The khaki pant originated in the 1840s when the British were fighting in India. One legend states that soldiers began dying their white uniforms with tea, curry, and dust to camouflage themselves. Another states it was a commander who wore pajama pants and colored them to hide that he was wearing bedclothes into battle to beat the heat.
From there, Britain and America began incorporating them into military uniforms. By 1906 a Levi subsidiary began to bring them into the mainstream. In the 1950s they became popular on college campuses. They’ve been a staple of the American wardrobe ever since.
What are Khakis?
Like many things in the fashion world, the definition of khakis is difficult to pin down. Technically, khaki is a beige, tan, or brown color. In addition, today khaki is used to describe a type of pant, that may or may not be khaki in color.
It can also refer to the type of twill cotton fabric the pants are made of, although khaki jeans are a different fabric. To further muddy the proverbial waters, chinos and khakis are often used interchangeably. Chinos can be khaki in color but refer to a specific type of pant only.
Confused yet? Don’t worry, this article is here to explain everything you need to know about khakis.
Types of Khakis for Men and Women
Most of the basic types of khakis apply to men and women. There are some differences, which we’ll get to. While they were originally male attire, just like jeans, they are now beloved by both genders.
Types of khakis include:
- Classic khakis
- Cargo and Carpenter pants
- Khaki Jeans
Khakis and chinos are often used interchangeably, but there are some differences between them. The simplest way to differentiate is that chinos are considered business attire, while khakis can be considered business casual or casual.
Chinos are made with a lighter weight cotton fabric, and they have visible stitching. This makes them the more formal of the two. When they are khaki in color, they are khaki chinos. Other colors are simply a chino pant.
Classic khakis are similar to chinos, but the stitching is hidden. They are also made from a heavier cotton fabric, which makes them more durable and utilitarian. They range from casual pants to workwear.
Cargo and Carpenter Pants
We also know cargo pants as cargo trousers. They differ from classic khakis because they have at least two extra pockets, known as cargo pockets, and a looser fit.
Cargo pants are popular because the large pockets can hold your personal belongings or the tools of your trade. This has made them popular in streetwear as well as blue-collar professions. They design the fit for the movement. You can bend over or kneel without the trousers restricting your movement.
Carpenter pants are cargo pants with a loop designed for holding a hammer.
Khaki jeans are often used as work pants because they provide durability and comfort. Khaki jeans are actually denim jeans in khaki color.
Women’s khaki jeans are often blended with spandex to provide stretch and a smoother look. Men’s khaki jeans are typically a relaxed fit. They can be considered business casual attire, but they are also a great choice for a trip to the store or as a work pant.
A jogger pant is similar to sweatpants, with lighter material. Traditional joggers have a loose fit, an elastic or drawstring waist, and elastic at the ankles. They are designed to give you room to move when you are working out or jogging, and the fabric helps keep you cool.
Today’s joggers range from athletic wear to fitted casual styles. They are extremely comfortable, making them ideal for lounging or going out with friends.
Khaki Men’s Pants
Khakis are a classic part of men’s fashion. Their versatility, from casual business attire to work pants, makes it an essential part of a man’s wardrobe.
When it comes to men’s pants, the types of khakis you should know about are:
- Cuffed and Uncuffed
- Pleated and Flat Front
- Canvas khakis
Cuffed and Uncuffed
It’s one of the many choices men have to make when choosing a pair of khakis. A hem has the fabric turned up and sewn on the inside of the pant. Cuffed pants have the fabric turned up on the outside of the pants.
Cuffed pants are considered more formal. Both are suitable choices to wear with a suit, but cuffed pants are not considered a black tie. Cuffed pants can accentuate height and bring attention to dress shoes.
Pleated and Flat Front
Pleated pants have one or more pleats on each side down the front of the pant. Flat front pants have a flat front, as the name suggests.
Generally, pants with cuffs should be worn with pleated pants. Single pleat pants can have cuffs or a straight hem. Double pleated pants should always have a cuff.
Pleated pants add more interest, but they also add more bulk. Most men will find flat-front trousers more flattering.
The common types of fit for men’s khakis are slim fit, classic, and wide leg.
Slim fit should fit your body closely without being too tight. Some have a tapered leg while others are straight leg. It’s particularly flattering for slim men.
A classic fit is also known as a relaxed fit. These trousers are comfortable and flattering for any body type.
Wide leg pants provide the comfort of baggy pants while still looking elegant. They are wider in the thigh, which provides a roomy fit and a flowing look. They are usually cuffed because the extra weight allows the pants to hang better.
Athletic pants are designed for men with larger thighs. These casual pant can be worn when working out, but they are also well suited to flatter your figure in any situation. Unlike wide-leg pants which provide a loose fit all the way down the leg, athletic pants usually narrow below the knee. This gives the look of a fitted pant that accommodates a larger thigh and seat.
Canvas khakis were made famous by Carhart. There are many brands that carry the pant, but for many, this type of pant will always be known as Carharts, regardless of brand. These canvas pants are traditionally khaki in color. They are excellent utility pants. The heavy-duty fabric provides protection from the elements and everyday wear and tear. In addition, Carhart khakis are flame resistant, adding another type of protection to this work pant.
Khaki Women’s Pants
Khaki pants aren’t just for men anymore. They are a key piece of women’s attire. They can be flattering to any figure and are a perfect mix between dressy and casual.
In addition to the khakis listed at the beginning, women’s khakis include:
- Flat front
- Leggings and jeggings
- Cigarette pants
- Palazzo pants
Cuffed pants have the fabric turned up on the outside of the pants, while hemmed pants have the fabric sewn onto the inside. Most women will find uncuffed khakis to be more flattering. Cuffed trousers create a shorter appearance, so they are ideal for women who are 5’9” or taller.
Flat front pants have a flat front panel, while pleated pants have one or two pleats on each side of the front. Pleated pants create a bulkier appearance. Women generally prefer a flatter slimmer figure, so most women’s pants should be a flat front.
Women’s khakis come in a few basic fits. Slim fit provides a slim silhouette because the pants are form-fitting. The smooth lines are flattering for most body types.
Relaxed or trouser fit pants are great for women with full hips and thighs.
Tapered pants taper below the knee to provide a close fit around the calf and ankle. This fit accentuates your hips, so it’s ideal for women who want to give a curvier appearance.
Leggings and Jeggings
When it comes to leggings, khaki refers to the color of the pants. Leggings are typically made with cotton or polyester blended with lycra or spandex. They are skin tight and stretchy, similar to tights but made from thicker material.
How tight and thick the leggings are will determine if they are appropriate to wear with shorter shirts. If the leggings don’t provide adequate coverage and support for your rear, pair it with a tunic, skirt, or dress.
Jeggings are a bit closer to jeans and can be worn with any type of top. They are designed to give you the comfort of leggings, but the material is thicker so they provide more coverage. Jeggings are often designed to mimic jeans, or in our case, khakis, with details like stitching and even fake pockets.
Cigarette pants are a type of slim fit pant. They have a side or back zipper and provide a slimming appearance. Cigarette pant khakis are easy to dress up or down. If you find the look isn’t quite working for you, try adding a pair of heels to give your look a little more length.
Palazzo pants are the opposite of cigarette pants. They have a generous fit that gives them a flowing appearance. Depending on the cut and material, they can even look like a skirt when you are in motion. Khaki palazzo pants are a fashion statement. Pair it with a fitted shirt to balance the loose pant.
Still have questions about khaki pants? Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about this ubiquitous fashion staple.
What is the difference between men’s and women’s pants?
The biggest difference between men’s and women’s pants is size. Men’s pants sizes are standardized. The first number is the inches around the waist, and the second number is the length of the legs or inseam.
Women’s pants start at 0 and go up from there. Standard sizes generally go up to twelve, and plus sizes go to 24. Unfortunately, there is no standard sizing for women’s pants, so one brand 2 could be another brand’s 6.
Can women wear men’s pants?
There are several ways men’s pants are more appealing than women’s pants. Sizing makes it simple to discover your size. They have more generous pockets and they are often better constructed.
The best way for a woman to wear men’s pants is to purchase pants that fit the hips and have them altered. Men’s pants are designed to be altered, but women’s pants are not.
How do you determine your pants size?
To determine the pants size, you’ll need to measure your waist. Round up to the nearest whole number. To measure your inseam, you’ll begin at the crotch and go to the ankle or foot, depending on where you want the pants to fall.
For women’s pants, you can take your measurements and refer to a size chart. Keep in mind that women’s sizes are not universal, and can vary between brands.
Are khaki pants still in style?
Khaki pants are still in style and show no sign of leaving the fashion scene anytime soon. Their comfort and versatility make them a great wardrobe choice for nearly any occasion.
What Colors Do Khakis Come In?
While the color khaki is always a shade of beige, tan, or brown, khaki pants can come in any color imaginable.
For men, navy, gray, olive green, and black are good choices. Women generally have more color choices. In addition to classic men’s colors, women’s khakis can be found in white, teal, pale blue, and burgundy are popular.
Are khaki pants slacks?
Slacks are another fashion term that has a confusing meaning, but it’s actually quite simple. Slacks are dress pants. Dress pants are slacks. Khakis are not dress pants. Nor are their close cousin, chinos.
Are Chinos Trousers?
Trousers and chinos are often used interchangeably to refer to men’s dress pants, but they are different types of pants. Trousers are dress pants, which are also known as slacks or suit pants. Combinations of these terms can also be used. Dress trousers, trouser slacks, trouser pants, all refer to the same thing.
While chinos are considered more formal than khakis, they are not as formal as trousers.
Are khaki pants business casual or professional?
Khakis are business casual. Requirements for business professionals include a collared shirt and tie for men with slacks or dress pants, and a suit jacket. Women should wear a collared shirt and pants or skirt suit. Dress shoes are required.
If your company has a relaxed dress code, you can choose business casual attire. khakis in khaki color, navy, blue, or black are acceptable. Loafers or casual shoes are a good choice. Athletic shoes and open-toed shoes should not be worn.
What to wear with khaki pants?
You can wear nearly anything with khaki pants, depending on the situation and the look you are going for. Go for the classic preppy look with a polo, cardigan, henley, or oxford shirt. An oversized hoodie will give you a casual-cool style. Adding a camo jacket gives you a unique look without trying too hard.
In addition to all of the above, women can pair khakis with a sheer or flowing top for an evening look.
What type of shoes to wear with khakis?
Again, this depends on the look you are going for. Dress shoes or loafer work well for men if you are going for a business casual or preppy style. Women can pair them with dress shoes, boots, or sandals. If your goal is casual comfort, you can wear them with your favorite athletic shoes.
When and how to wash khaki pants?
Someone needs to hear this. If you are still washing your pants after every wear, you are doing it wrong. Khakis need to be washed after being worn two to three times. There are exceptions to this rule. If you’ve been working out in them or they are stained, it’s time to wash them.
Lighter khakis show stains, so you’ll want to use a stain remover as soon as possible. Let the remover sit for at least 15 minutes and wash them in warm (not hot) water. Dry them on low heat to prevent shrinkage.
How can you soften Carhartt pants?
Carhartt pants, and similar garments from other brands, are made from cotton canvas. This heavy fabric is extremely durable, but it’s also extremely stiff. You don’t have to sacrifice comfort for practicality.
You can soften them by washing them alone with a cup of vinegar. Stop the cycle once agitation is complete, and let the pants sit in the vinegar for 20 minutes or longer. Then begin the cycle again and allow it to complete.
You can also put them in the dryer with a clean tennis shoe. Run them on an air dry cycle for at least 20 minutes. The shoe will beat the stiffness out of your pants so you don’t have to.
Should khaki pants be ironed?
If you want to skip ironing, let them air dry. You can let them dry straight out of the washing machine, or pull them from the dryer when they are still slightly damp. If you want your khakis (and yourself) to look their best, you really should iron them.
To iron khakis turn them inside out. You’ll see two seams on each pant leg and one on the back of the pants. When you wash, these seams come together and stick up. Place the leg seams in the center and iron them flat, then iron the back seam. This will give the khakis a smoother appearance.