Chinos vs. Khakis: What’s the Difference? + How to Style Them





This page may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, we may receive a commission. This doesn't affect the opinions or assessments of our editors.


Last Updated: July 29, 2021

We’ve been there: sweating in the men’s clothes section confronted with the worst decision of your life. Before your eyes are two pairs of pants that seem so similar, but feel so different.

You guessed it—it’s a pair of chinos and a pair of khakis. Two identical twins with different attitudes. 

They’re pants cut from similar cloths, and often look quite similar. Both offer a more professional look than jeans without the heaviness of slacks.

But which one should you wear? Do you wear khakis to a wedding? Chinos to work? It can be confusing, but this quick guide to khakis vs chinos will clear everything up.

Chinos vs. Khakis: The Differences

When it comes to what makes the difference, it really isn’t rocket science. Ahead, we’ll break down the differences and similarities between khakis and chinos.

Differences

Khakis are often made from heavier cotton than chinos and are almost always pleated with hidden stitching. Due to their studier nature, they’re thought of as more casual than chinos as well. Basically, they’re perfect for some brews with the boys in the backyard.

Chinos, however, are made with lightweight cotton or sometimes even hybrid cotton mixes and have visible stitching to give the pant a more sleek look. They also tend to narrow as they go down the leg.

Since the word “khaki” can also refer to a color, you might see something labeled as “khaki chinos.” This just means the pants are chinos in a khaki color.

Similarities 

Both these pants, despite their more casual nature, fit a lot of different aesthetics that make them versatile pants. They’re equally welcome at neighborhood parties as well as business meetings.

Chinos themselves are popular with the skating subculture while khakis have a firm place in the hearts of prep-wear fanatics everywhere.

Both of these pants also generally share the same color spectrum from a light cream to a dark tan. Khakis also sometimes come in shades of white, olive, or a soft navy, while chinos tend to be darker colors.

How to Style Khakis vs Chinos

Chinos and khakis have the benefit of being a more plain style of pants that don’t really feature designs. This gives you a good anchoring point to plan the rest of your outfit.

While your pants may not pop, this allows the rest of your outfit to do so in its place, leaving room for fun, vibrant shirts, hot shoes, and bodacious accessories for much added flair.

How to Style Khakis

This more casual pant often looks good paired with crisp sneakers or smart loafers. Leave the cuffs off and grab a pair of khakis that end just at your mid ankle.

The shirt and/or jacket you choose largely will depend on what you’re planning to do. If you’re going to a wedding or a meeting, don’t try hard too stand out.

A nice, clean white shirt and a simple, understated jean or even suede jacket can make you look professional and bold at once.

If you want to be more casual, don’t be afraid to wear patterned polo to switch it up and really impress your friends and colleagues. 

How to Style Chinos

Despite their more professional tone, chinos benefit from a more lightweight nature, making fans out of many for their solid looks and seamless adaptability. 

Many of the same styling rules that apply for khakis also apply for chinos

However, chinos tend to also look good with a solid pair of cuffs to show off your socks or avoid tearing your legs when on your bike commute to work.

Chinos work in probably more environments than even khakis, especially depending on the color.  A pair of black or navy chinos go with practically anything, it’s ridiculous

Final Tips 

  • Cuffs for chinos. No cuffs for khakis.
  • Feel empowered to show off your style by anchoring your look around the solid chino.
  • Khakis come in non-pleated form for a more relaxed look.
  • Black and navy require the least coordination effort. Khaki (the color), greens and olives, and brighter blues will take a little more consideration.

UP NEXT: Your Ultimate Guide to Cuffing Jeans