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Chinos vs Khakis vs Dress Pants

Here's a side-by-side comparison of chinos, khakis, and dress pants so you can easily decide which pair you should wear for certain events, occasions, and dress codes.

Man in long sleeves and chinos standing against the concrete wall.

Men’s fashion offers endless choices, with many of these options falling into gray areas. The harsh truth is that while chinos, khakis, and dress pants (slacks) seem one and the same, they aren’t as interchangeable as you think. With no right or wrong answer, each style serves a different purpose.

Chinos are casual to semi-formal pants with a fitted, tapered cut and distinctive stitching. In comparison, khakis are thick, durable straight-legged cotton pants with trouser cuffs and generally serve well for utilitarian purposes. Lastly, dress pants are wool trousers suited for formal occasions.

While the differences may seem minor, each style is appropriate for a different occasion. So, without deep-diving into the history − as it provides no current relevance on where to and when to wear them − continue reading to understand the true difference between chinos, khakis, and dress pants.

Chinos vs Khakis vs Dress Pants

While many manufacturers and advertisers seem to stray from the actual boundaries and guidelines of what chinos, khakis, and dress pants are, we will provide a general approach to the differences between the three pant types. Hopefully, it’ll help ease your next trip to the mall.


Amazon Essentials Men's Classic-Fit Wrinkle-Resistant Flat-Front Chino Pant, Navy, 42W x 34L

Chinos are pants made from lightweight twill cotton or cotton blends that generally feature a fitted and slightly tapered cut as they lower down the leg allowing to cuff them or leave them uncuffed. In addition, they offer a distinctive streamline or stitching and never exhibit pleats or additional seams like other pants, giving them a dressier appearance.

Chino pants fall somewhere between formal and casual wear. While many people associate chinos with a “put-together” look because they are more classy than jeans or casual pants, they aren’t formal enough to wear to high-end events.

Instead of formal wear, chinos are ideal for someone seeking minimal aesthetics and versatility. You can wear them to school, work (business-casual look), out to dinner, at a semi-formal occasion, or while running weekend errands. More so, chinos are available in a wide range of colors like neutrals, khaki, navy, blue, salmon, cobalt, and many more, making these versatile pants worth every penny!

There are around 15 different chino styles for men and women.


Dockers Men's Straight Fit Signature Lux Cotton Stretch Pant, New British Khaki, 34W x 29L

Khakis are pretty challenging to pin down truly. Technically khaki pants are strictly a beige, tan, or dusty light brown shade. They were initially tinted using coffee, curry, or tobacco juice (I know we said we weren’t going to dive into the history, but regard this as an insightful, fun fact). However, many manufacturers now use khaki to describe the style of pants rather than the color.

Khakis are thick, straight-legged pants made from heavyweight cotton twill. In addition, you’ll typically find pleated khaki pants; however, new brands offer pants featuring a plain front.

Khaki pants display trouser cuffs at the bottom hems along with pockets and lack the distinctive interior stitching of chino pants. However, classic khakis are durable and generally serve utilitarian and heavy-duty purposes.

Although mostly bought for practical purposes, khakis now exhibit a unique and versatile style, making them perfect for workwear to casual wear. Interchangeably, you’ll find up to 21 different khaki pant varieties available for men and women.

Dress Pants (Slacks)

Calvin Klein Men Slim Fit Dress Pant, Grey, 32W x 32L

Dress pants or slacks are ultimately known as trousers suitable for formal occasions.

Dress pants are generally smooth, wool knit, polyester, or a synthetic blend. The dress pants made from wool will have a smooth finish and slight sheen. One typically wears dress pants to achieve a more “dressed up” look as they are more formal than jeans, khakis, or chinos.

Dress pants are part of the perfect attire for a wedding, job interview, business-professional, business-casual, and other formal events. Like other formal pants, you can wear dress pants with other matching suit pieces. Alternatively, dress them down by removing your belt and finishing your outfit with a t-shirt and funky blazer.

When the word “formal” is part of the dress code, put away the pair of chinos or khakis and opt for a set of dress pants instead.

Chinos, Khakis, and Dress Pants History

Black and white photo of men in formal suits.

A brief throwback in time allows us to understand where chinos, khakis, and dress pants originate − here’s the history of these pants.

A Brief History of Chinos

Like most iconic menswear, Chinos have a military origin; the simply genius pants were developed resulting from a practical, utilitarian need.

Originally, chino cloth came from a lightweight twill weave from China (hence its name). During the late 19th century, both the British and French military used chino to make their uniform trousers.

Then, the need for uniform trousers for the American soldiers serving in the Philippines (during the Spanish-American war), along with the cheaper costs and quicker imports from China, encouraged the Americans to purchase chino trousers similar to khakis.

The trousers had a straightforward and tapered design without pleats to save on costs, resulting in a smooth style. Similarly, the American soldiers had chino-styled uniform trousers during World War One.

The returning soldiers brought them home to civilians, and the Varsity students took to chinos after World War One − they are still a fashionable trend today!

A Brief History of Khakis

Khakis are older than chinos by a better of a century. In 1846, the very first khaki trousers originated when a British officer traded his company’s wool clothing for a lighter and looser cut made from native cotton while serving in Punjab.

Then, he dyed the trousers with a plant (Mazari) to produce a dusty tan color. The locals called the color “khaki,” meaning dust-colored in the Urdu language, giving it its common name.

By 1884, the entire British Empire formally took on khaki trousers as their uniform style after realizing that the khaki pants were a much better alternative to the traditional, sweltering wool of the previous uniform.

The British dyed the sturdy cotton fabric with coffee, curry, or tobacco juice to create a uniform that camouflages into the landscape.

By the 1900s, the cotton twill khakis became a trend as soon as the locals saw the returning soldiers in this sturdy yet comfy pair of pants.

A Brief History of Dress Pants (Slacks)

Slacks might have first originated in Central Asia as the oldest known trousers came from Yanghai cemetery in Turpan, western China.

The trousers were made of wool, exhibiting straight legs and wide crotches, primarily for horse riding.

While dress pants are historically made from wool, these pants are available in alternative, less expensive synthetic materials. In addition, the original weaving technique of wool dress pants makes them pretty heavy. Still, the unique method creates iconic patterns in the fabric.

By the 19th century, dress pants started to resemble the ones we wear today, featuring a loose fit and button fly.

Fun fact, many boast that Prince Edward VIII is why the front crease of dress pants is famous today.

Distinctive Features of Chinos, Khakis, and Dress Pants

Two men in chinos sitting on the street.

If you are still unsure how to tell these pants apart, rest assured, you will know in no time− take a brief look at the distinctive features for additional clarity on the critical differences between chinos, khakis, and dress pants.

Features Chinos Khakis Dress Pants (Slacks)
  • Chinos traditionally consist of lightweight, super-breathable cotton twill
  • Although modern chinos can contain a percentage of synthetic fabrics like polyester
  • Traditional khaki pants are a heavyweight cotton twill
  • However, many of the new varieties can include a blend of wool and cotton or a percentage of synthetic fabric
  • Traditional dress pants are generally wool
  • However, modern slacks can contain cotton, polyester, or other synthetic blends


  • Tapered leg and more fitted appearance
  • Lacks the center crease or pleats
  • Chinos have a design that fits snug, with a slightly more slimming and stylish look than khaki pants
  • Vertical Pockets: two in the front and two in the back
  • Interior seams
  • Zipper fly
  • Range in a wide variety of colors
  • Straight or single or double pleated leg with a looser and more boxy, utilitarian appearance
  • Cuffs at the ankles
  • Deep Pockets: two in the front and two in the back
  • Exterior stitching is common
  • Typically beige, tan, or dusty brown
  • Pleating in the front
  • Sharp creasing running down the front of the leg
  • Cuffs on the bottoms of the pants
  • Sheen and smoother finish than chinos or khakis
  • No decorative stitching
  • Dress pants occasionally exhibit a placket that hides clasps and buttons
  • Available in a variety of colors
  • Chinos are typically more robust than many other types of pants
  • The original chino cloth is a highly durable fabric that can withstand the hands of time
  • If you invest in a pair of high-quality chino pants, they are sure to offer countless years of use; you won’t have to fear that they will rip or sustain damage as long as you treat them with care
  • Khaki trousers are durable and wear well for an extended period
  • The tighter and heavier the weave, the longer it’ll last
  • As a bonus, their appearance may improve as you wear them more often and break them in
  • Dress pants made from wool are highly durable
  • Wool fabric can withstand daily use
  • Wool fibers are resilient and bend over 20,000 times before breaking, whereas cotton can bend only 3,000 times.
  • Wool’s fibers are springy, helping the trousers keep their original shape
  • Wool’s ability to withstand wear makes it a top choice for dress pants, coats, and suits


  • Widely varying prices
  • The price of chino trousers primarily depends on the brand.
  • Many high-end brands tend to sell pricy chinos
  • Chinos are generally pricier than khakis and cheaper than dress pants
  • Widely varying prices
  • While the price of khakis depends on the brand, they are typically more budget-friendly compared to chinos and dress pants
  • Widely varying prices
  • Dress pants are generally more expensive than chinos and khakis.
  • If you purchase dress pants from a premium brand, you’ll pay a hefty price.
  • On the contrary, regular brands offer lower prices
  • Semi-formal occasions
  • Business-casual
  • School
  • Informal get-togethers
  • Casual wear
  • Utilitarian and heavy-duty purposes
  • Formal settings
  • Semi-formal events
  • Business meetings
  • Weddings
  • Job interview
  • Suitable for machine wash
  • We do not recommend tumble drying them
  • Suitable for machine wash
  • We do not recommend tumble drying them
  • Dress pants require dry cleaning as the wool can shrink in the washer


Are Chinos and Khakis the Same Thing?

Even though many manufacturers like to use the terms “chinos” and “khakis” interchangeably, they aren’t the same. Chino trousers are offshoots of the original “khaki” pants, and they typically have a lighter fabric, interior seams, and a dressier look. In contrast, khakis are heavy and display a boxy and more utilitarian style.

Are Chinos Formal or Casual Attire?

Chinos are the perfect middle ground between formal and casual wear. Chinos are suitable for business casual or semi-formal and less informal events. However, they aren’t ideal for dressy occasions where a suit is required.

Is Dress Pant Only for Formal Occasions?

Dress pants are more versatile than suit pants (strictly for formal events and professional business settings); you can wear dress pants to smart-casual or business-casual settings.

Combine a pair of dress pants with an upper-body item like a T-shirt, cardigans, or sports coats to make them less formal.

Are Khaki Pants Only Khaki?

The term “khaki” means dust-colored in the Urdu language. Khaki trousers are available in similar colors like cream, beige, British khaki, tan, pebble, and taupe.

However, because manufacturers use the terms “chino” and “khaki” interchangeably, you may find other color variations of khaki trousers in stores.


All in all, we prefer meeting the trends, functionality, and price in the middle by choosing a pair of chino pants as a top buy.

Chino trousers are versatile pants that fit nearly every dress code! More so, chinos and available in an endless range of colors.

In addition, you can dress chinos up or down; they are perfect to wear for school, casual business meetings, a night out with your friends, or semi-formal occasions.