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From Casual to Formal: A Complete Guide to Men's Fashion Style

Man getting dressed casual formal

Dressing well is part of being a man. It shows that you have respect for yourself, for others, and for the world around you. The first step to dressing well is understanding your men’s fashion style options and knowing which ones fit your personality best.

Think about how majestic a woman looks when she is perfectly put together. It doesn’t matter if it is a matching bikini with a sarong and hair accessories or a formal dress for a cocktail party. That woman can turn heads!

The same is true for men. When you take the time to show you care about your appearance, people notice. Having quality formal dress shoes for a wedding or showing up to a date with casual men’s dress shoes that are well maintained provides you with a “step up” in your confidence, self-esteem, and memorability with anyone you interact.

Let’s dive into what types of men’s fashion styles you want to emulate based on the occasion, and don’t forget to match your favorite pair of shoes with your outfit!


Unpacking The Primary Men’s Clothing Categories

Traditionally, you will seek out five different categories of fashion styles. These are the quintessential activities you want to dress to impress. Many men stick to one of these categories as their brand, showing up to even the movies in formal attire to identify their personalities. That is the beauty of fashion – it is all up to your personal choices. The top men’s fashion style categories include:

Casual Fashion Style

Casual fashion style is all about comfort and practicality. You want to walk around in your shoes without feeling like you're going to break an ankle, but you also want them to look good with whatever outfit you wear that day.

Most of the time, this is everyday wear. Not exactly what you would wear to the gym, but more like a well-fitting pair of jeans, a cotton t-shirt, maybe a light jacket, and a pair of casual men’s dress shoes or white sneakers.

Even though you are dressing down, you still want to keep things well-maintained and clean. Make sure you look relaxed and comfortable but still well put together. Some essential items you’ll want in your drawers should be:

  •         A pair of well-fitted jeans (light and dark)
  •         Classic sneakers & casual men’s dress shoes
  •         Neutral-colored T-shirts
  •         A casual button-up shirt
  •         Lightweight jackets:
  •         Sweaters & Hoodies
  •         Chino pants
  •         Leather belt
  •         Watch
  •         Sunglasses & Other Accessories

Smart Casual Fashion Style

Smart casual is a dress code that's more formal than casual, but less formal than business professional. It's appropriate for most social occasions and is the most common dress code for restaurants. You can also use this style of dressing in business meetings and interviews as long as you have some rapport with the rest of the team.

The goal here is to appear more mature than strictly casual clothes would be. Instead of heading out in sweatpants and a hoodie, you may have on a nice pair of Chinos, a long sleeve shirt, and a blazer to top it off with some recently shined casual men’s dress shoes. If you can, you may want to mix and match leather shoes as well as more formal options for fun. For this category, you would need:

  •         A well-tailored blazer
  •         A pair of chinos
  •         Crisp dress shirts
  •         Mid to formal dress shoes
  •         Polo shirts
  •         V-neck sweaters
  •         Dark-wash jeans and slacks
  •         Loafers
  •         Casual black/brown leather belt
  •         Watch & accessories


Business Casual Style

A business casual environment is one in which you can wear jeans and a shirt, but not shorts. For example, if you work at an office where everyone wears suits most days, and your company has a dress code that prohibits shorts, then this would be considered a business casual environment.

This is all about matching the company culture. You want to look professional and ready to perform the duties of your job while not sticking out from the rest of the team, so you are not unapproachable. There is no strict rule on what to wear here.

Pro Tip: An easy way to select an outfit for this style is to look at the social media photos of the business you work with or for. You can quickly tell what styles, outfits, shoes, and fashion choices everyone pics and then use that as the foundation for your selection. 


Business Professional

If you're a man who wants to look sharp in the office, but can't be bothered with wearing a suit every day, then business professional is the style for you. It's not too formal or casual - it's just right!

The key to this look is dressing up without going overboard on formality. You want to look like someone who takes their career seriously without being overly stuffy or stiff. To achieve this effect, stick to versatile business suits, button-up collared shirts, and excellently groomed men’s dress shoes. You will want to invest in ties and accessories like tie clips, money clips, watches, and pocket squares. An excellent place to start is:

  •         Well-tailored suits
  •         Button up dress shirts
  •         Ties
  •         Formal dress shoes
  •         Dress pants
  •         Briefcase
  •         Classic leather belts
  •         Overcoats
  •         Pocket square, watch, and other accessories


Formal Wear

Formal wear, or formal dress, is the clothing worn for exceptional occasions. It usually refers to men's suits. Some people may refer to this fashion style as “cocktail attire.” You are out to impress, looking neat, elegant, and perfectly manicured for the event. Here, a fun, classic suit with a sharp tie is the best bet.

If you are unsure what to choose, stick to colors that match the occasion. Lighter suits for outdoor weddings, spring dates, and daytime meetings, and darker options for nighttime dates, indoor weddings, or special events. Some key items may include:

  •         Tuxedo & premium tailored suits
  •         Dress shirts
  •         Bow ties & neutral ties
  •         Vest, cummerbund, or waistcoat
  •         Formal dress shoes
  •         Cufflinks
  •         Pocket squares
  •         Formal coat
  •         Dress pants & socks
  •         High-end accessories


Dressing for Specific Occasions

If you're unsure of which type of attire to wear, ask yourself what you'd be more comfortable with while looking well-groomed. You want to be relaxed enough to make an impression without appearing like you do not care about what is happening. For example, some good occasion guidelines include:


  •         Weddings: A well-tailored suit or blazer with dress pants and formal dress shoes in a classic color and complementary tie.
  •         Black tie: A black tuxedo with a black bow tie, cummerbund or waistcoat, and black dress shoes.
  •         White tie: A tailcoat, white bow tie, and formal dress pants with black patent leather shoes.
  •         Funerals: A dark, conservative suit or blazer with dress pants and dress shoes and a subdued tie or no tie.
  •         Major events: A suit or blazer with dress pants and casual men’s dress shoes, in a bold color or pattern, with a statement tie or pocket square.
  •         First dates: A well-fitted, stylish outfit that showcases personal style while remaining appropriate for the venue, such as a dress shirt with jeans and dress shoes or a blazer with dress pants and loafers.


Essential Building Blocks for a Great Outfit

When it comes to putting together an outfit, there are a few key building blocks that you need to keep in mind.

First, the fit is one of the most important factors when it comes to looking good. Your clothes should flatter your body type and make you feel confident. If they don't fit quite right, they can make even the best-dressed man look like he just threw on whatever was available in his closet.

Second, color coordination is vital as well. This means paying attention not only to what colors match each other but also to how they pair with accessories and shoes. For example, wearing black casual men’s dress shoes with khaki pants may be stylish for some guys, but lighter colors may be the way to go if you have a fair skin/blonde hair combo.

Accessories are a great way to add interest and style to your outfit. They're also a great way to change your look without constantly swapping outfits. No matter what, don’t forget your shoes. Having a good selection of formal dress shoes, casual sneakers, comfortable loafers, and other casual men’s dress shoes goes a long way to bringing your outfit together.

The key to dressing well is balancing trends with timeless pieces. Don't buy something just because it's trendy. Instead, look for items that will last and can be worn repeatedly. This doesn't mean that all of your clothes should be basic or boring--it simply means that when in doubt, opt for quality over quantity.

Check out our blog for more fashion tips on how to get started. We offer a wide range of suggestions, insights, and fashion must-haves that will guarantee you’ll make an excellent first impression or lasting memory no matter where you go next. From formal dress shoes at a wedding to casual men’s dress shoes for your next date night, Just Men’s Shoes has you covered!


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