Monday, March 26, 2007

Defining "Smart Casual"

“Smart Casual” just means dress to look smart and respectable, even if you’re not the sharpest tool in the shed. Note the term isn’t “geek casual”, so looking smart does not translate to looking like the Google founders pre-public listing (yes, money buys you your personal stylist). Simply “casual” dress code is another way of saying “dress comfortably”.

Most style guides were written with the U.S. corporate dress code in mind, so you will find that “smart casual” based on these write-ups are typically a sport coat or suit jacket worn over a button down shirt without a tie and paired with jeans or khakis. Yes, that looks cool but it isn’t the most comfortable for our climate. Wear it here and you may find yourself being ushered to the stage and given the microphone when you get to the event you have been invited to. Here’s something that’s more appropriate for the Filipino male.


Short sleeved or long sleeved shirts are both acceptable. Smart casual dressing typically rules out sport shirts since these are reserved for simply “casual” dressing. The safest is to choose plain colored shirts. If your event is happening during the day, opt for light colored, short sleeved shirts while dark colored and patterned long sleeved shirts are preferred for evening invitations.

“Can’t I wear printed shirts? Traditional shirts make me look so stiff.” Okay, let’s get things straight (no, not your sexual orientation)… stiffness, (wipe that thought off, we’re talking about clothes) is not caused by the type of shirt you use. It’s the attitude you project when you’re not comfortable and confident with what you’re wearing. The only way smart “traditional” shirts can make you look stiff is if your maid put too much starch on them. Don’t have time to pick the right pattern? Then a plain black shirt is your safest bet. Tucked or untucked? Your call.


Pants are really simple – unpleated, tailored-fit and no cuffs.

Pleats are out – for now. (If you’re asking why, you’re probably still wearing double-breasted suits.) Pleats, the folds on the front of your pants, were created to provide more flexibility. On the down side, they can make you bulge if your pants don’t fit correctly or if they were not ironed properly. For a neater, slimmer look, unpleated pants are the way to go.

The fit of your pants is critical. If you don’t have custom-tailored pants, invest on some; start with 3 basic colors -- grey, black and navy blue. Tip: Don’t go to your Dad’s tailor.

Cuffs break the length of your pants and can make your legs look shorter. It also takes away from the smooth, clean silhouette that perfect-fitting unpleated pants create. So for us who have been eating Star™ rice and are still taking 1-6-12 vitamins, cuffs off!

For slightly more dressed down events, pairing your shirts with khaki chinos (for daytime) and dark jeans are also acceptable.


Loafers or slip-ons complete your look. Black typically goes well with dark colored pants, while brown loafers pair well with brown slacks, khakis and light grey. This is also a good opportunity to wear your boots; no not the cowboy type.

Pointy, slim shoes compliment your tailored-fit pants. They say you can tell the type of man by his shoes. Don’t worry, wearing a pair of loafers does not make you one.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Button-down Collars

Q: “If I wear my polo shirt with button-down collars without a tie do I need to button the collars down?”
- Chris, Kuala Lumpur

A: Didn’t have time to do the laundry on your other polo shirts, I assume? Let me throw back the question to you -- Where are you going? If you’re off to meet some friends for a casual lunch or a relaxed night out, then sure, leaving your collars unbuttoned is acceptable. It says, “Let’s forget about work for a while.” However, for occasions or events where you need to keep a neat appearance and look a little more credible or trustworthy, say, if you’re meeting your girlfriend’s parents for the first time or if you’re going to a semi-formal business function and will wear a jacket over your shirt, then go the extra mile and button those collars down. It says, “You can trust me with your wealth and your daughter.”

All Blued Up

Q: “My girlfriend has been telling me to wear something that’s not blue. She says everything I own is blue. What should I keep in mind in choosing colors?”
- Color Me Bad, Pasay City

A: It’s not really very hard to work with other colors. The thing to keep in mind in choosing colors is knowing your skin tone. If you’re on the dark side, colors that will look good on you are light colors such as pale pink, white, gray and khaki. These colors provide a good complementary contrast with your complexion. You will want to stay clear of dark hues like chocolate brown, red and olive green since these create monotony in your overall appearance. For those with fairer complexions, colors that go well with your skin tone are burgundy, beige, brown and black. Avoid bright colors like orange, red and yellow because this creates an overpowering contrast with fair skin tones and can make it appear like your clothes are floating on you. This is especially true if you are pale or very white. Now, I hope that when your girlfriend said everything you owned was blue it did not include your briefs.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Pairing Non-leather Belts

Q: “Your belt and shoes should match, right? Does this rule apply with cloth or military belts?”
- Loophole, Quezon City

A: I hope you’re not a military serviceman who is trying to make his uniform more fashionable. Outside the army, military-style belts are generally worn to accessorize a casual outfit; where you would typically be wearing sneakers. The rules are, therefore, just as relaxed. The thing to remember with military-style belts is that it should fit nicely with the overall color coordination of your outfit. You can actually take the color cue from anything that you’re wearing. To make it easy and fail-safe for you, match your belt with either the dominant color of your shirt or sneakers. Still too complicated? A white military belt goes with (almost) everything.

To Tuck or Not To Tuck

Q: “I’ve been seeing a lot of men wearing their shirts half or partially tucked. I find it sloppy. Is this acceptable?”
- Tucker, ParaƱaque

A: Let me guess… You’re over 30 aren’t you? Yes, it is sloppy, but that’s the look; just like out-of-bed hair. And, it’s also not for everyone. This style was introduced so as not to waste a perfectly nice belt by hiding it under an untucked shirt. So, if your belt is forgettable (e.g. ordinary office belts), then there’s really no point. I don’t suggest anyone get into the habit of doing this though because, like any other fashion trend, it will go from in to out faster that you can say pleated pants! The hard part is knowing when this look transitions from cool and trendy to being so 2005. So save yourself the worry -- either tuck or untuck.