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Slacks vs. Dress Pants – Is There a Difference?

man wearing dress pants standing against a wooden wall with text reading slacks vs. dress pants, is there really a difference?

Slacks vs. Dress Pants

Ask anyone, “What is the difference between slacks and dress pants?”, or “What are slacks?”, and the most you’re likely to elicit is a weak shrug. But isn’t one preferable to the other? Are they not the same thing? Are you wearing the wrong ones? What’s going on here?

Slacks, of course, are pants. But so are jeans, khakis, chinos, and (hopefully) the bottom half of your suit. All of these items also fall under the category of “trousers,” which is the favorable term for “pants” said by our UK neighbors across the pond.

What Are Slacks?

In ye olden times, the old Saxon term ‘slak’ referred to things that were not tight, such as the loose end of a rope or a sail. Hence, when the term was much later applied to menswear, it came to mean pants that were not too tight and hung freely.

Cut to ye iPhone times and slacks generally refer to pants that are neither jeans nor chinos, but rather a pant made of a smooth, wool knit or a blended fabric that one would wear to look more dressed up than casual. So, just like with formal pants, they can be worn with your variety of suit separates, in combination with a matching blazer, dressed down with a T-shirt and matching blazer, and worn with or without a belt. Sounds a bit like dress pants, no?

two men wearing black dress pants leaning against a metal railing

Pictured here: Black Custom Pants by Black Lapel

Slacks vs. Dress Pants – Different?

No. To be quite honest, when it comes down to slacks vs. dress pants, the term “slacks” has simply become an outdated term referenced more commonly by generations born in the earlier half of the 20th century. This is simply due to the fact that language is non-concrete, and even the definitions we commonly associate with today will eventually change too. If you’re a man of old-fashioned varieties, you may say slacks. If you’re a millennial, you may tweet dress pants. Tomato Tomatoe.

Final Verdict: Slacks = Dress Pants

Well, there you have it! We have reached our verdict, and now you know the truth – there really is no difference.

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4 thoughts on “Slacks vs. Dress Pants – Is There a Difference?”

  1. Roberto Rocha says:

    Hello, guys. hank you so much for taking your time to explain that. So, slacks and dress pants are the same. That’s clear now. I’ve seen the term dress-slacks. Do you guys ever use it in your region? Would dressy pants refer to dress pants? I mean, I do know what dresssy means but would dressy pants be necessarily the same as dress pants? Whats about “formal pants” (you mentioned earlier in this text) would formal pants be the same as dressy pants and dress pants? Look forward to your reply

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Yup (to your last sentence). While there isn’t any set definition for what these terms mean, they all collectively are referring to “dress pants” or “slacks”.

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