What Is the Difference Between Chinos and Khakis?

Chinos are crafted from a lightweight cotton twill fabric, offering a smoother and more polished look compared to khakis. They usually feature a more tapered and fitted design, along with a slightly more refined cut. Additionally, chinos often come in a broader spectrum of colors, including pastels and vibrant hues, which makes them suitable for both casual and formal events.

Conversely, Khakis are made from a heavier and more durable cotton fabric, usually a twill or a drill. They have a more relaxed and casual look than chinos, with a looser fit and a slightly coarser texture. Khakis typically come in neutral colors like beige, tan, or olive green, making them popular for casual and rugged outfits.

We will explain the key differences between khakis and chinos in this article. In addition, you can find useful information about the differences between trousers and slacks and pants. The last part of this article by SewingWithEase will show you how to wear each type of pants!

Key Takeaways

  • Khakis and chinos are often used interchangeably, but slight differences in style and construction exist.
  • Khakis are typically thicker, straight-legged, and pleated, while chinos are lightweight, tapered, and can be cuffed or uncuffed.
  • The origins of khakis date back to the British military in the 19th century, while chinos have a history rooted in China and were later popularized by American soldiers.

Khakis vs. Chinos: Key Differences

Several key differences exist between chinos and khakis, including their traditional cuts and styles. This chart can help you learn more about the most distinctive features of each type of pants!

ChinosKhakis
Design / CutTapered leg, more fitted appearanceStraight or pleated leg, looser appearance
Fabric Type and WeightThin, lightweight cotton twillHeavy, thicker cotton twill
StitchingInterior seamsExterior stitching common
ColorsMany different colorsKhaki only
UsesFor business casual, formal, or in place of dress pantsFor more casual wear
PriceThe price depends on the brand, but many high-end brands sell pricy chinosThe price depends on the brand, but often affordable
What Is the Difference Between Chinos and Khakis?

What Are Chino Pants?

Chinos are trousers that have been popular in Western countries since the early 20th century. They were initially worn by Chinese laborers working on American railroads during the late 19th century.

Chinos are generally fitted, slightly tapered, made of lightweight cotton twill fabric, and come in various colors. When paired with the right shoes and shirts, they are dressier and suitable for business casual attire or even formal occasions.

Cotton twill has a breathable, comfortable feel. Twill weaves are commonly seen in pants because they have diagonal lines of thread! Today, many companies use synthetic fabric instead of cotton in the twill weave because cotton is much more expensive.

Chinos entered the fashion world as a result of the Spanish-American War. It is fascinating that so many fashion and fabric innovations arose during wartime! Americans and Spaniards fought for control of South Pacific territories during this war in the late 1800s.

During World War II, American soldiers stationed on island nations in the South Pacific quickly adapted to uniforms made of cotton twill. They were able to stay cool and mobile as a result.

Since the cotton twill fabric came from Chinese manufacturers, the pants were referred to as “chinos” by American soldiers. These slim, lightweight trouser styles remain popular in the US today because soldiers brought them back from war!

Many school and military uniforms also feature chinos as a standard pants style. Pair them with a nice t-shirt for a smart or business casual look. When paired with the right shirt, blazer, and shoes, chinos can also be worn for formal occasions.

Lands End, Abercrombie & Fitch, and J. Crew all sell trendy lines of these pants if you want to buy them. The chances of finding a menswear brand that doesn’t sell chinos are slim to none!

Women can also wear chinos, even though they originated as a military uniform and then as a staple of men’s fashion!

What Are Khakis Pants?

Khaki pants are usually worn in summertime. They have become trendy among men because they can be used for different occasions.

A dusty light brown color is always associated with khakis, generally made of sturdy, heavyweight cotton twill. In addition to having a looser or pleated cut, they may also have pockets and trousers cuffs. Even though khakis can be found in more modern cuts, they traditionally have a workman’s look.

A khaki shirt is simply a shirt with a khaki color. If you want to get down into the weeds, Khaki is a pale light brown with a hint of yellow, different from tan or beige, which are both pale, creamy browns.

However, this can get confusing since some brands and manufacturers call their chinos “khaki”! A pair of khaki pants is technically a pair of chinos in dusty colors. Khakis have, however, evolved into a unique style of pants for all practical purposes.

What is the origin of this type of pants? In what is now Pakistan, the British army fought another war that made khaki pants famous in the Western world.

British officers realized in the mid-1800s that their soldiers should not be dressed in the British army’s traditional, swelteringly hot wool uniforms, which were also shipped from England to India!

Cotton twill was substituted for heavy wool pants, and the fabric was dyed locally with coffee, curry, and tobacco juice. It created uniforms that blended in with the countryside, making them more camouflage-friendly.

The word “khaki” means dust-colored or dirt-colored in Urdu. In 1900, the British army uniform pants were made from cotton twill and khaki. Returning soldiers wore these comfortable, sturdy pants when they returned home, just like chinos!

Khakis are often seen as more rugged than chinos throughout the fashion world. Chinos have a looser leg and may have pockets, a pleated front, and heavier cotton twill than classic chinos.

Due to this, khakis don’t always look great when worn for formal occasions or in business casual settings. They can be worn around town or hiking, but probably not in the office. Think of them like jeans. As you will discover later in this article, there is one exception to this rule: khaki chinos!

It is impossible not to find khaki pants for men and women in any store, from Target to Kohl’s to the Banana Republic to Gap.

Chinos vs. Khakis: What’s the Difference?

Conversely, Khakis have a bulkier cut and tend to use heavier cotton twill, whereas Chinos tend to use lighter-weight fabrics.

Variations may exist based on a pair of chinos or khakis’ brand or manufacture, but this comparison will show you the typical differences between the two kinds of pants.

Design / Cut

The leg of chinos is typically tapered, which means it narrows towards the ankle. The leg of khakis is often looser and straighter than the leg of jeans. Khakis can also have bulky pockets with cuffs at the bottom.

As styles change, the tapered cut has become more fashionable and sleek in today’s fashion. In contrast, bulkier khakis are usually relegated to rougher tasks like hiking or yard work, as they look more dressy and trendy. The Carhartt company, for instance, offers durable, rugged khaki workwear.

Material

Chino pants are traditionally made of lightweight, super-breathable twill, whereas khakis are made from a heavier fabric.

Today, both types of pants are more likely to be made from a blend containing at least some synthetic material. However, artificial materials are much cheaper than cotton and don’t have the same stretch and breathability. If you want authentic cotton twill, read the product description before buying your pants!

A cotton twill is a cotton fabric woven with a twill pattern. Repeating diagonal ribs are created using an offset thread structure in the thread pattern. It is expected to find twill weaves in materials such as gabardine and denim.

Fabric Weight

Heavyweight cotton twill is often used in khaki pants, while lighter-weight cotton twill is used in chinos. However, thickness and durability can vary greatly depending on the brand and manufacturer, so you may want to test the fabric by rubbing it between your fingers.

A heavier version of the material is generally made with thicker, heavier fibers. Despite having twill weave diagonals, this type of cloth has a greater thickness and weight than summery, lightweight cotton twill.

Stitching

Chinos rarely have exterior stitching, while khakis often do. Khakis often feature exterior stitching, just like jeans. Khakis have nice sturdy seams and thicker fabric that needs to lay flat where the topstitching is present. In addition to being functional, many jeans have topstitching for decorative purposes.

Conversely, chinos are usually only stitched on their interior, allowing them to maintain a sleek appearance. Topstitching isn’t necessary for lighter fabrics because they require no hanging assistance.

Colors

Khakis are available in a variety of colors, while chinos are always khaki. If you compare these two pants styles, you’ll find lots of confusion regarding khaki-colored chinos!

Although dusty khaki is famous, you can also find navy blue, grey, and brown chinos.

Uses

Classic dress pants are generally uncomfortable, while chinos are stylish and comfortable. In some circumstances, they can be worn formally in a business setting.

Generally, khakis are suitable for any situation in which jeans would be comfortable. In the office, you may get away with wearing a nice sweater and khakis if you can wear jeans! Although khakis are better suited to more rugged environments, chinos are better suited to formal and business casual settings.

Price

Depending on the brand, there is a wide range of pricing for chinos and khakis. Despite this, many high-end brands sell chinos, typically more expensive than Walmart or Target’s khakis. Therefore, you could probably generalize that chinos are more costly than khakis.

It’s also true that rugged-wear khakis can cost more than a generic pair of dress pants, so there’s no hard-and-fast rule here!

Are Khakis and Chinos the Same?

As you know, khakis and chinos have different styles. Khakis have a straight-leg cut and rugged fabric, while chinos have a dressier, more fashionably tapered style.

Although there is a general difference between “khakis” and “chinos,” some manufacturers use both interchangeably, so read the product description carefully to ensure you get what you want!

You can find a pair of chinos by looking for lighter fabrics with no exterior stitching. Look for khakis with a wider leg and stitching on the exterior.

Are Khakis or Chinos More Formal?

According to consensus, chinos look more formal and dressier than khakis. Most chinos have a tapered cut that makes them look sleeker and more dressy, and they are typically made from lightweight fabrics.

Unlike formal khakis, chinos are often made of tough fabrics and have stitching on the outside. As a result, chinos are appropriate for more upscale events, whereas khakis are not appropriate for a business-casual environment.

It’s also important to consider what you pair with your pants when choosing a formal outfit. It can look professional in a sweater and khakis or casual in a T-shirt and chinos. The shoes you choose also make a difference–heeled sandals or loafers look great with khakis!

Khaki Chinos

“Khaki” can refer to either a particular shade of brown or two different styles of pants. In this case, you can find “khaki chinos” or chinos in khaki.

Khaki-colored chinos remain a popular choice in terms of style. Tans pair well with blazers of darker colors, making them popular choices for business attire. However, these pants are often referred to as “chinos.” Khaki pants will always be khaki.

Chinos vs Jeans

The similarities between chinos and jeans end there, as both types of pants are popular for men and women. Jeans are made from denim and cotton woven with blue threads over white threads, while chinos are made from lightweight cotton twill. Furthermore, jeans look more informal, whereas chinos appear more formal.

All ages and genders in America love jeans, making them the most popular pants. Most people own more than one pair of jeans, while most own a pair of chinos!

Due to their thicker fabric, even stretch jeans can feel too heavy in hot weather. Even in the summer, chinos are made from lightweight cotton twill that remains cool and breathable.

Chinos vs. Dress Pants vs. Trousers vs. Slacks

In technical terms, chinos are dress pants or trousers, not slacks. All this goes into understanding how fashion terms are generally used and how brands may use them differently. However, It should be noted that some companies often market chinos as dress pants.

Trousers typically refer to formal pants with tailored looks, belt loops, and a buttoned fly. Both men’s and women’s clothing would fall under this category. Technically, chinos could be classified as this category, but only trousers made of cotton twill could be considered chinos.

Conversely, slacks refer to dress pants that are looser in style. Since chinos aren’t necessarily slacks, you can find khaki-colored slacks, but you wouldn’t necessarily classify them as slacks.

How Do You Wear Chinos?

When you follow a few fashion tips, you can wear chinos stylishly, whether a man or a woman!

For men:

  • You should be able to wear chinos comfortably around your hips without them bunching up.
  • You can wear chinos with boots or dress shoes without cuffs in winter. You should be able to touch your shoes with the hem.
  • Cuffing the hem can create a stylish summer look. This look looks excellent with low sneakers or loafers!
  • Most chinos have tapered legs and a snug fit. However, some brands sell athletic builds with more room in the thighs and other areas, depending on your body type.
  • Wear your chinos with a nice T-shirt for a casual look. For a more formal look, pair your button-down with a dark-colored blazer for the office or a formal occasion.

For women:

  • Chinos should fit snugly around your hips but not too tightly.
  • With a pair of chinos, you can easily create a variety of elegant business casual and semi-formal outfits! If you want to wear chinos with turtlenecks and heels, pair them with a turtleneck. Add a blazer, stylish coat, or silk blouse if you want a nice outfit.
  • You can pair your chinos with a silky tee or a plaid flannel shirt for a more casual look.
  • You should consider the kind of shoes you want to wear when determining the length of your pant leg. Chinos with tapered legs look great with heels!

How Do You Wear Khakis?

Khakis are a comfortable, durable alternative to jeans for men and women. They can be worn for various activities. Here are some fashion tips for khakis!

For men:

  • Khakis typically fit looser, which provides a greater range of movement. Their comfort makes them less formal, but they are still comfortable. It’s important not to get a pair that looks too baggy. Otherwise, you may look frumpy!
  • Khakis are easy to wear with striped T-shirts, casual sweaters, polo shirts, or even sweatshirts. You can also wear a denim button-down with khakis, something you can’t do with jeans.
  • These more rugged pants are perfect for camping, hiking, or lawn mowing! The twill fabric will not rip or tear as you’re out and about.
  • Pairing khaki pants with a leather belt will make your outfit look great.

For women:

  • Khaki pants’ looser look is slightly more urban than that of chinos. A leather jacket and heeled boots can easily be paired with khaki pants to create a street-style look.
  • If you wear pastel-colored T-shirts with these pants, your look will be looser and more casual.
  • A sweatshirt and sneakers can also be super casual!
  • A brightly colored top will offset the neutral brown of your khakis if you’re out and about.

Almost all clothing stores offer both chinos and khakis for sale, with prices ranging from affordable to high-end. Check out these products for a glimpse of the variety of pants options available for men and women!

Slim-fit Wrinkle-Resistant Flat-Front Chino Pant

These casual, slim-fit chino pants come in 13 different colors, from khaki tan to dark brown, navy, and black.

The pants include side pockets and a button fly. They combine 60% cotton with 40% polyester to make them breathable and wrinkle-resistant.

This pair of trousers would be perfect for the office or a backyard barbecue! The tapered legs make them look stylish without being constricted.

Women’s Cropped Girlfriend Chino

Chinos for women with a mid-rise and a button closure give them a comfortable fit. For a casual look, pair these pants with sneakers, or dress them with flats! With 97% cotton and 3% spandex, these cropped pants are stretchy and comfortable.

There are four basic shades to choose from. A pastel top or even a brightly colored blouse for the office will look great with these neutral colors!

Carhartt Women’s Slim Fit Crawford Double Front Pant

Are you looking for rugged, sturdy, and stylish khakis? Here’s a pair of women’s khakis from Carhartt that you’ll love! These pants have decorative exterior stitchings, pockets, and buttons.

The cotton twill pants also contain a small percentage of spandex for a more comfortable fit than most women’s pants. The straight-cut legs and mid-rise waist offer a good range of motion.

Carhartt Men’s Rugged Flex Rigby Dungaree Pant

You can’t go wrong with Carhartt regarding tough, long-lasting khakis!
Solid seams, reinforced pockets, and a straight cut make these men’s pants ideal for demanding workplaces.

These pants’ loose, straight legs should break at the top of your shoes or boots. They sit comfortably at the waist, and the waistband is adjustable.

Khakis vs. Chinos FAQs

What is the main difference between khakis and chinos in fabric and style?

The primary distinction between khakis and chinos lies in their fabric and style. Khakis are made from a heavier, more rugged fabric and are generally thick, straight-legged, and often pleated. Chinos, in contrast, are crafted from a lighter, smoother fabric, are lightweight, tapered, and usually flat-fronted.

Can chinos be khaki-colored, and how does color play a role in differentiating them?

Yes, chinos can be khaki-colored. “khaki” originally referred to a specific color range from pale cream to dark tan. While khakis typically adhere to this color scheme, chinos can also be found in khaki color. However, the distinction between the two is more about their cut and fabric rather than color.

What are the differences in fit and suitability for occasions between khakis and chinos?

Khakis are more utilitarian and offer a blockier fit, making them suitable for casual to business casual settings. Chinos, with their slimmer and tapered fit, are versatile enough for informal and formal occasions. Their sleeker appearance lends them a dressier feel, making them appropriate for bright casual events.

How do the durability and care instructions differ for khakis and chinos?

Due to their thicker fabric, Khakis are generally more durable and suited for rigorous use. They can withstand frequent washing and are ideal for everyday wear. Chinos, being lighter, require a bit more care in washing and handling to maintain their smooth texture and shape. Both should be washed according to label instructions to retain quality and fit.

What types of shoes pair well with khakis and chinos, and can both be worn with a blazer?

Khakis pair well with casual shoes like loafers, boat shoes, or sneakers for a relaxed look. Chinos, being slightly dressier, complement casual and formal footwear, including brogues, derbies, or loafers. Both khakis and chinos can be worn with a blazer. While khakis create a more casual, rugged look with a blazer, chinos offer a sharper, more refined appearance.

Conclusion

Women and men wear khakis and chinos because they are comfortable and stylish. The main difference between chinos and khakis is their slimmer fits and more formal appearance, while chinos can have wider legs, a looser fit, and a more casual appearance. Cotton twill fabric is traditionally used for both types of pants.

By the early 20th century, chinos and khakis had become mainstream as part of military uniforms. Khakis provides a rugged alternative to jeans; chinos are often worn as business-casual office wear.

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