What are Slacks?

what are slacks? guide to men's pants

Updated by Tanya Zhang

The development of pants came alongside horses' domestication and served as an indicator of class and profession. Now, slacks are a type of dress pants that are commonly worn in formal or business settings and live in a man's wardrobe.

They are typically made from more formal fabrics such as wool, polyester, or a blend, and often have a straight cut and a crease down the front of each leg.

The term "slacks" is often used interchangeably with "dress pants," but slacks tend to have a dressier, more tailored appearance than other types of formal pants do.

While slacks were once considered to be a staple in the wardrobes of working men, they have since evolved to become a versatile and stylish option for both men and women.

grey slacks with brown black and black shirt example outfitSlacks are available in a range of colors and patterns to suit different occasions, personal preferences, occasions, and seasons. Some popular colors for slacks include navy, gray, khaki, and beige, while popular patterns include plaid and check.

They're also often paired with dress shirts and a matching jacket or formal suit depending on the dress code. Here's a guide on how to wear grey pants with brown shoes.

Despite their dressy reputation, slacks can also be worn in more casual settings depending on the style and material of the pants and the overall outfit. Khaki pants or beige slacks, for example, are a popular choice for a casual or business casual outfit and can be paired with a variety of shirt colors like blue dress shirts and patterns like this blue patterned shirt.

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Ultimately, slacks are a versatile and stylish option for anyone looking to add a touch of formality to their wardrobe.

The history of slacks and their evolution in men's fashion

Slacks, typically lightweight pants with a relaxed fit, have a long history in men's fashion. Slacks are a type of pants that are typically made from lightweight fabrics and have a more relaxed fit than men's dress pants. They have a long history in men's fashion, dating back to the early 19th century.

The first slacks were called "slops" and were worn by sailors in the British Navy. They were loose-fitting and made from durable fabrics like canvas and denim. In the early 1900s, slacks began to be worn by men in everyday life as well, particularly for sports like golf and tennis.

Today, slacks are still popular and come in various styles, fabrics, and colors for a casual or business-casual look.

The different types of slacks and which ones are right for your body type

slacks vs dress pants

There are several different types of slacks available, each with its own unique characteristics that can complement different body types. Here are a few examples:

  1. Flat-front slacks: These slacks have a smooth, flat front with no pleats, making them a great option for men with a slim or athletic build. These are some flat front slacks from Club Monaco.

  2. Pleated slacks: These slacks have one or more pleats at the waistline, which can provide extra room in the hip area. They can be a good choice for men with a larger build or those who prefer a looser fit.

  3. Tapered slacks: These slacks are narrower at the ankle than at the waist, creating a modern, streamlined look. They can work well for men with a slim or average build.

  4. Wide-leg slacks: These slacks have a wider leg opening than other styles, which can be a good option for men with larger thighs or hips.

  5. Cropped slacks: These slacks are shorter in length than traditional pants and can be a great option for men who are on the shorter side.

Choose the best slacks for a formal event for your body type and consider both fit and style. Look for slacks that fit well in the waist and hip area, with the appropriate amount of room for your body type.

Additionally, consider the style of the slacks and how they will complement your overall look. A good rule of thumb is to choose slacks that balance your body proportions and enhance your best features.

Slacks vs. Dress Pants

Slacks and dress pants are often used interchangeably to describe suit trousers, a type of tailored trousers worn in formal or dressy casual settings. However, some people may use the terms differ depending on the context or regional differences.

Club Monaco's light gray linen dress pants for men.

Dress pants may refer to a broader range of tailored trousers that can be worn for semi-formal events or semi-formal occasions. They are often made from high-quality materials like wool, silk, or cashmere, and are designed to be more dressy than casual pants. Dress pants may have a more structured fit, with a higher rise and narrower leg, and are often paired with a blazer or suit jacket.

Overall, while slacks and dress pants share many similarities and are often used interchangeably, dress pants may refer to a more formal or dressy type formal style of tailored trousers, while slacks may refer to a slightly more casual or versatile style of trousers.

Slacks vs Khakis

slacks vs khaki pants

Slacks are typically made from lightweight, dressier fabrics like wool, cotton, or polyester. They often have a more relaxed fit and may have pleats or a flat front. Slacks are generally considered to be a more formal wear type of pants and dress slacks are often worn as part of a business or dressy casual outfit.

Khakis, on the other hand, are typically made from heavier, more durable cotton twill fabric. They are often more casual in style and are characterized by their distinctive tan or khaki color.

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Khakis may have a flat front or pleats, and may also have cargo pockets or other utilitarian features. They are often worn as part of a more casual outfit, such as with a polo shirt or casual button-down shirt.

Overall, while both dress slacks and khakis can be worn in similar settings for formal occasions and outdoor events, they have different fabrics, fits, and styles that distinguish them from each other.

Slacks Khakis
Dress Code Semi-formal to formal attire Casual to business casual attire
Fabric or Material Wool, silk, or cashmere Durable, heavier cotton
Fit or Design Structured and tailored fit Flat front or pleats
Pairs With Blazer or suit Polo shirt of casual button down shirt

Slacks vs. Chinos

men's chino pants with dress shirt

Slim Fit Blue & White Striped Dress Shirt

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Slacks and chinos are both types of pants that are commonly worn in casual and business casual settings, and they share some similarities. However, there are some key differences between the two.

Chinos are made from a cotton twill fabric that is typically lighter weight and more casual than slacks. They may have a flat front or pleats and are often worn in more casual settings. Chinos are usually available in a wider variety of colors than slacks, including brighter and darker colors, and patterns. We also have a full guide to chino pants here as well as comparing chinos vs khakis.

For example, these are Levi's dark navy slim chino pants but they also ocme in many other colors.

In terms of fit, chinos are often designed to be more relaxed than slacks, with a straight leg and a lower rise. This makes them a good choice for men who prefer a more comfortable, more casual style of fit.

Slacks, on the other hand, are often designed to be more fitted and tailored to men's pants, with a higher rise and a narrower leg.

Slacks vs Jeans

dress shirt with jeans

Slacks and jeans are two very different types of pants, with distinct differences in their fabric, fit, and style.

Jeans are typically made from heavier-weight denim fabric, which is designed to be more durable and rugged. They often have a casual, rugged appearance and may be distressed or faded. Jeans are usually worn in more casual settings, such as with a t-shirt or sweatshirt, and are often associated with a more casual or laid-back style. However, jeans can be business casual depending on how the rest of the outfit is put together.

In terms of fit, jeans are usually designed to be more relaxed and comfortable, with a straight or tapered leg and a lower rise.

Do slacks fit with any shoe styles?

Slacks are a versatile type of pants that can be worn with a wide variety of shoe styles, depending on the occasion and personal preference. Here are some shoe styles that work well with slacks:

  1. Dress shoes: Classic dress shoes like oxfords, loafers, and brogues are a popular choice to wear with slacks for a formal or dressy casual look. They can be worn in a variety of colors, from black and brown to burgundy and tan. We have a whole article on men's dress shoes here where we feature classic dress shoes from brands like Allen Edmonds.

  2. Chelsea boots: Chelsea boots are a stylish and versatile shoe style that works well with slacks. They can be worn in a range of materials, from leather to suede, and add a touch of sophistication to any outfit.

  3. Sneakers: For a more casual look, sneakers can be worn with slacks for a stylish and comfortable outfit. White leather sneakers are a popular choice, but other styles and colors can work well too.

  4. Dress boots: Dress boots, like chukka boots or wingtip boots, can add a touch of ruggedness to slacks and can be worn in a variety of materials and colors.

Slacks can be worn with a variety of shoe styles, so it's a matter of personal preference and the occasion to determine which shoe style to wear with them.

Can you wear slacks casually?

Yes, slacks can be worn casually, depending on the style and material of the pants and the overall outfit. Here are some styling tips, for wearing slacks in a casual setting:

  1. Choose the right material: Look for slacks made from casual fabrics like cotton or linen, or with a relaxed fit or a more casual cut. This can give the slacks a more laid-back feel.

  2. Pair with casual items: Instead of a collared shirt or blazer, pair your slacks with a casual shirt or sweater, such as a t-shirt, polo shirt, or sweater over a dress shirt. You can also wear them with denim or a bomber jacket for a more relaxed look.

  3. Choose the right shoes: To keep the look casual, pair your slacks with more casual shoes like sneakers or loafers. Avoid wearing formal shoes as they can make the outfit look too formal.

  4. Accessorize: Add accessories to give the outfit a more casual feel, such as a watch, sunglasses, or a casual belt.

Slacks can be dressed down to create a more casual look that's suitable for less formal events and a variety of different styles of settings. Just make sure to choose the right fabric, pair it with casual items, and choose the right shoes to create a cohesive and stylish outfit.

how to wear slacks casually

The best colors and patterns for slacks and how to pair them with shirts and shoes

The best colors and patterns for slacks will depend on personal preference, as well as the occasion and season. Here are some popular colors and patterns for slacks and tips on how to pair them with shirts and shoes:

  1. Navy: Navy slacks are a versatile choice that can be worn year-round and paired with a variety of colors and patterns. They work well with a white dress shirt for a classic look, or with a light blue or pink shirt for a more colorful outfit. Brown or black dress shoes can be paired with navy slacks. Here's how to wear a blue suit with brown shoes.

  2. Gray: Gray slacks are a great choice for a business casual or semi-formal outfit. Pair them with a white or light blue shirt and black dress shoes for a classic look, or with a patterned shirt for a more stylish outfit.

  3. Khaki/Beige: Khaki or beige slacks are a popular choice for a casual or business casual outfit. Pair them with a dark gray button up shirt or white shirt for a classic look, or with a patterned shirt for a more casual outfit. Brown dress shoes or loafers can be paired with khaki or beige slacks.

  4. Patterned: Patterned slacks, such as plaid or check, can add a touch of style to an outfit. Pair them with a solid-colored shirt that matches one of the colors in the pattern, and choose shoes that complement the color of the slacks.

Overall, when pairing slacks with shirts and shoes, it's important to create a cohesive outfit that looks put-together and stylish. Choose colors and patterns that complement each other and the occasion, and select shoes that match the formality of the entire outfit.


Frequently asked questions on what are slacks

What are considered slacks?

Slacks are tailored trousers made of a softer, more casual fabric, often worn in professional or formal settings.

What is the difference between chino pants and slacks?

Chino pants are usually made of a durable cotton twill fabric and have a more casual, relaxed fit compared to slacks, which are typically more formal and tailored.

Is slacks British or American?

Slacks are commonly used in both to describe formal trousers, though the term may be more prevalent in American usage.

What do people wear with slacks?

People often pair slacks with collared shirts, blouses, or sweaters for a polished and professional look, along with appropriate footwear such as dress shoes or heels.

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