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What Smart Casual Dress Code Really Means and How to Wear It to Look Cool

What Smart Casual Dress Code Really Means and How to Wear It to Look Cool

Dress codes have their place, especially for business or special occasions. Smart and formal wear is pretty easy to make a decision on, and casual usually indicates jeans are acceptable and everything in between.

But what about smart casual? It can sometimes feel ambiguous and leave us wondering and questioning what exactly is appropriate.

The Smart Casual Dress Code Dilemma

Work is when we have most of these dilemmas. It’s more acceptable to risk getting it wrong at a social gathering, but work and business is where we want to make a good impression.

Suits, ties, smart dresses, and trousers are easy to pick out, but when you get the memo stating smart casual dress code you can start to worry whether you’re going to get it right. It can be hard to identify the subtle differences between smart causal, business casual, and just plain casual.

The Importance of Getting It Right

In work and business, dress code can mean so much more – which is why it’s more important to get it right. Many people dress inappropriately purely because they’ve misunderstood the smart casual concept. While smart may drum up a blazer and casual makes you think of your favorite well-worn jeans, the two together do not make a smart casual outfit. Making a good impression and fitting in with a company’s dress code is paramount, and will save embarrassment on a first day in the office.

What Exactly Is Smart Casual?

While some companies have different variations or leniency on a smart casual dress code, the majority of companies will stick to a certain look that smart casual brings.

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So what exactly is smart casual to most people? And what do we need to know in order to make the most of our wardrobe? What you ultimately want to aim for is a good balance of comfort and effort.

To eliminate any confusion, and not to be left to our own interpretation only to turn up and realize we made a huge judgement error, here is a guide to what smart casual really means.

Smart Casual Dress Code For Men

Shirt

    A good fitted shirt can bring both a smart and casual element to your outfit, depending on what you prefer. A single-colored shirt is obviously the safe option, but it’s okay to pick something more unique and patterned to bring some personality to your look.

    Blazer

      A blazer is a great alternative to a suit jacket because it shouts sophistication as well as casual. Dark colors or light single colors can be versatile and be used in many different combinations of outfits. If you’re bold enough, a patterned or brighter colored blazer or jacket can be the centerpiece and still be acceptable.

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      T-Shirt

        T-shirts can be hard to decipher in terms of whether it’s deemed too casual. However, it’s perfectly acceptable as long as you stick to plain colors; teamed with a good fitting blazer and slacks, it can be both comfortable and professional.

        Ties

          Ties don’t have to be overly formal and a bow tie can add a bit of personality into the mix.

          Trousers

            Jeans can be perfectly acceptable in a smart casual setting, but make sure they’re well fitted or dark in color – no holes or rips. Chinos are a good option, as they’re comfortable and always manage to look pretty smart, especially when teamed with a good blazer and shirt.

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            Shoes

              You can pretty much get away with wearing anything on your feet as long as they’re not trainers. Slip-ons are a good option, or some smart boots are a good way to compliment an outfit.

              Smart Casual Dress Code For Women

              Tops

                Women probably have a better array of options when it comes to different tops. The key is to keep your top-half on the smart side, and you can pretty much get away with what you choose for the bottom. Keep it conservative with floral or an elegant plain blouse, shirt, sleeveless, or flowy option.

                Blazer or Jacket

                  Of course, a light fitted blazer or jacket can instantly make an outfit look a bit more smart, and any color goes.

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                  Skirts and Dresses

                    Again, skirts or dresses are a great option for a smart casual dress code, as you can’t really go too wrong. Make sure the skirt is not too high above the knee and is teamed with a smart top. As for dresses, summer or floral is a good choice, but make sure it’s not too strappy or flimsy like you’re ready for the beach.

                    Trousers

                      Tailored trousers or chinos are acceptable as smart casual wear. A nice pair of fitted jeans with no rips or holes can be a staple part of your wardrobe because once teamed with a blazer or pair of heels it can instantly become chic.

                      Shoes

                        Most shoes are good to go as long as they’re not dirty or tatty. Sports trainers are considered a bit of a no-no unless they’re plain and fashioned, but pumps, slip-ons, and heels can all make an outfit fit the brief.

                        If you’re ever in doubt of what smart casual entails, always lean on the side of smart when picking your outfit to be on the safe side. It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed when work and business are concerned. But teaming up a good balance of comfort with that professional vibe will more than likely be a winner.

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                        Jenny Marchal

                        Freelance Writer

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                        Last Updated on August 7, 2018

                        14 Powerful Leadership Traits That All Great Leaders Have

                        14 Powerful Leadership Traits That All Great Leaders Have

                        Being a leader of a company or organization is certainly a difficult and often frustrating position – but it can also be tremendously rewarding.

                        Whether you’re just starting out as a leader, or have been leading for a while, you’ll be sure to benefit from knowing the essential traits that all great leaders possess.

                        Effective and successful leaders transcend the title of ‘manager’ or ‘boss’. They’ve found a way to achieve the perfect combination of charisma, enthusiasm and self-assurance (with a healthy dose of luck and timing probably added to the mix).

                        It may seem like some people are gifted with leadership skills, but the truth is most leadership traits can be learned, adopted, and strengthened with time and practice.

                        As we delve into the list of effective leadership traits, you will learn the behaviors and attitudes of a good leader.

                        The 14 most important leadership traits

                        Please read through the list of leadership qualities carefully. Take note of which of the traits you excel at – and which ones you need to work at.

                        Traits for better self-development

                        1. Vision and mission

                        Having a clear picture of what needs to be achieved is a crucial quality of good leadership.

                        This vision is often communicated in a mission statement, such as this one from Starbucks:

                          How to develop vision? Spend time pinpointing what you need to achieve, and then plan the steps to get there. Here’s a complete guide on creating your own vision.

                          2. Self-motivated

                          It’s no coincidence that successful leaders have an abundance of self-motivation.

                          Without a decent level of self-motivation, you’ll struggle to become a strong and respected leader. However, if you don’t have a lot of self-motivation right now, don’t despair.

                          One of the secrets is to have definite goals to keep you motivated at all times. Some people also choose to reward themselves every time they achieve a goal, and this is certainly a good way to keep yourself enthused and motivated. Learn how to set an ambitious yet achievable goal here.

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                          3. Optimism and positivity

                          Positive energy is contagious. Great leaders are overflowing with this type of energy.

                          Not only does a positive mindset make leaders easy to work with, but it also gives them a constant source of inspiration and ideas.

                          Tap into this energy by aligning yourself with positive people and positive goals. Find out more about the habits of positive people here.

                          4. Emotional stability

                          In leadership positions, frustration and stress are daily occurrences. This is why leaders need to have strong and stable emotions. They can’t allow themselves to be easily knocked off track.

                          If you’re prone to losing your emotional stability when stressed or frustrated, try some of these techniques: breath deeply and slowly for 30 seconds, go for a walk, drink some water (instead of tea or coffee), turn your focus onto something you can resolve. Here’re some effective ways to control your emotions.

                          5. Self-confidence

                          Watch a presentation by any CEO and you’ll see that even if they’re not natural presenters – they make up for this by having powerful self-confidence.

                          It’s not just CEOs who have self-confidence, any successful leader will have this trait in abundance. One reason for this, is that only a confident person can persuade others and gain their respect.

                          Worried that you have low self-confidence? Try faking it. Psychologists often recommend that if you ‘act’ at being confident, you’ll start to look, sound and feel like you ARE confident. And in time… you will be.

                          If you look for more ways to boost your self-confidence, this confidence coach has got you some nice advice:

                          How to Be Confident: 62 Proven Ways to Build Self-Confidence

                          6. Decisiveness

                          Leaders are frequently called upon to make decisions (some leaders may have to make dozens of decisions every day). In fact, you could say that making decisions is one of the key things a leader must do.

                          Spend some time observing highly-successful leaders and you’ll see that they are quick to make decisions. They also enjoy making decisions, rather than stressing out like many non-leaders do when they’re asked to decide on something.

                          Put yourself in the leadership bracket by developing your decision-making skills. Start with small decisions – and then work your way up to bigger and more difficult decisions. Once other people notice your decision-making prowess, they’ll automatically see you as leadership material.

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                          I know it’s really quite difficult to make the right decisions sometimes, but don’t worry, here’s a guide for you:

                          How To Make Good Decisions All The Time

                          7. Passion and enthusiasm

                          Expressive. Active. Energetic. These are words best describe a passionate leader.

                          Great leaders are lively, driven and are possessed with zeal and purpose. It’s this passion that helps them achieve big results. If you want to emulate their success, then you need to develop passion and enthusiasm for the work at hand, and the end goals.

                          Take a look at this Passion Pyramid to find out how importance a leader’s passion is to the team:

                            One way to do this is to find what motivates you, and keep your focus firmly on that. For example, i f you’re motivated by helping others, then make sure your role and company are both suited to realizing this. If you’re motivated by money, then put your focus on achieving bonuses and pay rises.

                            Take a look at Leo Babauta’s guide on how to find your passion.

                            8. Accountability and responsibility

                            Exceptional leaders know that at all times they’ll need to take responsibility for tasks and their results. This includes things likes individual and team performance, as well as being accountable for when things go wrong.

                            When negative things occur (and you can guarantee they will from time-to-time), a great leader will immediately step in and take responsibility. Initially, they’ll try to resolve the problem in as quick and smooth a way as possible. But if this is not feasible, they’ll be sure to say that the buck stops with them – and they take full responsibility for what has happened.

                            To develop your leadership skills, you must never shy away from responsibility or accountability. If you prefer to sweep mistakes under the carpet, then you’re demonstrating non-leadership traits. Try owning up to issues and finding solutions to them. By doing this, you’ll immediately gain people’s respect.

                            Find out some tips on how to be a more responsible person here.

                            9. Focus

                            Distractions are everywhere. And it takes major focus to stay committed to tasks and goals. The best leaders understand this, and therefore, they’re always looking at ways to boost their team’s focus.

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                            One way leaders do this, is to keep their team intensely focused on the bigger picture. This might entail allocating specific time for tasks and eliminating any non-essential work.

                            If you’re easily knocked off track, you’ll need to spend some time boosting your focus. Try planning your day, week, month and year to help ensure that you don’t fall behind with achieving your goals. Check out the 7 strategies of staying super focus recommended by a productivity coach.

                            10. Ever-learning

                            Leaders know that to be successful they need to continually update their skills and knowledge. They deliberately learn all they can about their profession and industry, so they’ll able to make confident and assured decisions.

                            Why is ever learning so important? I’ll leave it to you to find out the reason here:

                            If I Am Living a Good Life, Why Should I Bother Learning New Stuff?

                            Imagine a CEO of a solar power company. His company may have amazing solar panels, but when it comes to discussing business with potential buyers, if the CEO or his sales team show a lack of understanding about the solar industry and future trends, etc., they’ll be unlikely to win any business.

                            It’s exactly the same for you. If you’re a team leader at an electronics store, you should make sure you fully understand all the products that you offer. But go beyond just that, and read about upcoming products and trends that might change what customers are interesting in buying in the future.

                            Traits for effective communication

                            11. Empathy

                            The best leaders understand the feeling of their team members, customers and associates. They know when to praise, and when to discuss problems (usually in private).

                            Without empathy, leaders will be seen as cold, harsh and lacking understanding. They’re also likely to be regarded as untrustworthy.

                            One way to ‘put yourself in someone else’s shoes’ is to have regular informal discussions with your colleagues. When you do this, you’ll quickly learn their fears and desires. And when you understand why they have these – you’ll be in a position to express empathy. You can also learn to be more sensitive to others’ needs by taking up these communication skills.

                            12. Persuasive and influential

                            Communications are at the heart of all transactions. Whether it’s pitching for a sale or resolving a customer complaint, how you communicate will determine the outcome.

                            Charismatic leaders such as Richard Branson (Virgin) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) are confident and persuasive communicators. They know how to win over audiences and leave a lasting impressing in people’s minds.

                            There’re some common barriers that you’ll have to overcome in order to communicate effectively:

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                            How to learn effective communication? You could join the world-renowned U.S. nonprofit Toastmasters International. They’ve been training people in the art of public speaking since 1924, and members have included Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, and Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy.

                            If you don’t have time to join a club, then practice your communications skills at home. You can do this in front of a mirror, or even better, video yourself presenting, and then ask some friends and family members for feedback. You’ll be amazed at what they pick up on.

                            Traits for ensuring an engaging team

                            13. Team building

                            If you put a bunch of random people together, you may have a loose definition of a team. In reality, a real team has purpose, drive – and a leader lighting the way.

                            If you’ve worked in different teams and with different managers, you’ll no doubt have come to this conclusion:

                            Managers who treat their team members like children are unpopular with the team. Conversely, managers who treat their team members like adults, are respected and well-liked by the team.

                            The days of disciplinarian managers are passed. Nowadays, successful team leaders know how to inspire and motivate their team, while keeping a harmonious atmosphere between all team members.

                            14. Fostering creativity

                            Solutions to problems are rarely black and white. Often it takes a leader who can ‘think outside the box’ to come up with answers. In other words, a leader must be creative, and also help to foster creativity and innovation throughout their team.

                            Creativity is not only associated with pursuits such as arts, literature and music, running a team can be just as creative. There will be times every day when you need to come up with ideas and give guidelines for your team to come up with theirs to solve problems.

                            Leadership is a journey of continuous learning

                            Leadership is an amazing experience that will take you on roads you’ve never traveled before.

                            Begin now to build your skills and experience, pick out the traits that you currently lack – and then work on developing those.

                            It will take tons of practice and time before becoming an effective leader but eventually you will join the ranks of great leaders.

                            Featured photo credit: unsplash via unsplash.com

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