man wearing jeans looking out at city view

The Essentials of Men’s Pants Chinos, workwear, joggers, dress pants, jeans, track pants, what else?

Pants are often the defining factor of an overall look. You can choose to dress up or down a collared shirt, a tee, even a blazer, but you could never wear sweatpants to a wedding–unless you’re fiending for a public shaming by the bride.

Understand your pants, Sir. Here’s the essential breakdown of men’s bottoms: types of pants, and when and how to wear them.

Men’s Jeans

men's pants - men's jeans
Tommy Hilfiger

On a scale from casual to formal: Casual

Fabric: Denim is a sturdy, cotton-woven textile that’s dyed indigo blue and is fairly stretchable. Invented as durable pants for gold miners, jeans have always possessed a rugged charm.

Fit: Typically you want to go with a slim fit, which hugs the thighs, knees, and calves while loosening up around your ankles. This style is crisp and clean. If you have larger legs, you can wear a straight fit, which is the same width all the way down. Classic fit, baggier jeans tend to produce a flare or bunched up fabric at the ankle, so we don’t advise them. Baggy jeans may be functional, but they look just that: solely functional.

Colors/Styling: The classic wash starts inky blue and is then rinsed with cold water, bleach, and a lightening agent. Light colored jeans are more casual, while darker washes appear more formal. Dark jeans can be worn with casual blazers, peacoats, boots, and oxfords for a business casual (more toward casual) look.

Men's Pants - Dark Jeans and Blazer
Lifestyle by PS

If you want to go all out on the offhand aesthetic, wear raw, selvedged or distressed denim. Gracefully placed rips and tears will give you an edge, but beware not to go overboard at risk of looking like a sketch weed dealer (especially now that cannabis is legal).

men's pants - distressed denim
Jumpstartcoffee / GFClarke

Men’s Chinos

men's pants - men's chinos
Ben Sherman

On a scale from casual to formal: Casual, Semi-formal

Fabric: Chinos are made from twilled cotton, which is softer and more easily draped than denim. The cloth itself originates from China, and the trousers were known as “pantalones chinos” by Spanish military vets returning from the Philippines. Chinos have a lighter fabric and finer finish than khakis, which makes these pants better for business casual or semi-formal settings.

Fit: Chinos provide a straight silhouette with a clean, tapered look. Most of these pants have flat fronts, but if you have larger legs, you can go for a pleated front. These trousers have a higher rise, sitting right above the waist, and they are tailored to be worn with belts instead of suspenders.

men's pants - Pleated Front Chinos
Joseph Turner

For a casual vibe, wear looser, athletic-fit Chinos and cuff the pant legs by rolling them.

Men's Pants - Chinos Rolled Pants
Lifestyle by PS / The Idle Man

Colors/Styling: There’s a wide range. Safe bets are beige, navy, and black, but plenty of people have fun with bold and pastel colors. Since Chinos look inherently clean, there’s more flexibility in exploring colors and prints. We suggest pairing these semi-formal pants with boat shoes, sneakers, or even high-tops.

Men's pants - colorful chinos

Men’s Dress Pants

men's pants - Boss dress pants
Hugo Boss

On a scale from casual to formal: Formal

Fabric: Dress pants are typically made of wool, polyester, or a synthetic blend. The woolen blend is ideal for comfort and durability; it’s more wrinkle-resistant, it’s cool in the summer, and it’s warm in the winter.

Fit: Dress pants should provide a smooth, unbroken silhouette. There should be no excess or billowing fabric. These pants are widest at the waist and taper to the ankles. They have a higher rise and are tailored to be worn with suspenders, but the proper fit won’t slip off your body, even without a belt or suspenders.

men's pants - dress pants
Express / BNT

If the crotch sags, your pants are too loose. And if wrinkles bunch when you walk, the pants are too tight. Pleats will help with mobility since they expand when you sit or stretch. But if your pleat folds are open even when you’re just standing straight, your pants are too tight.

Colors/Styling: These formal pants should remain in conservative colors like gray, navy, and black. Black tends to be a stark color, though, often drawing attention away from what’s worn above.

Men’s Workwear Pants

men's pants - workwear dickie's carhartts

On a scale from casual to formal: Casual

Fabric: Work pants are made of cotton duck, also known as duck canvas. This plain woven cotton fabric is sturdy and heavy, and it’s used for anything from sneakers to tents.

Fit: As of recent, workwear has crossed over into fashion streetwear. Work pants are marked by loose fits and riveted pockets. They’re the one style we’ll give a pass to for a bit of billowing at the ankles.

Read Workwear Style: How to Wear It

men's pants carhartts

It looks as if cargo pants are making a revival, but with a sleeker, more military fit–you know, instead of the “I’m wearing duffle bags on my legs” aesthetic.

Colors/Styling: Stick with traditional beige, navy, black, and perhaps, pinstripes. In a way, you can style workwear pants as mock dress pants in true alternative fashion.
Some stylish dudes might tell you to wear a casual blazer and roll up your pant legs to expose some nifty socks. Others will say a blazer with workwear is blasphemy. You can always wear Dickies and Carhartts with a tee shirt, jumper, or untucked collared shirt, and some sneakers or work boots.

men's pants - workwear pants
GQ / The Cut

But beware, no trend goes without some controversy:

Men's Workwear trend controversy

Men’s Sweatpants

men's pants - men's sweatpants

On a scale from casual to formal: Casual, V Casual

Fabric: Sweatpants are made of a heavy knit cotton or a cotton polyester blend. The fabric is soft, and in some cases, it will keep you insulated.

Fit: For fashion sweatpants, always go with a tapered fit. Anything looser will appear sloppy. If you want a bold, trendy look, you can try a harem fit that’s looser at the crotch and thighs before tapering from the knee downward.

men's pants - men's harem sweatpants
Doron Letzer / Outfit Trends

Colors/Styling: Grey, coal, ash, charcoal, dark but not quite black. Get the picture? When it comes to men’s fashion sweats, we’re going to suggest somewhere on the greyscale. After all, you’re basically walking out in gym or loungewear–try to keep it low key.

Since sweats are uber casual, you’ll want to pair them with top-notch kicks, like some squeaky clean white sneakers. You can wear a nice crewneck or denim jacket with sweats, but please don’t wear joggers with a blazer. These are nowhere near dress pants, so there’s no need to fool anyone.

Men’s Track Pants

men's pants - track pants

On a scale from casual to formal: Casual

Fabric: Track pants are made of lightweight nylon, which is smoother, shinier, and more breathable than sweatpants fabric.

Fit: Track pants have a straight cut running all the way down, which is often accentuated by vertical stripes or buttons down the side. These athletic bottoms are loose but not billowy, and there shouldn’t be any cloth gathered at your ankles. Do athletes train in ill-fitted pants with difficult mobility? Nah.

Men's track pants - adidas, Kappa
Kappa / Kappa / Adidas

Colors: We suggest you start with black track pants and white detailing, but you can go pretty bold with colors. Perhaps it’s because these athletic pants look more on-the-go than sweats that could be considered loungewear. So with bright colors, you’re screaming “I’M ACTIVE” instead of “I JUST NAPPED.” We’ve seen track pants in blue, red, even neon orange, and they look pretty damn good.

men's neon track pants
Vogue / Adidas

So there you have it: the basics to dressing your bottoms. How many of these looks do you think will last, and which ones are just trends? Let us know below.

Read Next Workwear Style: How to Wear It

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