How to do smart casual ... Kate Middleton at the Commonwealth Games. Photo: Getty
The Duchess of Cambridge's ability to vault over three tins while wearing 3in-high wedges may have provoked a mini tempest on social media. On the fashion desk, however, we're deep thinkers, and what exercised us is the existence of those wedges in the first place. The Duchess is very committed to her wedge shoes and it isn't hard to see why. A leg lengthener, the wedge also guarantees that one will never experience that sinking feeling on the turf when presenting a gold cup to one of one's relatives at Windsor.
Generally speaking, though, a leather, closed-toe cork wedge is an ungainly - especially with skinny jeans - paradox parading as a solution to a question that nobody has actually asked. What it seems to be saying is that it's a bit smart, but also a bit casual. It is not.
The whole premise of smart casual as an exotic sartorial code reserved for dress-down Fridays is outmoded. This isn't because none of us does it; rather, the opposite. If a future queen steps out in public regularly in jeans, surely that proves that smart casual is no longer a niche marketing concept. It's simply the way most of us dress most of the time: in unpretentious, functional, comfortable items.
That's not to say we do it well. We don't. Americans, who invented smart casual, do it extremely badly on the whole, despite having some of the best T-shirt, jeans and easy-knitwear brands in the world.
These items are not the only components of smart casual, but its starting point is definitely an artillery of good basics.
Unfortunately, it's at this starting point that the majority of us get it wrong, opting for incongruous mixes in the misguided belief that somehow, together, they'll equal smart casual, and barrel-scraping for the cheapest versions we can find because, well, they're just basics, aren't they? Wrong. According to the designer Adam Lippes, who does perfect and predictably expensive plain white T-shirts, this basic is probably one of the toughest tests for those creating clothes. "There's nowhere for mistakes to hide. Every detail from cut and length of sleeves to weight of fabric must be perfect," he says.
On the subject of jeans, too, experience ought to have taught us that they're by no means all created equal. Some are hand-dyed, sun-aged, washed in organic streams and hand-painted to create flattering whiskery effects that magically shave optical centimetres off thighs and equally magically add a zero to their price. Easy to mock - until you've tried them - although good old Levi's, Topshop and Uniqlo also deliver excellent jeans at affordable prices.
Trainers aren't "just" trainers, either. Some are aesthetic vandals, others sleek exemplars of the best in 21st-century technological, wearable design. Nike's as good a place to seek that out as Prada.
Nothing you ever wear should be an inferior compromise, but it should be ironed. If it's tired, it is not all right, even for casual wear - donate it to the shoe-cleaning drawer.
Success rests on cut and fabric. A pair of slouchy white combat-style pants in a lovely soft cotton twill, worn with a fine-cotton striped shirt, jacket, sandals and a fresh pedicure will get you most places. Basics in luxurious fabrics can take you anywhere.
Other pillars of modern dressing include the blazer, often worn with jeans. Some of my colleagues in the fashion department, traumatised by its early Euro-trashy roots, wince at this marriage. But the blazer-jeans combination can work very nicely: it's down to details. How's the hair looking? Prissily ageing or youthful and uncontrived? Modern dressing should appear effortless, even when those tousled layers have been painstakingly cut in by a good hairdresser.
Once your grooming and the fit of your clothes are under control, you can blithely waft around as though it all came together organically.
The Telegraph, London