mean business in the workplace.

5. Sporty Casual It's your day off. You are running errands, going for a massage, just generally hanging out. Let's say you are wearing cotton pants, shorts, or jeans, a heavyweight T- or sweat shirt, a button-down or polo-style shirt, a belt, and tennis shoes. This type of casual is called Sporty Casual.

Anytime you are wearing a sneaker-type shoe with jeans, khakis, walking shorts, skirts, etc., and you are not participating in a sport, you are dressed in the Sporty Casual category. Notice, it is sporty. Most sports have particular items of clothing that support participants in performing well in that game. This category is not about playing a sport, but more about the relaxed look of a spectator. Sportswear has been synonymous with casual separates in the fashion world for years. Since that term was coined over fifty years ago, the world has changed dramatically. Today, the sportswear section of a store includes everything except suits, dresses, and formal wear.

6. Dressy Casual You are going to an art gallery exhibit on opening night, and then to dinner with friends. The invitation suggested “Casual Attire.” Due to the nature and the time of the event, the host means Dressy Casual (Casual Elegance), which is similar to Smart Casual, with no jeans.

For male or female, the shoes take on a dressier tone, and the fabrics are richer, dressier.

This category indicates dress trousers, a turtleneck or mock-turtle version, a dress shirt or a silk sport shirt (long-sleeved), a tie (optional), and a jacket or sport coat.

Casual weddings call for this type of attire as well. Out of respect for the ceremonial nature of a wedding, a dressy dressed-down look is required, regardless of location, when casual attire is requested.


No need to obsess over the clothing pieces listed with these classifications. The above examples were used just to help you begin making basic observations and distinctions about the differing degrees of casual dress. This is an essential step in grasping the important nuances of Business Casual. You can then consciously select casual garments for your business wardrobe that are multipurpose and fill other wardrobe needs, and garments that work hard for you on the job.

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