Do you feel like you’re always wearing jeans? If so, it’s time to meet their most stylish substitute: khakis.
While khaki pants— also known as chinos— may not be the most exciting thing in your wardrobe, they’re one of the most versatile items men can own. The underrated icon has been a staple in men’s wardrobes for decades and is a cornerstone of classic American style.
In this how-to guide, you’ll learn how to wear casual khaki pants anytime, anywhere. By the end, they just might become your new go-to pants.
What are Casual Khaki Pants? Are Chinos the Same as Khakis?
Technically speaking, the term ‘khaki’ only refers to the recognizable shade of tan, not the pants themselves. But due to their longstanding popularity, the word has become somewhat synonymous with the actual style of trousers. In truth, this guide to khaki pants is equally as applicable to chino pants of any color.
When it comes to formality, khaki pants fall in-between jeans and dress pants. Modern styles have a more tailored look and include a mid-rise, flat front, and four pockets. You should go with a pair that has a more-fitted look overall, with a straight or slightly tapered leg. They shouldn’t fit like skinny jeans, but also shouldn’t look baggy. And please, avoid wearing anything with cargo pockets.
Part of what makes casual khaki pants so wearable is their signature cotton twill fabric. The lightweight, woven fabric provides stretch and breathability while still being durable enough to last. Today, some khaki pants use technical fabrics that have added sweat-wicking or stain-repelling benefits. While these pairs are great if you’re going for a more rugged, outdoorsy vibe, traditional cotton is best for achieving the classic khaki look.
A well-fitting pair of khaki pants should either graze the tops of your shoes or drape slightly over, creasing slightly along the hem. Avoid any bunching around the ankles by taking them to your tailor to get hem. Chinos are often worn cuffed, especially in the summertime.
How to Wear Casual Khaki Pants
You’d be hard-pressed to find something in your closet that a pair of casual khaki pants wouldn’t work with. Here are some easy outfit ideas for dressing up and dressing down your casual khaki pants:
What to Wear with Casual Khaki Pants
Casual khaki pants are versatile enough to be worn in any relaxed setting. Khaki pants are often associated with preppy style, so when in doubt, pair them with a button-down. For casual Fridays, stick to a collared dress shirt, smart khakis, and a matching belt and leather loafers. On the weekends, try an untucked chambray shirt or a brightly colored Oxford shirt. Play around with your style by rolling up your sleeves, leaving a button or two undone, and perhaps cuffing your pants.
Another classic prep-school pairing: the polo shirt. Be sure to tuck your polo in if you’re headed to the office. Khaki pants also go well with pullover sweaters and henleys. To mix classic preppy style with today’s streetwear trends, pair your khakis with a simple hoodie, a graphic tee from a preppy clothing brand, or a crisp white t-shirt.
How to Dress Up Khaki Pants
Khakis look equally as sharp in semi-formal settings, like a smart-casual office or a summer wedding. While you can get away with more utilitarian fits and rugged fabrics on the weekends, you should go with a pair that’s more trouser-like for anything formal. Invest in a high-quality pair with lightweight fabric, a tapered leg, and a smooth-front with slash pockets.
The easiest way to dress up khaki pants is to add a sport coat or blazer. Because khakis are more relaxed than most dress pants, choose a jacket that is less-structured as well. Stick to casual fabrics like cotton or linen. Underneath, wear a crisp collared shirt, preferably in a neutral shade or muted print. Be sure to tuck your shirt in, which helps the khakis feel a bit dressier. Finish with sleek accessories like a knit tie, nice watch, or a matching leather belt and loafers.
What Shoes Should I Wear with Khaki Pants?
While khaki pants are versatile enough to be worn with almost any pair of shoes in your wardrobe, they are most often worn with medium-brown dress shoes. They can also be paired with derby shoes, loafers, and Chelsea boots. For more casual settings, try a pair of canvas sneakers, boat shoes, chukkas, or combat boots.
Because of their earthy hue, khakis look best with brown leather and suede. While it’s not against the rules to wear black shoes with khakis, it isn’t exactly recommended. Black shoes are typically reserved for formal attire and can create a stark contrast with khakis. If you decide to wear black shoes, opt for a pair of khakis that’s more of a medium tan.
If there’s one thing to remember, it’s that khaki pants are one of the most versatile items in a man’s wardrobe. They can look rugged and manly or preppy and professional, depending on how you choose to style them. Follow the advice above, and you’re sure to look sharp in any pair of Southern Tide’s casual khaki pants.