Your casual clothes are the ones you wear on your own time.
It’s hard to put boundaries on what pieces of clothing count as “casual” and which ones don’t. If you ask what a suit is, most people will say “business wear,” but a salmon-pink suit with yellow pinstripes? Not so appropriate for the boardroom.
With standards relaxing everywhere and some industries (art, web technology, etc.) priding themselves on a relaxed, unconventional look, “business” wear is nearly as hard to define. Depending on your job, your casual wardrobe might be fancier than your work wardrobe, or less dressy, or it might be the exact same clothes.
So don’t worry too much about the old categories and definitions.
Upscale or down-to-earth, sleek or rugged, casual clothes are your clothes for you. They’re the expression of your personal style outside of any external dress code, when no one else is defining your style for you, and the choice of what to wear is entirely your own.
Unfortunately, this freedom can be a little frightening. Most men subsequently retreat into a default “uniform” of casual duds: think khakis and a button-down shirt for nicer occasions, and jeans and a t-shirt for everything else. While such get-ups done in the right materials, colors, and fit can be decent looking, they’re hardly either interesting or sharp.
With a little thought and effort, however, your casual clothes can turn heads every day, everywhere you go.
How to Elevate Your Casual Style
Variety is the spice of life, and it’s also the soul of good casual clothing. If you look at a fashion model – or just a well-dressed guy on the street – you’ll see that what makes him stand out is that his clothes don’t look like everybody else’s.
That doesn’t mean that to look sharp and casual you have to wear wild prints and eccentric garments; the bar of mainstream men’s style is set so low, you don’t have deviate greatly or make a big effort to stand out!
Here are 4 simple ways to elevate your casual wardrobe above the status quo:
One of the biggest problems with the t-shirt/jeans or dress shirt/khakis look is that it’s complete at a single glance. No one’s attention is going to be held, because there’s nothing there to hold it. Once they’ve taken in your trousers and your shirt they’re done.
Layering basically just means adding pieces to an outfit. A blazer is a layer; so is a cardigan or a hat or a scarf or even a casually-slung messenger bag.
The result of adding details beyond the shirt and trousers is visual complexity. There’s more to take in, so people’s eyes linger longer.
You also get the practical benefits of an outfit you can change on the go, of course; shed a layer when it gets too hot, or offer your jacket to a lady when she gets cold. The only real drawback to a layered look is added warmth in the summer and occasionally having to keep track of something you took off.
So add a few pieces. Jackets are great, whether they’re a navy blazer or a denim or leather jacket; have one of those at a minimum. From there, go where your style and tastes take you.
2. Emphasize the Accents
Looking good is about people noticing your appearance and remembering it. Good accents give people something to remember you by.
What’s an accent? Basically anything that isn’t the big, body-covering pieces of the outfit. Trousers, shirts, and jackets aren’t considered accents; almost anything else can be, depending on how you wear it.
Making small upgrades to your basic accents can take an outfit from “uniform” to “unique.” Trade out plain brown dress shoes for a pair of brightly-colored canvas shoes or a loafer with a metallic buckle. Swap a leather belt for a colored web one. Add a tasteful piece of masculine jewelry or a unique watch.
This does call for a little moderation. Your outfit shouldn’t be all about one accent. If all anyone can remember is your neon-yellow ammo belt you’ve overdone it. But some color, detail, and uniqueness where most men are wearing the most neutral option available will definitely set you apart from the crowd.