When it comes to wearing khaki pants, should you always wear them with a belt? Is it necessary to add a belt to complete your pants? There are a ton of style rules about belts and belt loops and pants and when to add a belt. But you don’t actually have to follow any rules. Should you wear a belt with khakis? What type of belt should you wear with them? Knowing when to add a belt and when to leave it in the closet will help you become an expert at styling khakis.
First, What Is Khaki?
To be technical about it, khaki is a color and not an item of clothing. Khaki itself refers only to a distinct shade of brown. Anything can actually be khaki, from shoes to purses to the couch in your living room. Curtains can be khaki. Wall paint even comes in khaki. But pants that are dyed khaki brown are often simply called “khakis.” When someone uses this word, you can bet that they’re referring to khaki pants and not to any other item or article of clothing. The color is so well known that you can probably picture it just when you hear the word. Khaki is a light shade of brown, sort of similar to the color of dust.
The real story is where this color came from and why it’s so heavily associated with pants in particular. And for that story, you’ve got to go way back…and to a different part of the world.
The First Khakis
Khakis were first worn by the British military, appearing around the 1850s. The pants were adopted by British soldiers in India. The British uniform of the day was made with wool and it was hot and stifling in the 100-degree Indian summers. They improvised, swapping out the heavy uniforms for lightweight cotton pajamas. They dyed the pajamas with mud and a plant called marazi that is native to Punjab. This created a beige-colored, lightweight outfit that was airy and comfortable to wear.
A khaki dye formula was patented in 1899. The British military had settled on just the right shade. This is the khaki they wore through both world wars and several other military conflicts. By then, the U.S. military had already discovered the color. They were wearing khaki during the Spanish-American War of 1898. They wore pants known as “chinos,” which have since emerged on the fashion scene as their own distinctive style.
Khaki also became popular with outdoorsy people of all types around the turn of the century. Famous personalities like Earnest Hemingway favored the color, which was associated with adventure, exploration and activity.
One smart businessman wasn’t about to ignore this sweeping fashion trend. Levi Strauss, who along with tailor Jacob Davis had created the first blue jeans, knew a good idea when he saw one. In 1905, Levi Strauss & Co. introduced their khaki pants, along with a whole range of khaki clothing items.
Another World War, WWII, introduced more women to khaki pants. As they went to work in factories and on farms, they started to wear pants and other clothing items that make it possible to work. When the soldiers returned from war, they kept right on wearing their khaki pants even in civilian life. By the 1950s, khaki pants were a bona fide trend.
Companies like Levi Strauss began making khaki pants as a regular part of their clothing catalog. In fact, Levi Strauss & Co. went on to create an entire brand dedicated to their khaki pants: Dockers.
Wearing a Belt With Khakis
If you’re wearing suit pants and they have belt loops, you probably know that you absolutely must fill them with a belt…according to some style professional somewhere. But there are plenty of rules in fashion that aren’t really rules.
When it comes to khakis, there are lots of looks that don’t need a belt…and maybe some that do. When should you and when should you not wear a belt with your khakis? When you do, what type of belt should you wear? These are style questions that everyone must face. Now, it’s time to get all the answers and start styling some much better-looking outfits.
Elevated T Shirt Style
Loafers with no-show socks, a pair of khaki pants, a T-shirt and a blazer is a classic, cool look that suits men or women of any age. You just can’t go wrong with this combination, even if you wear it with a belt. If you like, you can always skip the belt. The T-shirt is casual enough that a belt is not needed and sometimes, it can clutter the look. Try this classic outfit all by itself without the belt and you may love how it looks on you.
You can go super casual and skip the blazer, wearing khaki pants with T-shirts and sneakers. Add a belt if you want but make sure it’s a casual belt. Most of the time, you won’t need a belt if you’re wearing your khakis with a T.
If you’re wearing a collared button down shirt, what kind of vibe are you striking? If you’re wearing the button down untucked and loose with your khakis, forget about the belt. This is a super laid back, sort of beachy and relaxed look. That means no belt is needed. This will look fine with a pair of canvas sneakers, maybe a pair of slides or loafers.
But if you’re wearing a button down shirt that’s a bit more fitted and tucked into your khakis, you definitely want to add a belt. Even if you’re striking a more casual vibe by unbuttoning the top button of the shirt and rolling up the sleeves, you want to add a belt. If you’re striking a more relaxed look, pair this with sneakers. If you’re going for something that’s a little less casual, oxfords or loafers will finish this outfit off nicely.
The Polo Shirt
Of course, there is an in-between that lies smack in the middle of the T-shirt and the collared button-down. Here sits the polo shirt, that collared but casual, businessy and yet sporty hybrid of the fashion world. Pairing a polo shirt with khaki pants is so classic, it’s used in many different work uniforms and the two items are sold very close together in most stores. But are you supposed to add a belt to this fashion mix?
Whether or not you add a belt to your polo shirt and khakis all depends on the style mood you want to create. If you are being a bit more sporty or casual, whether you are tucked or untucked, you can choose not to wear a belt. Your pants should always fit you well enough that you don’t actually need a belt to keep them in place, so there is no practical reason for a belt. It’s all about style. And in casual style, you don’t have to add a belt to most outfits.
But if you’re trying to look a bit more professional or polished, a belt is in order. Capture a preppy look by tucking your shirt in and wearing loafers or boat shoes. Look a little more elegant with a blazer and boating shoes.
Choosing the Right Belt for Your Khakis
Style experts say that it’s a good idea to keep a few belts on hand, a couple of different belts at least, to easily match any look you’re trying to create. It’s a good idea to have at least one dress belt, which will be a somewhat thin leather belt. This should be black, to match most formal shoes and formal looks.
At least one casual belt, even a couple, isn’t out of order, either. Casual belts can be made of leather, too, but they’re usually a little bit wider and may have a distressed or rugged look. The buckles on these belts may also be larger. Slimmer, more conservative styles work better for more formal styles. A brown or black leather belt, or both, is perfect for any casual outfit that involves khakis. Braided and woven leather belt styles work well. Canvas and other materials also make great belts.
The great thing about khakis is that it’s hard to go wrong They are trulyall[uprose pants that can be used for casual, semi formal, even more businessy looks. You can put them on to appear a little more put together or you can wear them just to create a great casual, stylish vibe.
Should You Wear a Belt With Khakis?
Should you wear a belt with khakis? What type of belt? That depends entirely on the style you want to create, whether you’re being casual and laid back or elegant and understated. There are times when you can choose to wear a belt, times when you should leave it off and others times when you definitely want to have it on. Knowing how to tell the difference is part of the secret to creating great style. Once you do, you won’t go wrong with your outfits.
Styling khakis is a bit more complicated than you might have thought. There’s a lot to know about khakis and you might have a lot more questions. Get the answers to the most frequently asked questions about khakis and get to know all the styling secrets of wearing these pants well.
Are khakis dress pants?
Casual pants? Dress pants? Something in-between? It’s hard to know exactly where khaki falls into all the different clothing categories that are supposed to b helpful but actually aren’t. Are khakis dress pants?
Dress pants are a pair of pants, or slacks, that are not casual pants but are not part of a suit. When you’re wearing pants that are part of a suit but without the jacket, they’re called suit pants. Khakis are pants you wear that don’t belong to a suit but that doesn’t mean they’re dress pants.
Most khaki pants are made with somewhat more casual styling but even in more elegant styles, khaki is considered to be a less formal color. Dress pants are often made in gray, black and navy, though they can be made in any color. Well-fitting, nicely tailored khakis that are styled well with other pieces can be considered to be dress pants. But most of the time, khakis have a reputation for being more casual so this is a hard look to pull off.
Are khakis professional?
When styled well with other items, khaki pants can be a very professional choice. Wear well-tailed khaki pants with a blazer on slightly more casual office days. A button-up shirt and no blazer will suffice for more business casual looks. Just remember not to wear tennis shoes. That’s too casual for a business environment.
How do khakis fit?
Khaki pants are supposed to look good and feel comfortable. If your khakis don’t fit you properly, neither of these things are possible. You need khakis that fit around your waist or hips, depending on the rise style of the pants. They should fit around the hips, not tight enough to squeeze you but not loose enough to cause gapping when you sit or twist. The pants also should have a somewhat roomy fit, with enough space for you to move comfortably.
As for length, the pants should end right at your ankles unless you plan to cuff the bottom of the pants. If you’re going to cuff, the pants should be two to three inches past your ankle.
How should khakis be washed?
When you need to wash your khakis, check the care label first. This will usually be around the waistband of the khakis. If nothing else, it should contain information about the fabric so you could look online to find the best ways to machine wash that particular type of fabric. A good rule of thumb to follow, however, is to machine wash khakis in cold or warm water and machine dry them on low heat. Many khaki pants are made with cotton or a cotton blend. Because cotton can shrink in the presence of heat, avoid using hot water or high dryer heat when washing your khakis sot hey will retain their shape.
Art of Manliness – Style Staples: A Man’s Guide to Khakis
The Closet Collaborative – To Belt or Not to Belt: Are Empty Belt Loops a Fashion Faux Pas?
Dockers – The History of Khaki
Heddels – The History of Khaki: Anything But Drab
Our Everyday Life – Dress Pants Vs. Khakis
Our Everyday Life – How to Clean Khakis