More than 30 leading fashion experts have come together to put an end to the ‘smart casual’ debate for office workers across the country, with a definitive list of the top ten essentials and some advice on how to nail the dress code.

Mid-length dresses and fitted jeans for women, and dark jeans and a plain t-shirt for men top the table for smart casual clothing, whilst ripped jeans and creased clothes are a no-go.

The research, collated by online fashion retailer Hidepark, looked at the most common terms used to describe ‘smart casual’ from fashion bloggers, personal stylists and clothing brand designers to understand what smart casual really looks like. 

The responses were analysed, with over 3,000 words run through Google’s Natural Language processing tool, to extract the most commonly used terms providing a clear picture of what relates to ‘smart casual’ – with ‘comfydence’ cited as key – the combination of being comfy and confident at work.

According to the research, a smart casual wardrobe for females at work should include the following items:

  1. Mid-length dress 

  2. Fitted jeans 

  3. Tailored blazer 

  4. Ankle boots 

  5. Flat shoes 

  6. Plain coloured top 

  7. White trainers

  8. Midi skirt

  9. Jewellery 

  10. Lace designs 

Heels appeared frequently in the dataset, however, the fashion experts only considered them necessary if the person wished to “elevate their look” beyond smart casual.

The phrase “what is smart casual” receives over 1,900 Google searches a month in the UK. In addition to this, research shows that 90% of office workers now only wear smart casual and are debating the dress code every morning.

The top ten smart-casual clothing items for male office workers were as follows:

  1. Dark jeans 

  2. Plain shirt 

  3. Tailored jacket 

  4. Polished shoes 

  5. Non-patterned trousers 

  6. Suede Loafers 

  7. Pressed chinos 

  8. White trainers 

  9. Suede boots 

  10. Plain t-shirts 

Responses also highlighted the top smart casual faux pas:

  • Bold colours

  • Ripped clothing 

  • Formal suits 

  • Heels 

  • Ties 

  • Creased clothing

  • Worn-looking trainers

  • Cropped tops 

  • Boyfriend jeans

  • Slogan t-shirts

Andy Bojko, MD of Hidepark, who undertook the research had this to say: 

“Smart casual can be a terrifying phrase for some, and we realised that there had not been a collective decision on what this looks like, so we thought we’d find out ourselves. We’re not surprised to see jeans and tailored tops feature so prominently as this is what comes to mind for most in a relaxed office, but we didn’t expect trainers to be so universally accepted. HR professionals should utilise this data to understand if their workplace dress code is far from the reality of 2019 employee’s expectations.”

One of the experts involved in the research Claire Lopez, personal stylist and shopping consultant, discussed the dress code further:

“The term ‘smart casual’ used to be synonymous with dress-down Fridays but as dress codes have changed and relaxed, it actually now encompasses a vast swathe of what a lot of people wear on a daily basis. It can often seem as if it is the tricky middle ground that is hard to nail, but if you think of it as the key, versatile pieces that form the building blocks of your wardrobe and that can be dressed up or down, then you are on the right track.”

More expert opinion, the comprehensive text and full sentiment analysis of the research can be found here.

By Lisa Baker, Senior Editor

Senior Editor Lisa Baker is the owner of Need to See it Publishing Group, providing contract news for business and news sites across the UK. Lisa is an experienced HR writer and commentator, editing HR publications for more than 5 years.