Dress pants is a broad category. Unlike chinos or jeans, there is no singular definition dictating what they look like, how they fit, how they're made or what they're made of. In fact, the only thing tying the spectrum of options within the dress pants category together is their appropriateness at a wedding or at work or at any other formal get-together.
What Are Dress Pants?
Like I said, there isn't a single definition for this style. At the bare minimum, they're a step above basic blue jeans or chinos, but separate from suit and tuxedo pants, which are designed to match your chosen jacket. Dress pants, on the other hand, are meant to worn with a dress shirt and dress shoes — two more styles that, although loosely defined as well, are easy to spot when you see them. Together, this outfit works in traditional work environments, at church services, country clubs, conferences, parent-teacher catchups, school concerts, job interviews and so on and so forth.
How Should They Fit?
Although trends will rise and fall around them, your dress pants should never change. They should be properly tailored, not too short but not too long and made from a material that'll never be considered out of style. That means no adornments like branded patterns, drastic pleats or distressing, but they should not be too slim-fitting or too wide.
What Color Should They Be?
Because you probably won't be matching them with a suit jacket — but maybe a blazer or a sport coat, which are different things, folks — they can be whatever color you'd like, as long as they complement the tops and shoes you already own.
What Should I Wear Them With?
The most traditional way to wear dress pants is with a dress shirt, a tie and dress shoes. But, you could also pull them off with a simple T-shirt, perhaps a polo or even a soft sweater. Since dress pants aren't tied to a matching jacket, what you wear up top is really up to you — and the dress code of the event (or office you're in).
The Best Dress Pants for Men
- Best Overall Dress Pants: Bonobos Weekday Warrior Dress Pant
- Best Upgrade Dress Pants: Drake's Grey Herringbone Trouser
- Best Budget Dress Pants: Uniqlo Smart 2-Way Stretch Pants
- Best Dress Pants for a Casual Office: Everlane The Athletic Fit Performance Chino
- Best Dress Pants for Commuters: Rhone Commuter Pant
- Best Stretch Dress Pants: Wills Stretch Wool Trouser
- Best Fashion Dress Pants: Noah Twill Double-Pleat Pant
- Best Dress Pants for Summer: Todd Snyder Italian Linen Soft Sutton Suit Trouser
- Best Classic Dress Pants: Stóffa Tapered Trousers
- Best Dress Pants for Wedding Guests: Canali Flat Front Wool Trousers
For its Weekday Warrior Dress Pants, Bonobos mixes the best features from a stretchy adventure bottoms and standard suit pants. This formula yields a pre-creased dress pant that's perfectly plain, and looks far more formal than it feels. A wide array of colors to choose from helps you match them to the shirts you already own, and several fit options help offer personalized sizing.
If you look back at what men wore in the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s, you'd be hard pressed to find skinny-fit pants. They were all what we now call regular-fit or even wide-fit — or sometimes called straight-fit. They had room in the thighs, tapered down toward the ankle and had pleats that raised the fabric up off the skin. Drake's Herringbone Trousers, seen here in grey, are a lot like these older pants. They're perfectly retro, if you will. Made in Italy from 100 percent wool, these pants are super durable yet plenty luxe.
Uniqlo's softer approach to classic slacks results in a pair of dress pants with two-way stretch, so you'll never feel constricted. There's an elastic waistband, creases on both the front and back and the pants are cropped at the ankle, creating a more modern silhouette.
In most offices, chinos are OK. But some folks feel khakis are too casual. In place, try Everlane's everyday pant, The Athletic Fit Performance Chino. It's essentially a chino, but it's made with enough elastane to give it a dressy edge. Plus, it comes in a half-dozen colors and three fits, athletic, slim and other.
Do you ride your bike to work each morning? What about a 2.5 mile walk instead? Have you tried scootering? No matter your method, if you're a commuter, these are the dress pants you should wear to work. While, yes, being seen wearing wool dress pants on a vintage cruiser would be cool, wearing something more functional is the way to go. Rhone's Commuter Pants look modern, come in over a dozen colors and are made from the brand's proprietary fabric, FlexKnit, which stretches in four ways. Plus, there's a zipper pocket so your valuables aren't lost on your way in.
Although I argued that dress pants should be purchased without consideration of a jacket to match, Wills' Stretch Wool Trousers do have a matching top half. Made from a 60-40 mix of wool and polyester, these pants aren't lackluster on their own. In fact, they're a refreshing deviation from all of the deep charcoal and dark blue dress pants out there. Pair them with a black sweater or a white polo.
At a semi-casual wedding, you never want to outshine the groom, but you do want to stand out still. Do it in a pair of flat front wool trousers, like these from classic clothier Canali. They're made in Italy, lined to the knee and 100 percent wool. Be warned: they come un-hemmed, so you'll have to take them to the tailor (or to a handy friend) before the big day.