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Required Reading

How To Dress Down Without Sacrificing Style

June 26th, 2024

In today’s world, dressing casually is more common than dressing up.

Many workplaces and restaurants no longer require you to dress up, and occasions when you need to wear a tie are quite rare.

Due to the trend of more casual clothing for men becoming more normalized, the ability to dress down without sacrificing style is more important now than ever. This skill helps you dress appropriately — and look your best — in situations where formal clothing might make you look a bit out of place.

However, dressing down while still maintaining a stylish appearance can feel like a difficult task. When you dress up, you can simply follow the formula of wearing trousers, a shirt, a jacket, a tie, and dress shoes or loafers.

When dressing down, however, the number of alternatives explodes, and you no longer have a simple formula to follow for dressing well.

When I started venturing into classic menswear, I was more often dressed up because, honestly, it felt a lot easier. To put it simply, I just had to worry about the color, fabric, and patterns, which already requires some thought but when you’re talking about a formula, it definitely helps to simplify things.

Now, if you take away the framework of having trousers, a shirt, a tie, and a jacket and open up the playing field for basically wearing anything . . . that’s when I felt utterly lost.

On the other hand, dressing down allows you to become more creative and experimental. You should look at it as an opportunity rather than a challenge. To help you get started, we’ve put together five tips to help you look stylish even when wearing more casual clothes.

Tip 1: As Always, Fit Is Key

Fit is one of the first things that will stand out in an outfit. If the fit is off, it is easily noticeable, and no amount of details, styling, or accessories will make up for it — dressy or casual.

Ensure Perfect Fit

Make sure your clothes fit perfectly and are well-proportioned. Casual pieces can and should be taken to the tailor to ensure you get a perfect fit because even casual outfits look better when your clothes fit well.

Balanced Proportions

Balanced proportions in clothing are important because they influence the overall look and feel of an outfit, affecting how well it flatters the body and conveys a sense of effortless style.

Attention to Detail

Well-proportioned outfits look tailored and give an impression of attention to detail and style consciousness. Aim to stand out with exceptional fit rather than loud statement pieces or colors.

Tip 2: Dress Down Your Existing Clothing

Dressing down does not mean you have to go on a shopping spree to buy a lot of new casual pieces. You should make use of your existing clothing. Trousers, jackets, and shirts made from more casual fabrics can be worn together with other more casual pieces, dressing down a garment that might otherwise be seen as dressier.

Mixing Fabrics

For example, in the winter, dress down flannel trousers with a denim shirt or a crew neck sweater. In the summer, linen or cotton trousers are great but instead of wearing a dress shirt, pair them with a polo or even a knitted t-shirt.

Combining Casual & Formal

Another tip is to select one extremely casual piece and pair it with something more formal. If you’re wearing a full suit, you might pair it with a t-shirt or even a vest, which lowers the formality significantly and makes the suit work as part of a casual outfit. However, this is something I’d only recommend if your suit is more casual in nature and not a business suit made from a finer, shinier fabric.

Tip 3: Layering & Accessories

While fit and proportions play an outsized role, you can also use layering and/or accessories to add more visual interest to an outfit and elevate an otherwise simple look. This is how you take a simple and well-fitting base outfit and make it stand out. Layers or accessories give you the opportunity to add a personal stylish touch to a basic outfit.

Use Accessories

If you’re wearing simple pieces like a t-shirt and jeans, make use of accessories to elevate the outfit. Add things like a watch, a belt, sunglasses, a cap, bracelets, rings, or sunglasses. However, use moderation to keep things simple and stylish.


Layering is a powerful way to add visual interest to an outfit. It’s also an easy way to create a number of different outfits from the same base. For example, wearing jeans and a t-shirt can look dramatically different by layering with an overshirt, a blazer, or a sweater.

Tip 4: Footwear

Shoes are either going to make or break your outfit. The importance of a good-looking pair of shoes simply cannot be overlooked. Just like with clothing, shoes have varying degrees of formality. Use this to your advantage for either adding more or less formality.

Choosing The Right Shoes

For a casual, stylish outfit, leave your running shoes for running and opt for stylish minimalist sneakers, loafers, or boots.

Formality Of Shoes

The more casual the shoe, the more it will dress down your outfit. For the most casual outfits, opt for casual minimalist sneakers in materials like suede or leather. If you’re wearing many casual pieces and want to slightly elevate the look, go for loafers or a more refined boot.

Tip 5: Focus On The Essentials

When you’re building a wardrobe, the best way to go about it is to focus on the essentials rather than individual pieces. Often, you can build a stylish casual outfit by utilizing existing staple pieces and combining them in different ways.

Versatile Pieces

Gray trousers are a great example of an incredibly versatile garment. When paired with a blue jacket, a dress shirt, a tie, and a pair of oxfords, you have a formal outfit. Pair the gray trousers with a knitted t-shirt, loafers, and an overshirt for a more casual look. You could make it even more casual by switching out the loafers for a pair of sneakers.

Building Multiple Outfits 

When you have the essentials in your wardrobe, you can create myriad outfits that vary in how casual they are. With a great fit, you have a fantastic starting point for creating many stylish yet casual looks.

The Bottom Line

With the above tips in mind, I hope it will help you put together casual outfits without compromising on style — still looking put together. While the range of options for creating casual outfits is a lot wider than with more formal outfits, it’s still a good idea to focus on basic things and instead of wearing louder pieces, wear timeless classics that fit well and pay attention to the details.

  • Fit and Proportion. The most important thing that will make your casual outfits stylish is fit and proportion. Make your statement with exceptionally well-fitting clothes rather than loud, attention-grabbing pieces.
  • Layers and Visual Interest. Add visual interest with layers. Incorporating multiple layers into your outfit allows you to mix different fabrics and patterns, adding more depth.
  • Stylish Shoes. Make sure you have a stylish pair of shoes, as dirty and worn-out shoes can ruin an otherwise stylish and well-fitting outfit. Leave your running shoes for running and go for more stylish options like minimalist sneakers, loafers, or boots.
  • Accessories. Make simple outfits stand out through attention to detail by adding stylish accessories. But remember not to over-accessorize. Basic accessories like a watch and a belt will get you far, but be careful not to add too many necklaces, bracelets, and rings.
  • Build A Capsule Wardrobe. Build a collection of clothes consisting of staple pieces that are easy to mix and match. When you switch out one or two pieces you can usually make something that you might often wear in a more formal outfit work perfectly well in a stylish yet casual outfit.

By following these tips, you can master the art of dressing down without sacrificing style. This will ensure you look effortlessly stylish in any casual setting, showcasing your attention to detail and personal fashion sense.

Thanks for reading.

Stylishly Yours,

Johan Wikström

Johan Wikström works in data & analytics and is also a classic menswear content creator. He’s always been interested in style, but his journey into classic menswear began in 2019 when he wanted to break loose from the ever-changing cycle of trends and build a timeless and more sustainable wardrobe. Shortly after he started his Instagram account and it grew a bit he was asked to participate in a TV program on national TV talking about sustainability in classic menswear. He was tasked with dressing the TV host using clothes the channel had stored throughout the years from various shows in their warehouse. A fun fact about Johan is that he loves dogs. So much so that his dream job would a to own a dog care center and just spend all of his days taking care of and petting dogs.

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Edited by Brian Sacawa


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