Pants, slacks, trousers, jeans, dress pants — do you know the difference? Depending on the nationality of the person you’re speaking with, they could each mean very different things.
But today, I’ll be giving you the full rundown on slacks, answering “what are slacks?” as well as comparing them to other styles of pants.
What Are Slacks, Anyway?
Slacks are pants with a waistband, belt loops, and a fly front. They are worn from the waist to the ankles, and cover each leg separately.
Are Slacks the Same As Dress Pants?
In short, yes. “Pants” is the general category term in North America, as opposed to “trousers” in much of Europe and the UK.
Within that category, the terms “slacks” and “dress pants” are used interchangeably — though older generations of Americans usually prefer “slacks.”
Fun fact: Outside of North America and Australia, “pants” usually refer to a person’s underwear.
Are THEY the Same As Chinos?
Slacks and chinos are not the same! And that’s because chinos are made with their namesake cloth. Chino cloth was originally a 100% cotton twill, though it’s now often made with a cotton/synthetic blend.
Chinos are often made in a more casual style than slacks, too. They fall somewhere between formal and casual pants, and can easily be dressed up or dressed down.
Barron wrote an awesome guide to chinos that covers everything you need to know to wear a pair.
What Fabric Is Used for Slacks?
The vast majority of them are made of cotton, with a variety of weaves. Wool is also occasionally used, and can produce a heavier dress pant that’s better for cold weather.
Can You Wear Slacks Casually?
Even though they’re synonymous with dress pants, you can definitely wear slacks in more casual outfits, too.
In the spring and summer, pairing slacks with a simple t-shirt or polo and a pair of white dress sneakers is a great move. You could also go for a short sleeve button down, leaving the collar open fairly wide to complete the casual look.
The heavier weight slacks that you’ll wear in the fall and winter won’t look so good with a graphic T, though. Try taking Barron’s advice and pairing mid-grey flannel trousers with a classic white Oxford shirt, a navy crew neck sweater, and tan leather sneakers.
Parting Thoughts: Getting the Best Fit for Your Slacks
Of course, any piece of your wardrobe is only going to look as good as it fits. So when you’re looking to buy a pair of slacks, be sure to familiarize yourself with how to get a perfect fit for your pants.