Home » Chinos vs Khakis: What is the Difference?
The author of this article is Lisa Fitzgerald

Chinos vs Khakis: What is the Difference?

Chinos are Khakis are terms you should be most familiar with if you wear or shop for menswear.

With the right belt, they look pretty great. They are used interchangeably, but there are subtle differences between the two. Both these chic and comfortable trousers started as men’s garments, but today, they are worn by both men and women.

Manufacturers call any old cotton pants either Khaki or Chino. And then again, you can get a pair of Chinos in British Khaki. Are you confused already?

Knowing those differences between the two will help you find the perfect pair of pants for the right occasion.

Are chinos the same as khakis?

No, both these are chic and comfortable trousers but are entirely different. Khakis came first, of course, and the history of the two styles of pants is equally interesting. 

For the history buffs out there, the first khaki trousers were made in 1846 by Sir Harry Lumsden, an officer in the English army in India.

The local climate was too harsh for the Brits, so they attempted to replace their hot woolen trousers and jackets with clothing that is more suitable to the terrain – lighter, loose-fitting, and made from native cotton.

He dyed them with Mazari, a native plant that produced a dusty tan color called “khaki,” which means soil or dust in Persian. 

Khakis were adopted as the military uniform of the colonial military by 1848. The rest of the British empire took to it, and by 1884, the whole British army formally adopted Khaki as their official uniform.

Like Khaki pants, Chinos originated in the military, but this was a bit later in 1898.

During the Spanish-American War in the Philippines, these pants emerged to conserve cloth and reduce costs. As a result, the American soldiers serving in the Philippines found it quicker, easier, and cheaper to import from China than the USA.

To cut down on costs, the trouser design was kept simple. It featured tapered legs and without pockets or pleated fronts.

The Spanish people dubbed these pants Pantalones Chinos, which means Chinese pants in Spanish. It was then shortened to simply chinos by Americans.

Towards the latter half of the 19th century, both the British and French military started using chino to make their khaki uniform trousers. It has resulted in a streamlined style that is simple and smooth.

So, to answer the question, “Are chinos the same as khakis?” both these are dashing alternatives to jeans. Khakis aren’t chinos, but chinos can be khakis.

Khakis VS chinos

Khakis VS chinos

When it comes to Khakis, it is more suited for casual wear. Chinos, on the other hand, are considered a little more classy and formal. The stitching on khakis is visible, but in Chinos, the stitching is concealed. It lends a more finished and dressy look to Chinos.

When the term was initially coined, it referred solely to the beige color of the pants, but later on, it has come to refer to the pants’ fabric, style, and fit. Khakis are today regarded as casual, comfortable, cotton pants.

Colour

Chinos come in a wide array of colors, including khaki color. Khakis feature more earthy tones, including beige, black, navy, or dusty light brown.

Style and Cut

Khakis are straight-legged and often come pleated. They also sport cuffs at the bottom hems and are boxy. Chinos, on the other hand, are tapered and have a flat front. So they narrow down as they go lower on the leg. Also, they can be cuffed or uncuffed. 

Generally, a pleated pant is considered more traditional. Pleats help balance your proportions, especially if you carry some generous weight around your midriff portion. It also helps to make you look more proportionate, even if you are broad-shouldered. A flat front is more modern, trendy and chic, and tends to flatter those with a trimmer body type.

Chinos have few pockets, and even those are hidden. The pockets on Chino trousers do not have flaps.

Materials

Khakis (or khaki pants) are made from heavyweight 100% cotton twill fabric. Because of their sturdy and heavyweight construction, they are worn for more casual occasions.

Chinos (or chino pants) are made of a lightweight 100% cotton or cotton blend fabric. The stitching on them is subtle and concealed for a more formal, finished, and dressy appearance.

Twill is a fabric type commonly used in clothing. It is created by using a diagonal weave, which lends thickness and enhances durability. 

Ironing 

Chinos require very little ironing, whereas Khakis need thorough ironing to look their absolute best.

Purpose

Chino pants are generally cut slimmer with a closer fit than khakis. It makes them more suited as formal wear.  Chinos are better suited for summer wear. It is because the weight of the cotton will be lighter. Have a semi-formal or professional event coming up? Then Chinos are an excellent clothing choice. They are just as ideal for a wedding, dinner party, or a night out with family/friends.

Khakis have a fuller cut, which is more comfortable to wear and finds appeal in a casual setting. Think of Fridays, daytime events, or dinner dates. They are also perfect for day trips or when you are traveling as they are very comfortable. Have manual work to do around the house, perhaps tend to your garden? You should be going for Khakis rather than Chinos as the former is more sturdy and comfortable.

Think of Khakis as an alternative for your jeans.

Price

The two trouser styles cost about the same in the price aspects. It entirely depends on what brand of chino/khaki your purchase.

Often, Chinos feature a higher price tag than Khakis with more premium brands and labels.

Pairing Advice

Chinos pair well with a casual shirt and jacket, sweaters, and button-down shirts. Khakis pair well with polo shirts, button-down shirts, and T-shirts. When paired with the right polo, a good blazer, or wool sweater, you can look neat and sharp in Khakis.

 Both these styles of pants are considered business casual. You can wear them for work.

Are khakis/chinos out of style?

Are khakis/chinos out of style?

Never is the short answer to this question. Both these are timeless, comfortable, and fashionable trousers that will never go out of style. 

Khaki dust and tan colors are a timeless choice for the semi-smart dress. You can wear them with a T-shirt and almost any footwear, including loafers, skate shoes, or athletic shoes. They are accepted in the office environment as they go with a dress shirt or polo.

The tapered leg and straight, slim lines of Chinos are trendy and versatile but just as timeless as khakis. Chinos are fancy enough to be worn for special occasions. But they do equally well and are appropriate and laidback for a casual date or a boy’s night out.

The unpleated, flat front of Chinos works with the lines of the body. It helps to elongate your legs and make you appear taller than you are. It has always been a desirable feature in trousers. The style’s fitted shape can also have a slimming effect, which easily adds to its popularity.

What was once worn by the military personnel soon gained widespread popularity. Hollywood celebrities started wearing them too.

Chinos are stylish but are they as comfortable as khakis? Well, the entry of stretch chinos that move with you certainly made them even comfier. Equipped with an elastic waistband, they are less restrictive than traditional waistbands while still as sleek as a regular chino. What you get are a pair of pants that are as comfortable as they are stylish.

Conclusion

If you don’t remember anything else except that khakis are thicker, more squared-off garments, whereas chinos are slimmer, more tapered, and dressier, then you are on the right track. Or perhaps, right aisle when it comes to shopping for the perfect pair of pants!

If you are looking to spice things up a little and add some flair to your everyday wear, Chinos are an excellent choice. Khakis are thicker, and if you are looking for something a bit more functional, practical and casual, they are a fantastic option.

Khaki pant pockets tend to be larger, their fit is looser, and their material is a shade more durable. It makes khakis ideal for those who are harder on their clothing or those who prefer some room to move around in (Remember, Chinos are slimmer and snug fit?)

Khakis are considered comfortable cotton trousers that find their place in casual settings. Chinos are considered stylish and modern and find their place in a more formal/dressy setting.

So Khaki or Chino? Now that you know the differences between the two, the right trousers for you entirely depend on your personal preference, style, and lifestyle. 

We hope this guide helps you decide which is more suited for you, but if you still can’t conclude why not buy a mix of chinos and khakis. After all, both deserve a place in your wardrobe!

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