If you like to keep up with fashion without giving up comfort, chinos and khakis can play an important role in your wardrobe. These chic yet comfortable trousers started as men's fashion but are now worn by men and women alike. Chinos are more form-fitting, have a relatively seamless and dressier look, and are worn in semi-formal settings. Khakis are more casual, with their loose fit, rugged look, and more pronounced pockets.

While one is not necessarily more comfortable than the other, khakis were designed specifically with comfort in mind.

Comparison chart

Chinos versus Khakis comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartChinosKhakis
Type Comfortable fashion pants Comfortable fashion pants
Material Light-weight; light weave 100% cotton or cotton blended with stretchy synthetic fiber Heavier-weight; always 100% cotton
Worn by Originally (and mainly) men, also women Originally (and mainly men), also women
Occasions Semi-formal, more fitted, professional work day, dinner party, weddings, night clubs. Casual, alternative for jeans, casual Fridays, casual dinners, daytime events, manual work, travel.
Stitching Concealed Visible
Ironing required Rarely, light ironing if at all Mostly yes, proper ironing
Style Casual to semi-dress pant – hidden pockets, no flaps, flat front, narrow legs with tapered bottoms Casual/cargo – loose with pockets and loops between waist and knee, front may be flat or pleated
Colors Any colors Often dyed bold colors Khaki, a dusty light-brown or beige, color Earth tones, Black, and Navy
Labels Ralph Lauren, Banana Republic, Bonobos, Brooks Bothers Dockers, Tommy Hilfiger, Gap
Price $80 and up Typically $15 to $80 for non-designer brands

Material and Cut

A man wearing chinos.
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A man wearing chinos.

Chinos are lighter weight than khakis. They are made of either 100 percent cotton or cotton blended with a stretchy synthetic fiber. The weave is loose. Stitching is usually concealed, just like in dress pants. Chinos rarely require ironing, but if they do, ironing is light.

Khakis tend to be heavier weight. They are always 100 percent cotton and always require proper ironing. Stitching is usually visible.

Style

Chinos are considered more like comfortable dress pants. They have few pockets, and even those are hidden. Pockets do not have flaps. The front is flat. Legs are often cut narrow and taper further at the bottom. Chinos come in any colors. Designers often dye them bold colors.

Khakis come in a cargo cut, loose with pockets and loops between the waist and knee. The front may be flat or pleated. The traditional color is khaki, a dusty light-brown or beige color, but designers now make them in earth tones, black and navy.

A close-up comparison of chinos (left) and khakis (right), both available from Amazon.
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A close-up comparison of chinos (left) and khakis (right), both available from Amazon.

How and When to Wear

A man wearing khakis.
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A man wearing khakis.

Chinos are for more semi-formal occasions. They should be fitted to the body. Chinos are appropriate for a professional work day and night clubs. Not all stylists agree on this, but the general thought is that chinos can be worn to a dinner party or a wedding. They pair well with a casual shirt and jacket combination, sweaters and button-down shirts.

Khakis are casual pants meant to be worn as an alternative for jeans. They are appropriate for casual Fridays or informal workplaces. They transition well from office to casual occasions. They can also be worn for relaxed dinners and daytime events, and work great while traveling. Khakis are the perfect combination of sturdy yet comfortable, and the most popular choice for wearing during manual labor. Khakis pair well with polo shirts, button-down shirts and T-shirts.

Here's more fashion advice on wearing chinos and khakis:

Price and Brands

Both chinos and khakis come in regular brands as well as designer labels. Ralph Lauren, Banana Republic, Bonobos and Brooks Brothers are typical brands for chinos, which run $80 and up.

Dockers, Tommy Hilfiger, Old Navy and The Gap are typical khaki brands. Though they also come in designer options, they generally run $15 to $80 for non-designer brands.

Background

Chinos date back to the beginning of the 20th century. Soldiers serving in China bought them there. The Chinese designed them with the flat front, narrow legs and tapered hem to conserve on fabric. Likewise, the light-weight fabric was meant to keep soldiers cool in hotter climates.

Khakis date back to British Imperialism in India. In response to the tropical heat, soldiers dyed white cotton pants with native plants, resulting in the traditional color. Khakis became standard issue uniform for the region. At that time, uniforms featured the sturdier fabric in use today.

References

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