It can sometimes be hard to tell if jeans are smart casual, and if so, which kind of jeans fit the bill? ‘Smart casual’ can be used as a dress code for a party, a family event of some kind, the office, a work event etc, but it can vary in definition, depending on what you are dressing for. Here is a quick guide on which jeans qualify as smart casual, for different situations.
So let’s start with some answers…
Are jeans smart casual?
Jeans are usually considered smart casual when paired with smart items of clothing and styled accordingly e.g. when paired with a tailored blouse, jacket and smart shoes. However it is best to avoid ripped or faded jeans and if in doubt go for a straight or tailored fit and a dark wash jean.
Office smart casual
If you are styling jeans for the office ‘smart casual’ dress code, it’s always best to play it as safe as possible. Avoid a lighter wash jean and instead choose a simple dark wash or black jean. Make sure the jeans are smart looking, with no distressed denim details or patterns, and they are full length. It’s also best to opt for a simple straight cut jean, which is universally flattering.
Absolutely avoid jeggings as these will appear ‘too casual’.
Party smart casual
If you are styling jeans for a party or event ‘smart casual’ dress code then you are afford to be more lenient with your jeans, and go for a lighter wash or a simple patterned, embroidered or painted jean if you like. As long as the jean is paired with a smart top and shoes, such as court heels, you should be fine. Avoid sandals, flip flop or trainers, as this will make your jeans look too casual.
Top tip: your jeans already form the ‘casual’ part of the outfit, so you want to ensure everything else you are wearing is ‘smart’.
Which jeans are smart casual?
Here are some rules to follow when deciding whether your jeans qualify as smart casual:
- The jeans will need to look immaculate, with no tears, ripped belt loops or fading.
- The jeans should be full length – avoid three quarter length or cropped jeans
- It’s best to choose a jean with a tailored fit – avoid baggy jeans, or anything too ‘trendy’
- Avoid embroidered, painted or printed jeans and stick to a simple wash
Is it OK to wear jeans for business casual?
It is OK to wear jeans for business casual when the jeans are paired with business attire and styled accordingly for an office environment e.g. with a blouse and a smart blazer or jacket. Avoid ripped or faded jeans and if in doubt go for a tailored fit and a dark wash jean.
‘Business casual’ usually refers to a company dress code for the office or a work event as opposed to party or personal event wear. It’s always best to check with the specific company’s dress code, as their definition of business casual may differ from the next company. For example, for some companies business casual means tailored trousers, or a knee length dress instead of a full suit or suit dress, but not jeans.
For others, dark wash jeans are okay, but light wash are not. If in doubt, always ask if the company has a specific dress code, especially if you are interviewing for a job at the company and you are deciding what ‘business casual’ means for your interview outfit.
Now let’s answer some specific dress code questions for different types and washes of jean…
Are black jeans smart casual?
Black jeans are the best smart casual jean, as they are versatile and can be styled easily as part of smart casual attire. Avoid distressed or patterned black jeans and opt for a straight leg fit.
Style black jeans with a cream turtleneck, a tweed blazer and a pair of black court shoes for a chic, put-together look. Alternatively pair black jeans with a white blouse, a black blazer and nude heels for an office-appropriate look.
For a party or event style black jeans with a silk or satin shirt and a tailored jacket for a polished, night-time party look.
Are denim jeans smart casual?
Denim jeans are considered smart casual when paired with other items of smart clothing, e.g. a tailored blouse and heels. Avoid distressed or patterned denim jeans and opt for a straight leg fit.
For the office style denim jeans with a crisp white blouse, a smart belt and simple silver jewellery for a put-together yet simple, professional look. Alternatively pair your denim jeans with a black blazer, a patterned shirt, e.g. black and white polka dots, a pair of black court heeled shoes and pearl earrings for a chic, polished look.
For a daytime party or event style your denim jeans with a white turtleneck, a black tweed blazer and a simple black belt for a classy smart casual look. For a night-time event wear your denim jeans with a pretty top with matching coloured heels and simple accessories.
Are ripped jeans smart casual?
Ripped jeans are not considered smart casual. Avoid ripped and distressed jeans and instead choose a dark wash, straight leg jean to style as part of a smart casual outfit.
Avoid wearing ripped or distressed jean for the office as these are not considered smart attire. When choosing jeans to fit a smart casual dress code they need to look immaculate, with no tears or fading.
Ripped or distressed jeans are also not a good idea for parties or events that adhere to this dress code. Save them for casual dates or for a sexy night out.
Instead go for a simple wash, with a straight leg or high-waisted fit, to fit the bill.
Are skinny jeans smart casual?
Skinny jeans are considered smart casual, as they pair well with other items of smart clothing to create a smart casual outfit, e.g. a tailored blazer and blouse. Avoid distressed, embroidered, painted or patterned skinny jeans, and instead choose a simple dark wash.
Skinny jeans are a great option for the office and for a party event.
For the office pair dark wash skinny jeans with a chiffon blouse and a tailored jacket, with simple black court shoes for an elegant, professional look.
For a party or event you can wear either light wash or dark wash skinny jeans, paired with heels and an appropriate top. Add a cream blazer for a pop of class.
Related article: Learn how to style a dress for the office here
Are dark jeans smart casual?
Dark jeans are considered smart casual, as they pair well with other items of smart clothing, e.g. a tailored jacket and heels. Avoid ripped or distressed dark jeans, and choose a straight leg or tailored fit.
Dark jeans are a safe bet when dressing to this dress code. Choose a straight leg pair of dark jeans and avoid baggy or distressed styles.
Pair your dark jeans with a light coloured smart top or blouse and heels, for a balanced, elegant look. Alternatively dark jeans pair really well with coloured tops, for a more adventurous look.
Avoid anything too bright or overly patterned when dressing to this dress code – instead keep it simple. Wear jewel tones with your dark wash jeans for a night time look, and pair with tailored pieces to elevate your style.
Are mom jeans smart casual?
Mom jeans can be considered smart casual when dressed with other items of smart clothing, e.g. a blouse, tailored jacket and heels. Avoid overly baggy or distressed mom jeans, and instead choose a straight leg fit.
Mom jeans can be worn to the office, if the company has a smart casual dress code. Avoid coloured or patterned mom jeans and instead opt for a simple dark wash and a straight leg fit. Pair your mom jeans with a blouse and blazer for a polished look.
Remember, your mom jeans already make up the ‘casual’ part of the outfit, so everything you pair with them needs to be ‘smart’.
The same rules apply for wearing mom jeans to a party or event. Dress them up with heels, elegant jewellery and a tailored jacket for a smart and chic look.
For more ways to style mom jeans, check out: How to Style Mom Jeans in 2021 – 15 Ways
Thank you for reading this ‘jeans dress code guide’ article, and I hope you now feel more confident to head to the office or a personal event in an outfit of your choice that fits the bill! It’s always best to check the individual dress code requirements for any company or for any party or event, as definitions can vary according to specific situations.
The above is simply an overview, so you can get an idea of some outfit pairings and the traditional rules that go with them, but you should always make sure you are dressing correctly according to a specific dress code.
For more fashion tips, check out…
Are Dresses Appropriate for Interviews?
10 Ways to Style Dresses in Winter
How to Style Mom Jeans in 2021 – 15 Ways
Lorna is a footwear geek and the founder of Wearably Weird. She created a YouTube channel in 2021 for fellow footwear fanatics, dedicated to detail-rich footwear reviews and info. She has a fashion media qualification (awarded in 2011).