This is a guest post from Nicolas over at Kinowear – a great style blog for guys who live casually but still want to dress well and look like men.
We all know that there’s a time and a place for dressing down, being able to exude that laidback vibe while feeling comfortable, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a)intuitive or b) something to be overlooked when it comes to your style. When you take a look in your closet and see the well fitting suit jackets, the quality silk ties and those crisp, clean shirts it can be all too easy to think that dressing down simply means throwing on a pair of jeans with it all. In reality, that’s not going to do you any favors. The long and short of it is that you can’t reuse your formal attire if you want to achieve a laidback look: you need to invest in some casual clothing that will retain your style and keep you comfortable.
We know that you’re fashion enthusiasts like us, and we also know that you like to take pride in your appearance, enjoying classy outfits that exude sophistication. Over at the blog, we’re interested in young, dynamic fashion and we reckon that we’ve got some fantastic free advice that can help you go even further in your style. The Free Kinowear Crash Course to receive punchy, short advice that won’t take you ages to read. Click here to join the course.
We’re going to discuss three staples when it comes to dressing down: jeans, jackets and casual shirts. We’ll explain how to choose them and then combine them to create the desired dressed down look.
#1 – Jeans (and not just any old jeans)
The first staple of your dressing down closet should be that infamous pair of jeans. And we’re not talking the pre-faded, stonewashed monstrosities that are covered with blingy buttons and excessive seams. For a laidback look you want to go for a raw, slim fitted pair that are a dark blue (NOT black). In fact, the darker the better. Over at Kinowear we’re forever singing the praises of raw jeans for a multitude of reasons, but all you need to know is that they’re perfect for dressing down and they get even better over time: the pre-faded creatures will hang their metaphorical heads in shame.
Jeans are an investment, so don’t be afraid to splash out for a quality pair, but you need to know what you’re looking for. Fabric is super important: you want a tight mesh in terms of the denim that’s regular throughout – this regularity will make the jeans more attractive. Sizing is crucial, because I can guarantee most guys end up wearing the wrong size. When you try them on they should be tight, especially around the butt and thighs. They shouldn’t be hideously uncomfortable when you do up the button on the waistband, but you shouldn’t be able to shove your hand down there either. Denim stretches, so if they feel a little too tight to begin with don’t panic. When it comes to the length, you’re going to want a concertina effect at the ankles rather than them cutting you off in the wrong place: the fabric should fold a little.
#2 – Jackets (not to be thrown on in a hurry)
Staple number two is a jacket. And not the beautifully tailored, pristine thing that you wear with your suits – that just won’t work if you want to dress down. The fabric here is essential for giving the impression that you’re going laidback. Generally, rougher fabrics are what you’re after for dressing down, so head for the classic tweed, thick wool and flannel jackets rather than the thin fabric that has that fluid quality about it when it falls and that very formal sheen.
We’d normally say how the fit of a jacket is super important, but it’s not quite the same criteria when you’re dressing down. Obviously you shouldn’t be wearing the wrong size, but you want less structure from the jacket and it should be shorter than the classic suit jacket which will certainly help you to achieve that relaxed look.
However, don’t see a short suit jacket and go and grab it without thinking about those little details that are going to make more of a difference than you think: patch pockets are far more casual than pocket flaps and will impact enormously on your overall look. The color of a jacket is slightly more complicated than for a pair of jeans because there’s just more choice, but fear not: you’re after earthy tones like shades of brown, beige and tan, and a nice little detail that you can also look for is speckling of another color when you look at the fabric closely. This isn’t to say you should be going for outlandish patterns, but those subtle speckles can really enhance your look.
It might be a small detail, but these patch pockets are instantly adding a laidback feel to this jacket.
#3 – Shirts: can they ever be casual?
Shirts are a tricky one. When you’re used to wearing a formal shirt and tie it can be difficult to adjust to more casual styles, but you can make the transition more easily by going for an Oxford shirt. These shirts are easy to wear and use a laidback material that can still be worn with a blazer if you feel a bit too laidback, and you can still look for those quality touches you’d be after with a dress shirt: the seams, buttons and reinforcements, for example. You’ve got a choice of colors so you don’t have to worry about stumbling over extravagant patterns and garish designs, and they’re the best way of delving into the world of dressing down if you want to give it a go.
Chambray shirts are another great way of relaxing your look. You can go as far as wearing them open with a white T-shirt underneath, or just wear them on their own: a blue colored chambray shirt has workwear connotations so you shouldn’t feel too intimidated by giving it a go.
For the more adventurous amongst you, or for those who feel more advanced in terms of creating style, checked shirts are definitely an option. They ooze masculinity with a lumberjack-esque edge, and the relaxed material alone will instantly dress your look down. There’s a wide range of sizes in terms of the squares themselves, and it’s really a matter of taste: smaller squares have a certain level of refinement that you might prefer and feel more comfortable with.
There are some very interesting general points to note when it comes to shirts. Firstly, the collar. It is not going to go well if you go for an enormous collar on a casual shirt where you have no intentions of wearing a tie. Instead, you’re after smaller collars that aren’t imposing and will look perfect without a tie: an instant dressed down feel. Secondly, you want to consider the length. For a more casual look you should opt for shirts that you don’t tuck into your pants, so you definitely shouldn’t be going for shirts that will hang over your butt! Think about the length of the shirt in relation to a jacket, for example, and that should be a good indicator.
Check out the shirt length here – perfect for an untucked, casual look
Outfit Examples – this is how it’s done…
Just to show you some of these ideas in practice, here are two outfits that we’ll quickly explain:
This guy isn’t just literally ‘laid back’…
This combination is exactly what a relaxed look is all about. The softer structure of the jacket makes it a perfect combination with those dark jeans and immediately oozes relaxation with those pushed up sleeves. The shirt, worn open, needs no tie and complements both the jeans and the light-colored jacket.
Dressing down isn’t synonymous with sweatpants and sneakers…
The casual look here is very much completed by the dark, crumpled jeans. Rolled hems are also a nice touch: the look is carefully considered and not just thrown together. Pairing a dark sweater with a white T-shirt brings out some contrast in color and makes the outfit more appealing.
This look is very similar: those jeans scream ‘look how laidback I am!’
And there we have it! So when you’re scouring your closet for dressing down, remember to avoid clobbering your quality pieces with a pair of pre-faded jeans. Instead go and invest in some staples that can be mixed and matched and will serve you well.
Who is Nicolas?
I’m the author of this post and editor at Kinowear.com.
At Kinowear we help men choose pieces of clothing and put together simple yet stunning outfits.
Join me on the blog to learn how to dress sharply.