Say the word “formal” and the first items of clothing that spring to mind are probably suits. But can they work for casual dress?
The answer, of course, is yes. That doesn’t mean you should simply dress scruffily or untuck everything – it means you should tactically dress down your suit.
Here is how to do it.
Use your shoes
It is a bold maverick who wears trainers with a suit and that is not something we are going to condone, but that maverick attitude is at the heart of how you dress down a suit using shoes.
If you are so inclined, wearing coloured Gibsons, loafers or Chelsea boots can really dress down a suit, without the footwear looking too out of place. Chukka boots could be used at a push, but only when using a suit jacket as a separate.
It is, in part, the colour of your shoes that will impact the smartness of the suit. Any shade other than black, especially brown or tan, will immediately lend your outfit to a more casual style; imagine a brogue in brown and you’ll see what I mean.
Have an eye for colour
The lighter your suit, the more casual it becomes. That is, up until you get to a white tuxedo, and then you’ve kind of gone full circle…
Blue, navy and brown are instantly more casual than a black suit, which can be very hard to dress down. When you get into beige, taupe or light blue you fall even further into the casual bracket.
If you are using the suit jacket as a separate then you can start to experiment. Go for boldly contrasting colours with your trousers and pick chinos to really nail home the dressed down feel.
Feel the fabric
As covered in our SWOT analysis, you’ll always achieve a more relaxed silhouette with a comfortable linen suit, which will instantly give you a more laidback look. The same applies to cotton suits, which also fall loose over the body, unlike a wool suit, which is often much more structured. Having said that, you can still use a wool suit as a separate item.
Accessories and finer details
Pocket squares, preferably as colourful as possible, will add another level of interest and spark the creative aspect of your outfit. In fact, anything funky – such as contrasting laces or wacky cufflinks – can take attention away from your suit, thus instantly dressing it down.
Other accessories like bracelets, tie clips and hats can once again dress down a suit, especially if the bracelets are leather. Go for a “traveller”-esque bundle of beaded bracelets to really go the whole hog.
If you can think of any other ways to dress down a suit, let us know. But we don’t suggest wearing a birthday suit – that’s a tad too relaxed for us. After all, as Mark Twain once said, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”