What are casual clothes for men? The spectrum of casual clothing that exists for the male wardrobe can seem boundless. From jeans to flannel shirts to fleece jackets, the selection can feel overwhelming.
That's why we're going to take the time to go through some of our all-time favorite casual pieces and shine a light on what makes each a worthy staple in the casual wardrobe.
You can think of denim as the essential building block of the casual wardrobe. Thanks to its deep indigo hue, there isn't a single casual item you can't match to a good pair of men's jeans. On top of their versatility, jeans are also hardwearing: you can wear them day after day without picking up the sort of dirt or stains that may require throwing a pair of chinos into the wash.
Speaking of chinos, the classic men's chino pant is another worthy entry in the casual wardrobe. Think of them as occupying the sweet spot between ultra-casual denim and a pair of trousers. Like denim, chinos won't look out of place paired with a t-shirt, a rugby shirt, or a men's dress shirt. But the slightly more elevated touch provided by a pair of chinos means that you could also match them to sport coats and blazers.
What's the difference between a button up shirt and a button down shirt? It's all about the collar. A button up shirt will have a spread or point collar that hangs above the shirt, where a button down shirt sports a collar that can be fastened with two shirt-mounted buttons. This small difference makes a button down shirt more casual; as does the weightier, flatter oxford cloth fabric that many are made with. The more open weave of oxford cloth makes it easy to pair with jeans and chinos alike.
The men's polo shirt is the perfect bridge between a t-shirt and a button-down. Like a t-shirt, it's a breezy, casual item that you can pull on without any need for ironing beforehand. But unlike the t-shirt, it sports a collar and a two or three button placket that provides a little extra structure and even allows it to be worn under a sport coat or a blazer in a pinch.
Many items in the casual male wardrobe can trace their origins back to sporting pursuits, but few tout their athletic heritage as proudly as the rugby shirt. In terms of design it's a sort of beefed-up cousin of the polo shirt, made from knit cotton fabric and featuring a short placket and a collar (often in a contrast white color that adds a nice visual pop). In contrast to the polo shirt, rugby shirts are often knit from a heavier weight fabric and made with long sleeves. These factors give them a decidedly autumnal appeal.
Of course, no conversation touching on autumnal appeal could be complete without a mention of the flannel shirt. Flannel itself is a fabric made from ringspun cotton and brushed on both sides, which gives it a raised texture that feels soft against the skin and better retains heat. This one-two-punch makes it one of the coziest shirting options around. The heavier weight of a men's flannel shirt, coupled with its insulating properties, makes it a valuable layering piece. You can wear it over a t-shirt in crisper weather, and use it as a base below shawl collar cardigans or fleece jackets when the weather turns more frigid.
When it comes to layering a casual outfit, either the crewneck or the v-neck will suffice. Strictly speaking, the crewneck is a bit more casual owing to its origins as collegiate athletic wear. But a men's v-neck sweater also makes a superb, casual alternative to wearing a blazer or a sport coat.
Few better options exist for casual wear than the humble fleece jacket. As fleece jackets were first worn by hikers looking for a better performance fabric it sits squarely on the casual side of the fence. But wearing one doesn't require a trip to the Rockies; simply layer a fleece quarter-zip or a fleece sherpa jacket over a button down shirt and a pair of jeans or chinos.
You may wonder what a blue blazer is doing in a list of casual clothing, and our answer is that it's the most casual you can get without being formal. The blazer was originally worn by rowers, and its brass buttons help to set it apart from sport coats and suits today. Pair it to an oxford cloth button down and a pair of chinos for the perfect business casual look.