The dress code ‘smart casual’ has no strict meaning. It formerly used to denote that a man should wear a jacket and tie, though today it’s used more loosely. It may encompass anything from a jacket and tie for the more formally inclined down to a tucked-in polo shirt for the more casual people amongst us. For some men it means dressing well without dressing up. It can differ depending on context.
When does one dress in smart casual attire?
Some men dress this way when they are asked to for an informal gathering, like for a house party. Men often dress like this for situations where they could dress more formally, like at classical music concerts.
Smart casual can be for men who don’t want to dress up as much as they could, or for the men who want to dress up more than they need to. Modern smart casual attire is a way of putting care into casual outfits and dressing maturely.
Smart casual overlaps with ‘business casual’, another frequently used term that does not have a single definition. Smart casual has more room for creativity than business casual, which can look rather dull in many industries.
Can smart casual clothes be bespoke?
Just because we’re not dressing up doesn’t mean we can’t put the same care into our casual clothes as we do with our formal and dress clothes. For those who want made-to-measure or bespoke clothes but don’t have a need for suits, we can have just as much fun with our casual clothes. Fit matters just as much no matter how formally we are dressing.
Bespoke shirtmakers are ideal for smart casual wear, and if you’re wearing a shirt without a jacket it’s ideal to have your shirt made for you. Bespoke tailors can make well-tailored trousers and coats to wear in a smart casual manner too. Many of James Bond’s smart-casual clothes are made for him.
If you can’t afford bespoke, finding the right fit in ready-to-wear is equally important.
How does Bond wear smart casual?
In the 1960s through the 1980s, smart casual for Bond meant wearing a jacket or blazer and tie. It was Bond’s step down from a suit. In the current era, there’s not much distinction between a suit and a sports coat, and both are seen as more formal than casual. Thus, a jacket is no longer assumed for the smart casual dress code.
For Bond today, smart casual is often how Bond dresses down. It’s Bond’s way of wearing nice clothes in a relaxed setting. The Daniel Craig era has turned Bond into a smart casual icon, thanks to his pea coats, shawl-collar cardigans, boots and much more. He dresses down more than the previous Bond’s, but he almost always puts the utmost care into his casual attire.
Here are the kinds of clothes Bond wears for smart casual attire:
Sports shirts, like those in oxford, twill, denim, linen and jersey, in solids or checks, are the easiest shirts to wear as part of smart casual attire. They work well on their own, under a jacket or under a jumper. Bond’s sport shirts will typical have a point collar or spread collar, and on occasion they have a button-down collar.
Bond will also wear formal shirts in cotton poplin and voile in a more casual manner.
For smart casual, Bond usually wears a shirt that’s a step up from a polo, henley or t-shirt, which are purely casual shirts.
Knitwear is a frequently worn part of smart casual wear, and it can bridge the gap between smart casual and true casual. Bond, on occasion, wears a crew-neck or V-neck jumper over a sports shirt. Jumpers over more casual shirts do not usually project a particularly smart look, so with knitwear it comes down to how they are worn.
Turtlenecks and mock-necks do a great job going from casual to smart casual. Because they cover the neck, they innately have a dressier look. They work well on their own, as Craig’s Bond wears them, or under a jacket, as Connery’s and Moore’s Bonds wear them.
Though Bond first wears a cardigan in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Daniel Craig’s Bond has made them an iconic smart casual Bond item. When he wears a black shawl-collar cardigan over a dressy white shirt, he elevates it from a casual knock-around item to something that looks incredibly smart. It’s effectively a modern, less formal replacement for Roger Moore’s blue blazer. It’s a defining look of the Craig-Bond era as well as a defining look of Bond’s smart casual attire for the entire series.
Long-sleeve polo jumpers in wool are at the more casual end of smart casual, but they’re a step up from the classic cotton polo shirt. Like other items here, the context of the polo jumper in an outfit can determine how smart the look is.
Coats and Jackets
Traditionally, smart casual attire meant a tailored jacket, and for Bond that spanned from barleycorn tweed hacking jackets to blue blazers.
The half-Norfolk jackets that Sean Connery wears in Diamonds Are Forever are the sportiest of Bond’s tailored jackets and the ones that lend themselves most to today’s smart casual attire. By wearing them over knitwear, they have a more casual look but they stay smart.
Unstructured tailoring is the modern answer to wearing tailored clothes in a casual setting. Bond’s light brown jacket in Spectre with its unstructured cut is a fresh take on the Goldfinger hacking jacket look. The corduroy suit in No Time to Die accomplishes the same smart dressed-down look. This is for the man who wants to dress up as much as he can within the confines of a casual setting.
On the more casual of end of smart casual, Bond wears coats and jackets as outerwear rather than jackets that integrate with the rest of the outfit. The pea coat in Skyfall is an example of this. It wears well over Bond’s smart attire underneath but it’s something he removes when getting settled indoors.
Leather jackets, particularly longer ones like Timothy Dalton’s in The Living Daylights, also work well as smart casual outerwear. Bond often does not remove these indoors because he uses them to conceal his gun, but these jackets are designed to be outerwear.
The Barbour jacket in Skyfall is both a piece of outerwear and a fashionable jacket that can be worn indoors.
Wool or cotton gabardine, woollen flannel, tweed, linen, moleskin and corduroy are all Bondian choices for smart casual trousers. Chinos can work for smart casual looks too, but Bond typically enhances his smart casual looks with more sophisticated cloths and saves the chinos for purely casual outfits.
Today, jeans are common for smart casual, though they take some of the smartness out of the look. On the rare occasions that Bond wears jeans, they’re only for dressing down.
Nice footwear is a key component of smart casual attire. Suede chukka boots on a trim last, frequently with Dainite studded soles, are the modern Bondian choice for smart casual. They’re an essential piece of footwear that pair just as well with a polo and chinos as they do with a tweed jacket and tie.
Sean Connery wore suede shoes or boots with his smart casual outfits. Roger Moore and Dalton always wore loafers, which are better for smart casual looks than they are with more formal outfits. For Pierce Brosnan’s Bond it was brown full-brogue oxfords, which dress up well too.
Choosing smart casual footwear is based more on the overall impression of the shoes than on any particular styles. Shoes that one would usually wear with suits like cap-toe oxfords, wholecuts, two-eyelet derbies and others like these may look too dressy for smart casual. Hiking boots and trainers are too casual. There is a middle ground that encompasses a lot of shoes that are appropriate for smart casual.
Neckwear is unusual for smart casual attire today, but it’s still acceptable. The knitted tie, the classic Bond tie, is particularly appropriate for wanting to dress up a smart casual look under a jacket or a V-neck jumper. The standard knit tie in silk will do just fine, but in wool it looks even more relaxed.
For non-knitted ties, solid and striped ties with less sheen are easier to wear in a more casual way. Bond wears a solid black tie under a V-neck jumper in Skyfall as part of a chauffeur’s disguise, but he shows how it can work well for a sophisticated look at a bar.
The day cravat, a more casual piece of neckwear, is a less orthodox Bondian choice. Though Bond wears one with a blazer as part of his James St John Smythe disguise in A View to a Kill, he also wears one as himself under a crew-neck cable-knit jumper in GoldenEye. It’s not an easy piece to pull off, but it adds a nice finishing touch to the outfit that kicks it up a notch.
In Skyfall, Bond wears a scarf tucked into the neck of his jumper to give his outfit a more put-together look. Sometimes an accessory has the power to elevate a casual look to smart casual.