Are Chinos and Khakis the Same Thing?

Are chinos and khakis the same thing? Truth be told, in everyday conversation, you might think that they are. Yet, there are several differences between these two pairs of trousers. Today, let’s break down what chinos and khakis are, how they evolved, and when to wear them.

The Pants that Started It All

Which came first? Khakis or chinos? The simple answer is khakis. In a nutshell, khakis are durable, versatile trousers originally colored and designed to help soldiers:

  • Blend in with their landscape
  • Cope with hot elements

A few decades after their initial invention, the khaki-color dye was patented. They were traditionally dyed in tan colors with the help of tea, curry powder, and mud! To this day, the United States military still utilizes the khaki color. Two examples include the modern Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) and even the Male Officer Service Uniform for the United States Navy (USN).

As service members returned to civilian life, khakis grew in popularity for working men in industries like carpentry, construction, and ranch work. Chinos came after khakis. Made with lightweight fabric and (traditionally) more color options, these are often worn as more formal trousers.

6 Key Differences Between Chinos and Khakis

Here’s a breakdown of the most important differences between chinos and khakis:

  • Chinos are typically made with 100% lightweight cotton or a cotton blend fabric. Khakis, in contrast, are made with heavier/more durable 100% cotton fabrics
  • Compared to khakis, chinos fit closer to the body, resulting in a slimmer aesthetic. Because of this, chinos look a little more formal and fitted
  • Chinos have subtle, concealed stitching, offering a slightly classier, dressed-up appearance. Khakis feature bold, more viable stitching, resulting in a casual, workingman aesthetic
  • Compared to chinos, khakis need proper, regular ironing to look as excellent as possible. Chinos don’t require very much ironing to look great
  • While khakis are typically brown or beige colors, they now come in a variety of different shades. You can find them in colors like green, orange, blue, gray, or even white. However, most khakis are still usually made in different shades of brown.
  • Most chinos and khakis are fairly comparable in terms of their price. That said, chinos usually come with higher price tags as they are perceived to be better for more formal or dressed-up occasions. That's also why there are more premium brands and labels associated with chinos compared to khakis

Given these differences, a few general patterns are clear. Chinos are slightly dressed up, classier alternatives compared to khakis. Khakis are better for wearing to work or for outdoor activities, as they are generally seen as more casual attire. However, they’re both available in many different colors, so these style lines can be blurred.

When to Wear Chinos

That all said, when should you wear chinos to maximize their effect? Generally, you should wear chinos to semi-formal events when you need a professional, fitted, and still cost-effective style choice. They're great for going to dinner with a friend, hanging out with your friends at a nightclub, or even attending a semi-formal wedding. Because of their dressiness, chinos are also perfect for wearing to business meetings or work, particularly if you primarily work in an office environment.

These Charleston dress khakis are a classic example of these workplace trousers. They’re made with long yarn crisp cotton and a regular rise. The relaxed fit sits straight on the hips and thighs, making them perfect for moving around, picking things off the ground, and accomplishing workplace activities. In other words, they’re the ideal pants for a long day of work without compromising comfort.

When to Wear Khakis

Khakis are essentially workplace replacements for jeans. They are about as casual and durable as jeans. Because of this, khakis are better for casual daytime trips, casual dinners, and for wearing to work if you don’t spend most of your time in an office.

Get the Look at Berle

Hopefully, we’ve cleared up all the differences between khakis vs. chinos. No matter what your upcoming occasion calls for, you can always find the perfect look at Berle. Our Tailored Sale is perfect for fancier occasions, while our Casual Sale is ideal for everyday trousers you can rely on. Complimentary hemming is always included with your purchase!

If you’re ready to update your wardrobe, shop the Berle catalog today.