Chinos vs khakis: Key differences and top styling tips for men

Chinos vs khakis: Key differences and top styling tips for men

Regarding men's fashion, the chinos vs khakis debate has been a longstanding topic of discussion. Both khakis and chinos offer a simple yet well-put-together addition to any man's wardrobe. However, there are some key differences between the two that can help you master your style game and make informed choices when curating your outfits.

Chinos and khaki trousers
Chinos and khaki trousers. Photo: @AshandErie, @MensGiftke on X (modified by author)
Source: UGC


Are chinos the same as khakis? Chinos and khakis are similar trousers, yet they are not identical. Both are crafted from cotton twill fabric and often share a similar style. However, notable distinctions exist between them. Here is what to know about their key differences.

Chinos vs Khakis

The key differences are that Khakis usually have thick fabric, pleats and cuffs. Chino's are a little more casual with light fabric, and no pleats or cuffs.

Khakis vs Chinos
Chinos vs khakis: Key differences and top styling tips for men. Photo: (Modified by editor)
Source: Facebook

What are chinos?

They refer to a style of cotton smart-casual pants. They often incorporate a touch of elasticity for enhanced comfort. They typically boast slim or classic fits with a slightly tapered leg.

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This clothing style's popularity stems from its affordability and availability in various colours, such as navy blue, olive green, beige, and black. It is favoured for its comfort, making it a beloved summer staple for many.

How do you identify chino pants?

The pants are easily identifiable by their finer cotton fabric, often with a matte-gloss shimmer, distinguishing them from the rougher texture of khakis. They feature hidden seams, discreet pockets, a slim fit, and a tapered leg.

With slanted side pockets and welt back pockets, chinos offer a smart and casual alternative to suit trousers, suitable for business and leisure wear.

What to wear with chinos?

When considering what to wear with chinos, you have versatile options to explore, depending on the occasion and desired style. To achieve a casual vibe, you can opt for classic-fit chinos, roll them up, ditch the socks, and pair them with trainers. A slim fit with a pleated front is an excellent choice for a more thoughtful look.

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To add a professional touch, pair chinos with a casual shirt and optionally add a sports jacket for added formality. On weekends, pairing chinos with a casual shirt or jumper is a good option, and consider chambray for a relaxed yet stylish appearance.

For footwear, you can choose from trainers, loafers, or boat shoes for versatile styling.

Khaki trouser and a short made with chino fabric
Khaki trousers and a short made of chino fabric. Photo: @OMARIONNEIMA, @AshandErie on X (modified by author)
Source: UGC

What are khaki pants?

The khaki pants style are crafted from heavier cotton fabric and have a looser, straight cut, similar to jeans. They feature visible seams and muted earth tones like khaki, brown, or beige.

Often equipped with visible pockets, side pockets, and zips, khakis offer a casual appearance. Unlike dressier trousers, khakis lack a twill weave and may have hidden stitching, embodying a relaxed style.

What to wear with khaki?

Styling khakis shines when done properly. They seamlessly transition between casual and formal looks. You can pair them with various tops, like a blazer, denim jacket, hoodie, or band tee. Opt for a black T-shirt and khaki pants combo for a laid-back vibe.

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In cooler climates, layer with a hoodie and jacket. For formal occasions, dress up khakis with a button-down shirt and sweater. They pair well with sneakers, lace-up leather shoes, or boots, complementing colours like black, white, cream, grey, navy, and earthy green.

What is the difference between khakis and chinos?

They are now available in various fabric types. The former is made from lightweight cotton twill or a synthetic blend, while khakis are traditionally made from heavyweight 100% cotton twill.

While these two classic styles of men's trousers are often used interchangeably, here are the key differences between khaki and chino's in short:

Fit and cut

Chinos typically have a narrower cut and smoother texture, lending a slightly dressier appearance. On the other hand, khakis traditionally have a looser fit and a more casual vibe, with a wider leg opening.

Colour range

Chinos often come in a wider range of colours beyond classic khaki, offering more versatility in styling. But khakis are typically associated with earth tones, limiting colour options.

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Khaki and chino trousers
Khaki and chino trousers. Photo: @JimmieMuriuki, @AshandErie on X (modified by author)
Source: UGC


Chinos are usually tapered with a smooth, tapered leg, while khakis are cut looser and baggier, with a wider leg opening. Chinos typically feature a flat front, while khakis may have a flat or pleated front.

Pocket style

Khaki-style pants have pronounced pockets. Chino pockets are hidden, contributing to a dressier demeanour for chinos.

Are chinos considered formal?

Chinos are typically more casual than dress pants, but with the proper styling, they can be suitable for formal settings. They can confidently hold their own in smarter settings, offering a chinos business casual alternative.

Paired with a dress shirt, blazer, and smart shoes, chinos can blend seamlessly into formal environments. However, they may not be as formal as dress pants, making them better suited for business casual or semi-formal events.

Are khakis formal?

They are primarily considered casual wear, suitable for casual dinners or lunch with friends. Due to their appearance, they can also be deemed appropriate for office settings or semi-formal events, but they are best seen as an alternative to jeans.

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Khaki material pants lack the fit and style for more formal functions, making them better suited for relaxed outings or everyday wear.

A man wearing chino trouser and well arranged khaki trousers
Chinos and khakis are crafted from cotton twill fabric and often share a similar style. Photo: @AshandErie, @CulwellandSon on X (modified by author)
Source: UGC

What to wear with khaki chinos?

Consider elevating your khaki chinos outfits with various colours for different occasions. Opt for a crisp white shirt with your khaki chinos for a classic and sophisticated look. If you aim for a smart casual vibe, navy pairs well with khaki, offering a neutral yet stylish combination.

During the fall season, olive green complements khaki beautifully, adding warmth to your ensemble. Burgundy is another excellent choice to spice up your pants style, creating a rich and calming presence. If you prefer darker tones, black is a timeless option, but remember to balance it with lighter accessories to avoid a heavy appearance.

The chinos vs khakis debate has largely revolved around style preferences and subtle fabric and fit differences. They are crucial additions to any man's wardrobe, offering versatility for casual or semi-formal occasions. By grasping their distinctions, you can confidently leverage them to your advantage and enhance your fashion sense.

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