Stumbling across one of the best casual pants for men when you least expect it is like finding a super-rare, exotic mammal rooting around in your garbage can. It feels inexplicable and a little bit miraculous. Take it from us, a group of people who spend way too much time pondering the state of our pants: finding the right pair of casual pants rarely comes down to happenstance.
So perhaps you’re here, bleary-eyed and bone-weary, after a long, exhaustive search for a pair of wrinkle-resistant dress pants to buy before your next flight. Perhaps you find yourself in desperate need of a spiffy pair of business casual pants you can break in before the first in-person meeting you’ve had in over a year. Or perhaps, spurred by nothing more than a deeply-felt desire for change, you finally bade your ratty sweatpants adieu—sad!—and are eager to try something else. Anything else. (And no, joggers just won’t do. Ditto jeans, no matter how luxe.)
Whatever the reason, whatever the occasion, whatever the cut—slim fit, straight fit, classic fit, relaxed fit—there’s a pair of pants here for you. Whether you’re looking for sturdy twill chinos you can wear with your slubbiest T-shirts, heavily-pleated trousers you can wear with a big, bold, button-down, or newfangled cargos you can wear with everything else, the right pair of casual pants for men are calling your name. And luckily for you, you don’t have to look far. Because we sifted through a near-endless array of pants (so, so many pants) to compile a list of all all the best options available today. If you didn’t believe in miracles before, you might now.
Chino is a hearty twill fabric lauded for its military-grade sturdiness. Over the last half century or so, chino pants have evolved from standard-issue army fare to civilian-life staples, helped along by cosigns from notable prepsters and the Ivy League set, including one particularly dashing U.S. president with a penchant for summering in Hyannis Port. They still come in every shade of khaki imaginable, but these days some of the coolest pairs on the market subvert the fabric’s neutral origins via unexpected colors or patterns—sometimes both. Not sure what to wear to an upcoming date/park hang/exploratory trip back into the office? Chinos are aways a safe bet.
Like chinos, khakis remain a perennial classic of casual American style. (Can’t quite wrap your head around the difference? Chino is a fabric; khaki is a color.) Khakis derive their name from the particular shade of light brown that became ubiquitous in the U.S. after World War II, when returning GIs adapted the bottom half of their hard-wearing uniforms to the rigors of civilian life. Once relegated exclusively to off-duty fare, khakis—a color that now encompasses everything from plain Jane beige to mossy olive green—have long since crossed over into the realm of work-appropriate attire. In their simplicity, they remain a reliable template for designers’ freakiest projections (just peep the cheeky “boxer-exposing” pair below.)
It’s tough to beat the cargo pant when it comes to sheer utility. Even in their simplest form, the ultra-practical and—you guessed it—military-inspired trousers include discrete pocket space aplenty, making them the pants you should wear when you want to run errands without lugging a mostly-empty tote around with you. Over the last few years, capital-D designers and big box brands alike have updated the silhouette, tweaking the proportions and adding as many (or as few) pockets as they please. Which means it’s easier than ever to find one in the perfect fit, whether you’re looking for a relaxed version you can wear with trail-ready boots or a slimmer take cut to stack perfectly over a pair of simple kicks.
Take a brief gander at today’s fragmented pants landscape and a single truth remains hard to ignore: all the coolest pants have pleats. See, over a few short years, the biggest names in menswear have all have stumbled on the same surefire recipe for consistently tasty men’s pants. The not-so-secret ingredient? Pleats. We’re not suggesting you donate your collection of flat-front pants to the nearest Goodwill tomorrow—all we’re saying is that these pants might make you want to.
In 2021, “dress pants” is a bit of a misnomer. Turns out, the type of trouser you used to pair with a blazer or cardigan looks way cooler cut loose and worn casually, with Bottega boots, plain black Docs, or a thrashed pair of Sambas. Downplay their formality by treating them like any other pair of casual pants in your regular rotation, and pay no mind to the glares: that’s every bozo in skintight denim suddenly realizing they seriously goofed.
What do you get when you cross-breed the old-fashioned durability of your most weathered jeans with the forgiving comfort of your favorite joggers? A new generation of performance-oriented pants, genetically modified to be harder, better, faster, and stronger than any other pair in your wardrobe. If you prefer your pants described using more tech-y jargon than a standard IPO filing, these wrinkle-free, moisture-wicking bad boys are for you.
It was nearly two years ago that GQ collectively freaked for Dickies’ sturdy-as-hell painter’s pants. Since then, prices for Carhartt’s quintessential double-knees have reached truly astonishing heights, and every cool guy in a trucker hat and lug-soled loafers wants in. Thankfully, the style’s popularity doesn’t mean it’s lost any of that initial luster—if anything, its sustained appeal means you can now scoop a pair without dinging your credit card. Every brand worth its salt makes a version of the silhouette, from longtime stalwarts of the workwear scene to some of the hippest names in the streetwear universe. Find one that’s right for your budget and never look back.