Rachel writes: Intelligent casual

I am looking forward to attending the reception this Friday for new ALM candidates and alumni of the program. A curious coda to the invitation card I received noted the following: “Dress: smart casual.”

While I have heard of the equally vexing “business casual,” I had never heard a reference to the “smart” kind of casual. A quick Google search reveals that I am hopelessly out of touch with such things–“smart casual” has been around a while. What is it exactly? What sort of “smart” are we talking about–brainy? crisp? impertinently clever?

The Oxford online OED actually has an entry: “A. adj. Designating or characteristic of (a style of) dress which is informal yet smart, esp. smart enough to conform to a particular dress code”

. . . which puzzled me a bit, because the meaning of “smart” in this colloquial context seems imprecise and on the obscure side; and the definition being dependent on “a particular dress code” seems to pass the responsibility for defining the phrase to some entity other than the OED. But, interestingly, the entry shows precedents of uses of the phrase, the earliest from 1945.

However, I don’t believe I will fret too much about my wardrobe, such as it is. I doubt if Dean Schopf will thrust a microphone in our faces as we arrive and demand to know “who are we wearing.”

In any case, I hope to see all of you smartly casual fellow ALM candidates and alums there. I’ll have my bells on.

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