7 simple ways to improve casual outfits


I am well aware that most guys don’t wear jackets and ties most of the time, if at all. But that’s not the point of this site and not the message I proclaim. I simply want more people to dress with intent, as a way of bringing elegance and appreciation of quality into our lives. Not wearing a jacket and tie does not mean abandoning elegance (because, after all, simply wearing a jacket and tie doesn’t make you elegant). I myself have lately been dressing more casually and thus put a lot of thought into how to do casual better.

V-neck undershirts

Wearing an open-collar shirt is fine by me, although I prefer filling the gap with an ascot. However, the shirt needs to have a well-built collar that stands on its own and opens well. If you are going to wear an undershirt when open-collared, as I do, get some v-neck versions. Otherwise that little flash of white that comes from a crew neck shirt, that I so often see at men’s necks, looks sloppy (it is underwear, after all) and distracts from where I should be looking, at your face.

Upgrade your sweaters

Layering is a great way to add colour and texture to an outfit, not to mention warmth. But poor quality knitwear can ruin an otherwise excellent ensemble. Sweaters that are oversized, stretched out, pilling badly or just plain ill-fitting should be saved for housework or recycling. A fine sweater will look good and last a long time. Be it a cardigan, crew or v-neck, look for something that compliments your wardrobe and sits close to the body, without being tight, so you can layer if need be.

Casual. (I love my Shetland sweater.)

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Invest in a good sport jacket

There is such a thing as a casual sport jacket. In fact, “casual” is in the name: sport jackets were created for shooting and riding, not formal events. And there are features that will make a sport jacket feel even more casual, like soft, natural shoulders, patch pockets and patterns or textures. And that’s the kind of jacket you can wear with casual trousers, without a tie, even over a sweater.

Get a better belt (and take care of it)

I have been guilty of this myself in the past: having only one belt and wearing it into the ground. Instead, I now have several and regularly condition the leather ones, never wearing them two days in a row. A variety also helps when building an outfit: a woven leather belt looks casual but with a dressy touch, while a simple leather belt, if clean and high quality, adds a touch of sharpness to your waist.

Hem your trousers

Do I even have to explain this? If your pants are so long they bunch up at your ankles, take them to one of the dozens of alterations tailors, seamstresses or dry cleaners in your neighbourhood and have them shortened. Now. (See this precious article for length suggestions).

Get good socks

Gorgeous chalky blue Mazarin socks provided by @meschaussettesrouges with my @peterfeeney_footwear custom shoes.

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Hosiery is often overlooked and that is a shame because a flash of colour or pattern at the ankle can do a lot to polish off an outfit. A flash of bunched up material and leg, on the other hand, can destroy an outfit. I have written an entire piece devoted to upgrading your socks, with some recommended brands and shops.

Look after your shoes

Casual shoes, whether they are chukkas, loafers or even canvas sneakers, still need the tender loving care you’d give to your fine oxfords. You probably don’t want to bother with a high gloss finish, but regular cleaning and moisturising will have the same effect on your casual outfits as it does on your tailored: to make you look a bit more put together. I have a whole article devoted to shoe care as well.

And the one bit of guidance that applies to all of the above, plus any other part of your wardrobe, is to invest in quality and fit. Buy the best you can afford (buy less if you need to make it possible) and insure the fit is exceptional.