As noted previously, we live in an informal age. I recently had dinner at an expensive restaurant in Manhattan, which in the past would have had some basic dress code, but although I was properly dressed I was surprised at how few other people were. It is true that many, if not most people still dress for work, but outside of the office standards have deteriorated to the point where just about anything goes. As a result casual wear is big business these days, and even the best designers have tried their hand at it. Generally this consists of what one wears at home, on the weekend, in the evening, when traveling, or at leisure. But you are still presenting yourself to other people in one way or another, so you still must consider deportment. That entails dressing casually with some class and good taste, which we can summarize as casual elegance.
Casual can mean many things from a jacket without tie, a sportshirt, sweater, or shorts with sneakers and white socks to a sweatshirt and pants. Wearing the latter in public it is easy to look like a slob unless the outfit is unusually well crafted. A sweatshirt or hoodie is better offset with a pair of jeans or slacks. Unless the weather requires it being up, a hood should be worn down to avoid the impression that you’re up to no good.
A jacket without a tie is now quite widespread as office casual or after work attire. Avoid wearing jackets with pinstripes because it will look like it came off a suit with the pants missing. All of the parameter mentioned previously with regard to sports jackets still apply, but in this case the jacket may frequently be worn unbuttoned. Under these circumstances there is little point in wearing a dressy shirt with french cuffs with more casual attire. This calls for a more casual shirt, but depending on the season could also be a fancy t-shirt, or sweater and shirt worn under the jacket.
However, it has to be the right sweater. Many sweaters are intended to we worn alone, particularly if they are patterned and bulky. Under a jacket one would wear a slightly lighter sweater that doesn’t bulk up, such as a v-neck (which looks incomplete without a jacket) or light crew neck. At the top of the sweater heap is Missoni, but if you’re going to spring for such high priced goods it is pointless to wear them under a jacket. Top line store brands such as Saks, Neiman Marcus, etc. are of consistently high quality. For excellent sweaters at very reasonable prices check Tasso Elba. However, color, pattern and material should be your primary concern when considering a sweater.
TIP: When buying sweaters it pays to buy one size larger than you normally would, because manufacturers now size them on that assumption. Thus “XL” is what “L” used to be. It is also far better to err in favor of larger rather than smaller, which will be unflattering. But sizes are still likely to vary so any sweater purchase should be returnable or tried on first.
Avoid wearing anything with someone else’s name prominently displayed. It is tacky and just says you’re insecure because you want people to know you’re wearing a particular brand. Wear pants that fit properly and avoid baggy pants hanging off the butt, otherwise you will look like a silent movie comedian.
In anything casual the first consideration is comfort given more relaxed settings. If you’re not comfortable in your clothes that is how you will appear. In addition your outfit should be put together harmoniously with components that go together well. That means coordinating color and patterns so that they do not clash, but rather provide a relatively subdued, but appealing combination. It also means avoiding an incongruous outfit of elements that don’t belong together, such as sneakers and a sports jacket. Paying attention to such things will give you a classy appearance that is pleasing to the eye, while making a pleasant impression on others.