Some lessons for men in wearing Keys casual

The majority of events in the Florida Keys all have one thing in common, the Keys casual dress code.

By definition, the Keys are casual, laid back and known for our anything-goes type of attitude. So what does this mean when it comes to what to wear to an event? Women seem to have this dress code figured out.

At Keys casual events, you will typically see women wearing dresses or skirts with wedges or sandals. Not only does this work for the warm climate, but a dress can be dressed up or down for the occasion by simply pairing it with the right accessories.

Worn with sandals and a lightweight scarf, your look will be more casual. Pair that same dress with wedges or heels and a clutch, and the same dress will look more formal. For women, dresses and skirts are really the perfect clothing for the Florida Keys.

The Keys casual dress code really gets interesting when it comes to men.

Typically you will see them in everything from cargo shorts and flip-flops to slacks with a jacket. This creates quite a range of looks on the spectrum of Keys casual.

Keys casual should really be defined as: “If you’d wear it fishing, don’t wear it to our event.”

Let’s start with shoes. There really are only two appropriate shoes to wear in the Keys for a Keys casual event: A leather sandal or loafer. Leather makes both look more refined and sophisticated while still being comfortable.

It’s also important to think about the venue for your event. Will it be held on a beach, in the park, at a tiki bar? Both of these shoes will still easily navigate the landscapes of many venues for Keys events. Reserve your dress shoes for a more formal occasion, like dinner out in Miami.

Flat-front shorts or pants are always going to be more stylish than a pleated front. Pleated front pants and shorts scream “old man.” If you’re still wearing this style, upgrade to flat front.

Wear slacks in more casual hues such as khaki, gray or even a color like blue or salmon. Although you really can never go wrong with black, if you are going to wear black pants to a Keys casual event, make sure you are wearing a more casual shirt — such as a polo — so you aren’t over dressed.

Acceptable shirts for Keys casual consist of short-sleeve polos, short-sleeved collared button-down dress shirts and Oxford long-sleeved, collared button-down shirts.

Short-sleeve button-down shirts made by Tommy Bahama are the perfect Keys casual look and easy to come by. But don’t confuse this with Hawaiian shirts. Hawaiian shirts should really only be worn if you live in Hawaii, are attending the Good Health Clinic’s annual luau fundraiser or work at a tiki bar. Instead, wear shirts that are going to be more complimentary on you.

My father once gave me the advice that it’s better to be noticed than noticeable. Big red flowers covering every square inch of your shirt are noticeable. Instead, try a shirt in black or white hues. Both hues will always look dressier, more stylish and more current than shirts covered in prints.

The great thing about shopping for a Keys casual look for men is that most of the places you already frequent for all your boating and fishing supplies carry a good assortment of Keys casual shorts, slacks, polos and button-down shirts. Take a look at a few below the next time you need some clothes for an event.

  • West Marine at mile marker 103.4 in Key Largo, mile marker 48 in Marathon and 725 Caroline St. in Key West.

    This boating Mecca carries a nice selection of men’s clothing including polos, button-down shirts, slacks, shorts, leather sandals and loafers. Hours are Monday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • Backcountry Cowboy Outfitters at mile marker 82.2 carries everything you need for your kayaking, camping and outdoor adventure needs. In addition, it also carries some great clothing for men including linen and knit flat-front shorts, leather sandals and silk button-down collared shirts.

    Hours are Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • Florida Keys Outfitters at mile marker 81.2 specializes in saltwater fly fishing. But it also has a nice selection of Oxford long-sleeve button-down shirts and flat-front slacks and shorts by Vineyard Vines. Hours are Monday to Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • Blue Boutique at 718 Caroline St. in Key West and mile marker 82.2 carries a nice assortment of contemporary men’s clothing, from sport jackets to casual pants, from wallets to footwear. Hours are Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. 6 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    Leah Maki is a fashion-obsessed style blogger. More of her fashion advice can be found on her blog,

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