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How The ‘Smart Casual’ Dress Code Is Changing Officewear Forever

A metamorphosis of buttoned-up corporate dress, see how smart casual is rewriting the rules of work attire.

Back in March, it was reported that the influential investment firm Goldman Sachs had redrafted its traditionally formal dress code to “smart casual,” which raised several questions: What are the parameters for such dress? And how would this affect similar institutions, financial or otherwise? “It’s our hope that [Goldman] will be a leader by creating a framework and setting the standard,” says John Totolis, Barneys’ Vice President of Men’s Tailored Clothing. “Smart casual can still be elegant and sophisticated.”

So what exactly does this moniker dictate? Well, as Totolis tells us, there’s no specific look that equates to achieving this laid-back state. It’s more important to focus on the make and fit of each individual piece, ensuring each element is perfectly tailored and that the materials used are the best they can be. Whereas business formal calls for a matching suit, pressed shirt, and tie, “smart casual” takes the sportcoat and pairs it with five-pocket trousers, linen shirting, and knitwear. The secret is ensuring each piece is tailored, whether you buy a trimmer cut or have it customized. “Everyone equates made-to-measure with suiting, but it doesn’t end there,” explains Totolis. And in an age where new menswear labels constantly pop up with fresh, unique takes on classics, this more relaxed dress code allows room for individual quirks and expression.

As for the opposition, suit-and-tie purists’ idea of a dressed-down workforce likely takes form in the often-maligned “Midtown uniform,” pairing a certain fleece zip-up vest with beige slacks and a button-up shirt. “We just need to update the vest,” says Totolis, noting that there’s nothing objectively wrong with the transitional piece. “If the vest is your item of choice—and we see it is—we have a lot of better choices besides fleece.

Find more of our team’s top smart casual picks to start building a, well, smarter wardrobe.


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