Khakis or chinos? Odd trousers or suit trousers? Joggers or sweatpants? So many subtly different types of pants…
Pick the wrong ones and you'll look like a pirate clown robot from one of those kids' flip books.
Okay, that's an exaggeration. But you WILL look mismatched.
Pick the RIGHT ones, though, and you'll look savvy and put together.
Know what defines the different styles of trousers and their levels of formality… and you can pick the right ones on autopilot every time.
These are the 15 types of pants that every man needs to know about so that you can build your interchangeable wardrobe.
Make that 16 – Rhone, today's sponsor, has created a whole new type of pants. Commuter Pants look like dress slacks, but they're made from a moisture-wicking stretch fabric (useful if you're cycling) with hidden zipper pockets (useful if you're taking the subway). And Rhone will hem them to your perfect length for free.
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1. Cargo Pants For Men
Originally made for the military in the 1930s, cargo pants are rugged cotton pants with multiple large pockets traditionally used to hold field dressings and other equipment.
Cargo pants are no longer edgy, but be careful – they’re still ultra casual.
Most are baggy, but more stylish cargo pants are cut slimmer through the leg and tapered at the ankle (or at the very least, hemmed at the ankle). They're typically some shade of khaki or olive, but try a strong saturated neutral color for a more modern look.
You can dress cargo pants up slightly with a knit sweater, a lightweight shirt, and loafers or Chelsea boots.
2. Drawstring Types Of Pants
A drawstring allows you to cinch the waist of your pants, so whether you’ve got a 30-inch waist or a 40-inch waist you can probably get away with the same pair of trousers.
Made from linen, cotton, or synthetic materials, these trousers are going to be casual because of the loose fit.
3. Men's Pajama Pants
Pajama pants are similar to drawstring trousers, except in the choice of material.
They’ll use brighter colors, more flamboyant patterns, and fabrics like wool, flannel, and brushed cotton, with napped (fuzzy) surfaces for insulation.
4, 5, 6. Sweatpants, Tracksuit Pants, Joggers
Sweatpants are historically the oldest of these three types of pants. They have a very loose fit with an elastic or drawstring waist and possibly pockets.
Tracksuit pants often use a synthetic material, can have a very tight weave, and also tend to have a loose fit, although some will be tighter. What sets them apart is a stripe of color down the side of the leg.
Joggers are a modern take on sweatpants, with the same elastic or drawstring waist, and often zippered pockets to keep belongings secured. The big difference is in the fit – joggers fit much closer to the legs and give you a streamlined look.
7, 8. Difference Between Khakis And Chinos
Khakis are cotton twill pants that came from British military uniform in 19th-century India – ‘khaki’ is Persian for ‘dust’, from the color.
Chinos are a version of khakis made in China (hence the name) for soldiers in the Philippines during the Spanish-American war.
The easiest way to spot the difference between these two types of pants is not the color – it’s the stitching.
- Stitching and pockets are visible on khakis but hidden on chinos, which makes chinos more formal.
- Chinos are much more lightweight.
- To conserve cloth, chinos were designed with a slimmer cut – this also makes chinos more formal, and khakis more comfortable and versatile (you can do yard work in khakis.)
- Chinos come in a wider range of colors than khakis.
- Chinos have flat fronts; khakis can be flat or pleated.
Both types of pants can be dressed up with a dress shirt and blazer, and are smarter than jeans.
You can wear either to work – classically with a navy blazer (aka the ‘California suit’).
9. Men's Jeans
We love jeans because they’re so interchangeable – you can dress them up or down – and they're relatively inexpensive. Made from cotton, jeans are found across the world.
I think every man should have a pair of dark indigo jeans with no distressing (rips or wear and tear) in his wardrobe. Be careful with lighter colors – those are much more casual, and so, of course, is distressing.
10, 11. Odd Trousers And Suit Pants
The difference between these two types of pants is simple: do the trousers have a matching jacket made from the same material? If so, they're suit pants. An identical pair of trousers that you bought without a matching jacket would be odd trousers.
Odd trousers can be worn with a sports jacket, a blazer jacket, or even just a dress shirt or a casual button-down.
12. Corduroy Pants
Corduroy pants, also known as ‘cords', are very distinctive because of the ridges, or wales. These generally come in two sizes – 7 wales per inch (wide ridges) or 11 wales per inch (narrow ridges).
11 wales an inch makes corduroy a little bit dressier, but it's a very small difference.
Corduroy trousers can be dressed up a little more than jeans – they'll look good with a sports jacket or even a blazer.
13. Moleskin Trousers
No moles were harmed in the making of these trousers. Moleskin is a rugged cotton fabric with a thick, soft nap.
And yes, when you touch it, it feels like mole fur.
Usually a drab olive or brown color, moleskin is renowned for its abrasion resistance and its ability to dampen wind. However, it lacks water resistance.
#14. Cavalry Twill Pants
Cavalry twill, a sturdy twill weave with a diagonal cord pattern, was actually made to be worn with a blazer.
A lot of people will avoid it because it has a synthetic feel, but it can be worn on dressy occasions, especially with a navy blazer.
#15. Gray Flannel Trousers
Perhaps the most underutilized types of pants out there, gray flannels are great for matching any type of sports jacket.
Their napped surface sets them apart from regular dress slacks made from worsted wool.
Every man should have a pair in his wardrobe, whether in a medium light gray or a dark charcoal gray.
Don't forget, if you want a versatile pair of pants that look sharp for the office but are extra flexible and durable for commuting, check out Rhone's commuter pants. They fit great and they're incredibly comfortable – full marks for fit, fabric, and function.
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