How to Navigate the Dreaded Minefield That Is Smart Casual

When a slick looking envelope lands on your doormat, many men have the same moment of dread. However, it's not dread of the event itself; not even of the company, whoever that may be. It's dread of the dress code. While the phrase 'smart casual' sends the women in your life whizzing to seek out their prettiest dress, it leaves you with a seemingly insurmountable contradiction in terms. Smart, casual: The two are not a natural pairing, yet now you have a month to ponder just what you're going to wear. Will a football shirt do?

To the author of the invitation, it was an afterthought, as they appraised their own, pre-planned outfit and decided "Yeah, that's sort of smart casual". To you it's a challenge, a gauntlet thrown down which must be answered appropriately.

It's a minefield, but also an opportunity. As long as you remember that it's always better to be a little over dressed than significantly under dressed, however, you can only succeed. The clearest instruction that smart casual provides is that you're not required to wear a tie. This is not a business meeting, and nobody wants their guests to feel uncomfortable - except, perhaps, at a wedding! Ditch the garish tie in favour of minimalism and simplicity; smart should not appear try hard.

A spot of bespoke tailoring can transform the most mundane outfit into something suave and impressive. A fitted suit jacket and trousers is practical, and the jacket can always be removed to reveal a relaxed shirt if the general company is not jacketed.

Once you've established this simple base, and paired it with the right shoes, you can begin to inject some personality back into the format. Mix and match your suit jacket with slightly more daring trousers, or consider braces or bow ties if you're feeling a little bare chested. Those confident that the event is more 'casual' than 'smart' may decide to ditch their polished shoes for brogues. The most important thing is that every aspect of your outfit is well fitting and either classic or bang on trend.

Never again suffer the dread of smart casual. Instead, embrace the opportunity it presents!