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Chinos vs Dress Pants: What’s The Difference

Chinos vs Dress Pants: What's The Difference

If you’re shopping around and getting ready to upgrade your wardrobe, or you’re trying to plan out your outfit, you’ll often be faced with an important decision: Should you wear chino pants or dress pants?

These two types of pants have striking differences in their appearance and the scenarios for which you would wear them. To help you decide which is the right choice for you, we’re going to take a deep dive into the debate of chinos vs dress pants. By the end of this article, you’ll know what to wear to the office, to date night, or anything in between.

Let’s start with a breakdown of these two types of pants.

What Are Chino Pants?

Every man needs at least one or two pairs of chino pants in their wardrobe. These are incredibly versatile. You can dress them up for more formal occasions, or dress them down for casual wear. They help you fill in the gaps where jeans are too casual and dress pants are too formal.

You can wear custom made chinos to the office, out on dates, and all sorts of other scenarios. They are a pretty lightweight type of pants, and fit a bit more snug and tailored than dress pants. Most often, these are crafted from a comfortable cotton twill fabric.

You’ll find these in a range of colors – including the common khaki, gray, black, and navy. However, you may even come across more off-the-wall color options like red, salmon, and more.

What Are Dress Pants?

You’re likely already familiar with what dress pants are. You’ll also hear dress pants referred to as slacks. These are a more formal type of bottom and are worn with suits or a button-up shirt of some sort. In fact, many times you’ll end up buying dress pants as part of a package with a matching coat or vest. However, you can always buy tailored dress pants and build outfits around them later on.

If your workplace enforces a strict dress code, or you have a formal dinner or wedding coming up – dress pants are the obvious choice. While you can tailor them to fit tighter and showcase a more tapered look, they tend to fit a bit looser. And, they’re crafted from fabrics like wool that have a bit more sheen and a smoother finish.

What Is The Difference Between Chinos and Dress Pants?

Now that you know a bit more about these two types of pants comes the big question: what is the difference between chinos and dress pants? When should you wear each one, and which ones will you wear more frequently?

This second question is especially important to ask if you’re looking to fill out your wardrobe for a new job. You may be shopping for multiple pairs to help you get through the workweek and don’t want to waste any of your budget on pants you only wear every few weeks.

Don’t worry – we’re going to compare and contrast chinos vs dress pants to help you pick the right pair. We’ll start by comparing dress codes:

When To Wear Dress Pants vs Chinos

The most obvious difference between dress pants vs chinos is when you would wear each style. As you can probably surmise from what we’ve covered so far, dress pants are the more formal choice while chinos are great for business casual settings.

If you are planning out an outfit for a wedding, formal dinner event, or are required to wear business formal at work – stick with dress pants. But, if you have a bit more leeway in your workplace dress code and can settle for business casual, you may want to consider chinos. They also work great as semi-formal wear on date nights, brunches, etc.

Details Are More Prominent On Dress Pants Than Chinos

Another difference between these two styles is the level of detail you can see in each one. When comparing chinos to dress pants, you’ll notice that dress pants have a very prominent center crease in them, and they also have pleats. Chinos, on the other hand, do not have pleats or creases. They are flat all the way around the leg.

And, dress pants have a distinct sheen to them. This is due to the wool fabric used, which creates a smoother, shinier finish that creates a more formal appearance. Chinos are a bit duller due to the cotton twill fabric they’re constructed from.

These details make the dress pants look a bit more formal than chinos, which goes back to what we just discussed in our previous point: dress pants are the premium, formal choice.

Required Maintenance Varies On Slacks vs Chinos

One of the most overlooked considerations in the slacks vs chinos debate is the maintenance required for each style. When we say “maintenance” we’re really just talking about washing, drying, ironing, etc.

As you may already know, slacks need to be dry cleaned professionally. Sure, you can try and run your wool slacks through a cold wash cycle and allow them to air dry. But even still, you’ll experience some degree of shrinking. And some detergents can actually degrade the wool fabric, leading to fading and pilling of your pants. As such, most men get their slacks dry cleaned. This keeps them in their original condition for longer, but it’s no doubt a hassle to keep in mind when shopping.

Chinos, on the other hand, are very easy to maintain. They can be washed and dried normally because cotton twill is a low-maintenance fabric. With that said, we still recommend washing on cold and either tumble drying or hang drying to reduce the risk of shrinkage.

Consider The Cost Of Slacks vs Chinos As Well

Another important factor – especially if you’re updating your entire wardrobe for a new job – is the cost of these two types of pants. Slacks vs chinos vary a bit in terms of cost. This goes back to the materials used – because wool is considered a more premium fabric, slacks will cost a bit more than cotton twill chinos.

However, you typically get what you pay for – which is why we advise you to avoid shopping based on price alone. If you are looking for the best deal and trying to get cheap slacks or cheap dress pants, don’t be surprised when you end up with a low quality, itchy, poor-fitting pair of pants.

Chinos vs Dress Pants: Which Style Is Right For You?

All things considered, it’s time to address the main question at hand today: which of these styles is right for you? When it comes down to it, only you can answer this question for yourself. There are a few questions you can ask yourself to help you narrow down your decision in the chinos vs dress pants debate:

What Is The Dress Code?

If you’re attending a formal event or have a strict work dress code, dress pants will probably be your best bet. However, if the dress code allows for semi-casual or business formal, chinos work just fine. There will be some situations where you can go with either style – and you’ll just have to use your best judgment.

Those who are here reading this guide to make sure they adhere to their work dress code really only need to consider this question. If your boss wants you to wear dress pants daily, that is what you’ll have to stick with. If your workplace has a more semi-casual or business formal dress code, you may be able to get away with chinos – but it won’t hurt to have some slacks in your arsenal, either.

What Does The Rest Of Your Outfit Look Like?

Sure, you can start by building your outfit from the pants up – and then this doesn’t really matter. However, if you already have an idea of what shirt you want to wear, and whether you want to pair a jacket with it, you’ll want to consider which style of pants will work best.

For example, if you’re looking to wear a polo shirt – slacks are not a great choice, there will be incongruence in the formality of your top and bottom. Instead, chinos would be the right choice. On the other hand, if you’re planning on wearing a button-up shirt coupled with an overcoat, chinos will look a bit funny underneath. There are ways to dress up chinos with more formal tops, but it isn’t easy.

Are You Looking For Low Maintenance Pants?

Finally, consider how much effort you want to put into cleaning and maintaining your pants. If you don’t have the time, energy, or budget for weekly dry-cleaning trips, slacks may not be the right choice for you. Chinos are a great low-maintenance choice – but still, practice proper care if you want them to stand the test of time.

Final Thoughts On Chinos vs Dress Pants

If you’re still not sure whether to go with slacks vs chinos, why not get a few pairs of each? Having that diversity in your wardrobe is a huge asset. You’ll be prepared for any situation so you can step out in confidence.

And, if you really want to look and feel your best stepping into your first day at the new job or meeting that special someone on date night, stick with the custom garments here at Black Lapel.

We can get you set up right with either custom-tailored chinos or dress pants. In fact, we also have shorts, jeans, you name it – any type of custom pants you want, we’ve got them. The best part? The entire process can be done online easily, and you’ll be overjoyed with a perfect fit – every time. Head over to the site and see what the hype is all about for yourself!

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