Casual wear means different things to different men. One man may hear that his upcoming 4th of July brunch for work is casual dress and excitedly rush straight to the back of his closet to grab the jeans he uses to mow the lawn, the very ratty Birkenstocks he has had since college and his vintage AC/DC t-shirt. Yet another man may panic and simply throw his hands up in front of his wife screaming, “What the hell is casual wear? I am up for a promotion and now I have to worry about what that term means? There is too much on my plate! You pick for me! I’m out!” And still another man will quickly skim through his latest GQ magazine and figure out what casual outfit he can recreate using the clothes in his closet. Yes, this man exists. I have a husband like this and, no, ladies our marriage is very much stable and loving and he is not up for grabs.
Many men will fit the description of the man in the second scenario that panics wondering just what casual wear means. Unfortunately, it will take a little detective work to figure out just how casual you can get with your clothes, depending on the situation at hand. If you are just hanging out with friends shooting a little pool and drinking some beer, sure you could do what the first guy did above and head straight to your college gear; however, if you are not in college anymore and actually have managed to land a full-time job with responsibilities, don’t make the tragic mistake of substituting “casual” with “messy.” Remember when your mother said how you dress is a reflection of you? Like most things, she was right. How about that famous quote by Deion Sanders (the former NFL star), “When I look good, I feel good and when I feel good, I play good” and when I play good, they pay me good. Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to look like a GQ model every single time you walk out your front door, but a little effort in classing up your normal casual wear could very well be the thing that puts a spring back in your step. As with business and formal wear, all it will take to spice up your casual wear wardrobe are a few staples that can be mixed and matched for the right situation: great jeans, khakis, tailored shirts, sterling silver cufflinks, the right set of ties, and nice shoes.
For casual wear, the right pair of jeans is a must. Slim-leg or boot-cut jeans are the way to go, although recent fashion trends have tended towards the former as slim seems to be in. Now, do not mistake slim-fit for the notorious “skinny jeans” you may have seen. Sure, fashion designers on “Project Runway” and major rock stars can get away with these jeans, but unless you are a guy who is naturally (or because you are abusing heroin) less than 110 pounds, steer way clear of this fashion trend. Stick with a medium or dark rinse for your slim-leg jeans and avoid jeans that have manufactured rips in the knees or butt region. After all, we are living in the new millennium, not the 1980s. Paired with a nice (read: not torn or faded) t-shirt and some new Pumas or Adidas sneakers, these jeans will look great when just hanging out with friends. If you want to dress up the look a bit, pair them with a sport jacket, a solid colored button-up shirt, some sassy cufflinks and a nicer pair of dress shoes (although you will want to steer clear of your shinier interview shoes).
You will also want to invest in a few pairs of khakis or even a khaki suit. Unlike the more conservative, more formal black or blue suits, khaki suits can be dressed down a bit more for a casual look. Want to look completely modern and yet completely relaxed? Try a khaki suit that has a slimmer cut with pants that sport a flat front. You can choose to pair this with a slim tie (or not) and a nice slim-fitting white shirt, making you look like you walked right off the set of Ocean’s 11 (or 12 or 13). Heading to a beach party? Dress the khaki suit down even more with a solid color polo and some sandals and watch the ladies come out of the woodwork. Khaki pants can take you from the work environment to a laid-back party making them very versatile and very much a necessary staple for your casual wardrobe. Do your best to stay away from pleated khakis which will give you that khaki front bulk which does little to add to the attractive factor. Instead, seek out flat front khakis that have a natural waist and a straight leg. This will help lean out your frame and give you a more modern and crisp look. In terms of color, you don’t have to stick with the tan color we are all used to. Khaki pants have a wide spectrum of hues, so choose a few pairs of differing shades.
The polo shirt will help round out your casual wear wardrobe. Like the white button-down shirt for formal wear, the polo is the backbone of men’s casual wear. This preppy addition to your wardrobe has never gone out of style and is as versatile as the khaki pant. Polos can be paired with cargo shorts and sandals for a beach look, khakis and dressed up shoes for an office look or a blazer and jeans for a business casual look. With a wide array of colors and an endless number of polo vendors, you can find the shirts that are right for your body type and skin tone. With only a few additional pieces to your wardrobe, you will be able to go from your normal casual wear of torn jeans and faded t-shirts to a more modern version of casual wear.