For men, the key to dressing casual yet smart is to identify your personal style, then shop for basics that fit your style. Every man -- regardless of his fashion sense -- should have essential wardrobe pieces in solid or conventional colors. Flat-front khaki pants, dark jeans, several Oxfords and T-shirts, polo shirts and a few basic chino-like shorts are the cornerstones to a well-balanced casual wardrobe. By keeping your basic pieces simple, your shoes and accessories are free to show off trendy textures, fun patterns and of-the-moment color trends.
At the Office
Make wise business-casual wardrobe choices and you'll have co-workers and clients thinking you approach your work with the same smarts. Wear classic, well-fitting pieces, such as khaki pants in slate, tan and black; long and short-sleeved button-down shirts in solids or plaids; thin-striped Oxfords; polo shirts; and a few slightly textured sweaters. When the seasons change, layer your look with lightweight jackets, an argyle vest or a long-sleeved Henley shirt. Mixing classic colors, such as white, tan and navy, with seasonal colors, such as mint, orange, soft blues and yellow hues, is another way to keep your outfits looking relevant.
Stripes and patterns on shirts help give a man a sportier look. If preppy is your bag, pair plaid shorts with a solid-colored polo shirt. For the man who likes a little more urban in his closet, choose cargo shorts and a braided belt with a short-sleeved, button-down striped shirt. Spring and summer months will have you unbuttoning cuffs and rolling up your sleeves -- which adds interest to your casual vibe. Also, leave a button or two undone more than if you were at the office. For pants, flat-front cotton chinos and dark-colored or vintage-looking jeans are always a safe bet. Pair them with everything from knit-wear to fleece, cotton and linen.
Out on the Town
What you wear on a date has much to do with where you are headed. A safe bet if you're going to the movies, for example, is to start with a basic pair of chinos and a T-shirt. Throw a henley shirt, a lightweight cardigan sweater or loose-fitting button-up shirt over it. For dinner afterward, add a tweed blazer or fitted jean jacket. If you want to wear jeans, make sure the finish is dark and the fit is appropriate. No one looks good in saggy jeans or acid wash styles from the '80s. Pair jeans with something interesting on top,such as a striped shirt, crew neck patterned sweater and a textured scarf. Remember that successful layering means that inner hems are shorter than outer hems.
Shoes and Accessories
At the business-casual office, men should tuck in shirt tails and wear a black or brown leather belt with matching shoes. The most versatile styles include soft-leather or suede loafers, wing tips with a rubber sole or a lace-up Oxford. On the weekends, opt for a boat or a thin-soled canvas tennis shoe, a sturdy leather sandal or a sporty pair of flip flops in a trendy color. A sturdy athletic shoe with good arch support and shock absorption is important when wearing athletic gear. Casual wear accessories may also include a thick chrome watch, slick eyewear, a patterned belt or a fedora hat.