This is the second definition of smart from OALD:

2 (especially British English) (of clothes, etc.) clean, neat and looking new and attractive
-They were wearing their smartest clothes.

What does neat mean in the definition when used to describe clothes? In the same dictionary, the most relevant definition of neat seems to be def. #1:

1 tidy and in order; carefully done or arranged

However, it feels like to me that this sense of neat is more appropriate when referring to things like your desk, office, room, rows of books, etc. in which it is arranged properly and in order; where as if the term is used with clothes, it doesn't seem to make sense because how do you arrange an article of clothing and make them in order? I mean you could iron it to make it smooth, but you don't arrange it?

2 Answers 2


The neat as in smart clothes means tidy or in order, as you mentioned. This means that your clothes give the appearance of tidiness and being in order. And just because you iron them, it doesn't mean that your clothes are neat, tidy, or smart enough.

The following picture, issued by the Marylebone Cricket Club, illustrates what is "acceptable" and "unacceptable" when it comes to entering the famous Pavilion and more casual Member's Friends' Enclosures.

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According to the article,

So now even the least sartorially savvy cricket lover will know exactly what is meant by a "lounge suit" or the phrase "smart casual".

  • +1 very informative, unfortunately Jay gets the accept by earlier submission time.
    – Theo
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 19:08
  • 1
    Actually, I posted first. :-) But anyway... :D Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 19:13
  • @Theo - pick whichever answer you want to pick, but I have mentioned more than once that it's best to wait at least 12 hours before accepting an answer, to give the community ample time to answer. This is not a race. Moreover, you can always unaccept an answer and accept a different one, if a better answer (i.e., a more accurate, more helpful, or more comprehensive answer) comes along.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 22:16

The dictionary definition you cite is exactly what is meant. Perhaps you just are having trouble applying that meaning of the word "neat" in this context.

When we say that the clothes someone is wearing are "neat", we mean that the person's clothes are all in their proper place and arrangement. For a man this might mean that his tie is on straight, his shirt is tucked into his pants, his belt buckle is centered, his shoelaces are tied, etc.

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