The words “chinos” and “khakis” are often used to describe the same pair of pants, however, they are quite different styles. The differences between chinos and khakis may be quite subtle from a distance, but there are certain characteristics that set each pair apart. Today we’re going to help you out by answering the question: what’s the difference between chinos and khakis?
In short, chinos are made from either 100% cotton, or a lightweight cotton blend fabric, and offer a slim-fitting, modern, and more formal look. Khakis, on the other hand, are made from a sturdy cotton twill fabric, and offer a more traditional look that features a looser cut and more casual feel.
While many people will use the terms interchangeably, khakis and chinos are two very different items of clothing. For that reason, today we are going to delve deeper into the differences between these two types of pants and when it is most appropriate to choose either chinos or khakis.
What Are Chinos?
When choosing between these two styles of pants, you should to opt for chinos if you are looking for a slightly smarter and more formal pair of pants.
According to my research, the word chino was first used to describe China in Spanish, and this is where the fabric for the pants was first sourced from. During the two World Wars, chinos were commonly worn and were part of the US Army’s uniform.
These days, however, chinos have become known for their clean, preppy style and are regularly worn by famous actors and celebrities.
Put simply, they offer a timeless style and look that’s hard to beat.
As I mentioned, this style of pants is usually made from 100% cotton or a cotton blend, so they then to be lightweight, and often allow a bit of stretch.
They are an ideal pairing with a smart top for business-casual occasions, such as working in the office or going for dinner at a restaurant. And, since chinos are usually slimmer cut than khakis, they are a great style choice whenever you’re aiming for a clean, modern look.
As an added bonus, chinos can be paired with a wide variety of shirts and sweaters during different seasons, which makes them an incredibly versatile item to keep in your wardrobe.
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What Are Khakis?
Apparently, khakis were first worn in the 19th Century when a British Lieutenant named Sir Harry Lumsden decided to dye the trousers his troops wore while fighting in Afghanistan. Instead of their previous white color, they were transformed into a dull yellow and brown shade, which was named khaki. These became a popular piece of military uniform, as they acted as a great piece of camouflage when in battle.
These days, due to their comfort and cut, which is a bit roomier, they are considered to be more a more traditional option than chinos.
They are usually made from a heavyweight cotton twill material, which will feel much heavier than the light cotton fabric used to create chinos. The stitching on khakis is visible, one of the easiest ways to tell these two styles of pants apart in a store. These pants also have more pronounced pockets, whereas chino pockets are less prominent.
Khakis can be worn all year round and offer many of the same benefits as jeans, as they are a comfortable piece of everyday clothing.
Choosing Between Chinos Or Khakis
Now that you know the key features of both of these pairs of pants, it’s important to consider when you would wear either style.
If you work in an office that has a business casual dress code, a pair of chinos will be the ideal addition to your work wardrobe. They can be dressed up or down with various shirts and are comfortable to wear all day long. If you are heading out for drinks or dinner after work, they are a versatile item of clothing that’s perfect for personal use as well as work. They are a great option for settings where you feel a jacket and trousers would be overkill, but where jeans and a t-shirt will look like you made no effort.
On the other hand, khakis are ideal for wearing at home or for more active events and occasions. Due to their looser fit, they’re more comfortable than chinos if you are going to be out and about all day long. Oh, and with their dark color, you don’t have to worry too much about getting khakis dirty, as they were designed to blend in with their surroundings.
All that said, at times, khakis and chinos look incredibly similar, so many people opt to wear them both to work. When dressed up with a jacket or smart shirt, khakis can look just as smart as chinos. As a good rule of thumb, you might want to wear khakis in situations where you feel jeans will look too casual, but you don’t want to look overdressed.
Styling A Pair Of Chinos
Both chinos and khakis can be worn in business casual work settings, however, chinos are definitely our top recommendation. For a complete work outfit, pair a slim-fitting button-down, such as an Oxford shirt, with your chinos.
Or, for a more professional look, a tailored jacket with either leather work shoes or brogues will finish your outfit off nicely.
Chinos come in a wide selection of colors, and a darker shade will be the most appropriate choice for work. However, you might try mixing in a light tan, or even, a light blue pair every now and then.
Styling A Pair Of Khakis
Khakis can be a little more challenging to style for work due to their slightly fuller appearance. Ensure your outfit doesn’t look too mismatched or over-sized if you choose to wear khakis to your office.
For a more relaxed outfit, khakis go great with a plain t-shirt during the summer months or a sweater in the fall and winter. Also, you may want to add a simple belt and watch to the outfit–just don’t go overboard on the accessories.
Shopping For Chinos And Khakis: A Few Tips
When you are shopping for chinos or khakis, you want to ensure you buy a pair of pants that will look good and fit well to your body.
Buy Multiple Colors Of Chinos
Since chinos come in a wide range of colors, it’s best to grab a couple of different pairs for various occasions, settings, and seasons. Remember this, lighter colors are good for the summer and spring months, while darker colors work for fall and winter.
What Out For Bulky Pockets On Khakis
When choosing a pair of khakis, you’ll notice they have more pronounced pockets, so you’ll want to ensure the pockets are well located on the pants and don’t make them look even bulkier.
Flat Front Vs. Pleated
Chinos will usually have flat fronts, which are better for slimmer men, and offer a modern and fashionable look. Khakis can be either pleated or flat, and you may find pleats are more flattering if you find you hold extra weight around your middle.
Watch The Length And Waist
As with all pants, you’ll want to ensure both the waist and the leg measurements are correct for your body, especially if you are shopping for a new pair of pants online. Ill-fitting clothes will wreck a good outfit quicker than anything, so if they don’t fit just right, send them back and buy something different.
The Bottom Line
Chinos and khakis have many similarities, so it’s easy to see why people often get them confused. Generally, chinos are more modern than khakis, and they are the ideal pair of pants to add to your work wardrobe. You’ll find chinos come in a huge range of colors nowadays, so they are ideal for wearing throughout the year. So ultimately, you should own a few lighter pairs for the summer months and a few darker pairs for the colder months.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a comfortable pair of pants to wear at home or in the garden, you’ll find khakis to be a great option. With a slightly looser fit than chinos, they are comfy to wear all day long and can be dressed up or down depending on your mood.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our look into chinos and khakis today. While it’s easy to get them confused, you should now be equipped with all the knowledge you need to differentiate between these popular styles.
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