This is a question that comes up a lot, and there's often quite strong opinions on it. In one camp, jeans are everyday wear and the right jeans can be perfectly smart, and in the other camp jeans are a big no for anything vaguely smart.
But jeans can be OK for smart casual, it really depends on the occasion and setting. In most cases for example, jeans would not be suitable at a wedding, but may be perfectly fine at a family restaurant. The trick is understanding what's appropriate, and then ensuring the right jeans are matched well with the rest of the outfit. In this article we'll describe a few different ways to wear jeans as smart casual, and whether each style is suitable for different events.
1. Jeans and T-Shirt
It's safe to say pretty much anything with a t-shirt is not going to be classed as smart casual, even if it is a smart looking plain t-shirt like this one. You may try to get around it by wearing a jacket as well, but in reality you'll know it's still not right. If you receive an invitation to an event with a dress code of smart casual, this is not it!
2. Jeans and Polo Shirt
3. Jeans and Collared Shirt
This is quite a classic look, but can be ruined if you get it wrong. The shirt needs to be well fitting and clean, modern cut, and faded dad jeans are just not going to do! Pair smart dark navy jeans and a crisp white shirt and you could get away with it being smart casual, but as many places will frown at jeans regardless, you may still want to check beforehand. And don't forget the shoes - leave the dirty old trainers outside where they belong and invest in smart brogues to really finish the look.
4. Jeans and jumper (sweater)
Again this is perfectly acceptable generally, and the same rules as above apply when it comes to shoes, but jeans and a jumper probably wouldn't be OK as smart casual at a fancy restaurant or the head table at a wedding. Again you need to get quality, well-fitting jeans and no baggy fishermen jumpers!
5. Jeans, shirt and jacket
This is close to the best smart casual combination that you'll get with jeans. It should also mention shoes, because that really makes the difference. Smart shoes, not trainers, with well-fitting dark jeans and a good shirt (or like this rollneck jumper) and jacket will get you in most places where the dress code is smart casual. Make sure the jacket fits properly on the shoulders and arms, none of this baggy 80's styling. You don't need to have the jacket closed, in fact in this scenario it's probably better open, the fit is more important.
In summary, yes jeans are ok for smart casual, if you wear them with the right outfit and at the right occasion. A simple rule that's always good to follow is to dress up not down - if you're overdressed you can still take off your jacket or tie, but if all you have is jeans and an old t-shirt, and everyone else is in proper smart casual wear, that's a little more difficult to overcome!