Take 10% OFF + Free Shipping - Use Code USTEN

Slacks 101: Material, fit, and style tips for men


In today's fast-paced world, dressing well has become an essential aspect of modern living. Whether you're heading to work, a casual get-together, or a formal event, the right outfit can make all the difference in how you feel and how you're perceived by others. That's why we've put together a comprehensive guide to help men navigate the often-confusing world of slacks. In this guide, you'll find tips and tricks for choosing the perfect material, achieving the right fit, and nailing down your style. So, whether you're a seasoned pro or just starting out, read on to discover everything you need to know about slacks.

Slacks vs. dress pants – what’s the difference?

Slacks are a type of trouser that is typically made of lightweight and comfortable materials such as cotton, wool, or linen. They are often worn as part of a more casual or business-casual outfit and are designed to be comfortable for everyday wear. Slacks are usually looser fitting than dress pants and are characterized by their relaxed, unstructured style. They are a versatile wardrobe staple that can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion and the desired look.

Dress pants, on the other hand, are a more formal type of trouser that is typically made of more structured materials such as wool, cotton, or blends of either. They are designed to be worn as part of a more formal outfit, such as a suit, and are often characterized by their sharp, tailored appearance. Dress pants are typically slimmer fitting than slacks and are designed to portray a cleaner, more streamlined silhouette. They often feature details such as creases, pockets, and cuffs, and are typically worn with dress shoes and a collared shirt.

For all intents and purposes, the terms have become interchangeable in the modern fashion era. What’s more important than determining the right verbiage surrounding trousers is getting the right fit.

How should slacks/dress pants fit?

On the waist: To ensure a proper fit, it's important to pay attention to where your dress pants sit on your body. Unlike jeans, which are often cut to sit lower on the hips, dress pants should sit comfortably on your natural waist. This may feel higher than what you're used to, but it's the proper placement for a formal look. Here are some tips to help you achieve the right fit:

  • The waistband should sit comfortably on your natural waist, not your hips.
  • There should be about one finger's worth of room between the waistband and your skin. This allows for some flexibility when sitting but keeps the pants snug enough to stay in place.
  • A properly fitting dress pant should not require a belt to keep them in place.
  • The pants should keep your shirt tucked in throughout the day, without coming untucked easily.

On the hips and seat: Achieving the right fit in the hips and seat is crucial when it comes to men's dress pants. This area is where the primary motion and tension occur, so it's important to have enough room without excess fabric. Here are some guidelines to help you achieve a proper fit:

  • Allow for a few inches of space at the hips to ensure ease of movement.
  • If the hips are too small stress lines may appear across the front of the crotch and back of the seat, and pockets may flare out. It may also be difficult to fit your hands or other objects in your pockets.
  • If the hips are too large, excess fabric may "pool" on the side seams and at the center back seam, resulting in a less-than-flattering look.
  • For pleated pants, the hips need to be cut large enough to accommodate the depth of the pleats. The pleats should lay flat and not pull open.

In the ‘rise’: The rise, which is the distance from the top of the waistband to the area just below the crotch, should follow the natural shape and size of your body. When it comes to the rise of men's dress pants, there are a few key things to keep in mind for a comfortable and flattering fit.

  • The rise should not be too small, as this can lead to discomfort and an unflattering look. This can lead to the trousers being too revealing up front or creating a wedgie in the back.
  • If the rise is too long there will be an extra area of fabric hanging below the crotch. This can impede your strides and create a "drop crotch" look.
  • The ideal rise will be comfortable to wear and allow for a full range of motion, without feeling too tight or too loose.
  • Keep in mind that different styles of pants may have different rises, so it's important to try on pants – or get them tailored – to ensure the right fit for your body.

In the thighs: The thighs in dress pants are an area many men overlook. Yet it is imperative to get right to achieve both comfort and longevity in your trousers.

  • It's important not to go too trim in the thigh area, as this can cause discomfort and damage to the fabric over time.
  • The fabric should not wrinkle excessively in the upper or inner thigh area when seated.
  • You should be able to sit down comfortably without the trouser fabric struggling to stay together. If the seams on the thigh look visibly stressed, the trousers are too snug.
  • Dress pants that are too loose can look baggy and unflattering.

At the leg opening: The proper hem width for men's trousers can vary depending on personal preference, style, and body type. Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind:

  • The hem should be wide enough to balance out the width of the thigh and knee, creating a clean, streamlined silhouette from top to bottom.
  • A hem width of around 16 inches in circumference is a good starting point for most men, but this can vary based on height, body shape, and individual style preferences.
  • For pleated trousers, the hem should be wider to accommodate the extra fabric at the waist and hips.
  • Slim-fit trousers may have a narrower hem, while relaxed or wide-leg trousers may have a wider hem.

In regard to length: When it comes to the proper length of men's dress pants, there are a few key factors to keep in mind. Consider the following tips to achieve a balanced and polished look.

  • The back of the trousers should overlap the top of the shoes by about a half inch.
  • The hem should be slightly shorter in the front.
  • The break of the trousers, i.e., the fold or crease that forms where the trousers meet the shoes, largely comes down to personal preference.
  • For a streamlined look, shorter guys should consider going with little to no break.
  • Taller guys should anchor down their height with a good break.

How to choose dress pants for the right season?

Choosing the right material is key to making sure your pants are both comfortable and stylish. For spring and summer, we recommend selecting lightweight materials such as cotton or linen. These materials are breathable and help keep you cool during the warmer months. For fall and winter, wool and flannel are excellent choices. They provide warmth and insulation against the cold weather, while still looking sharp.

Styling Slacks: Recommendations for Chinos

Chinos are versatile pants that can be dressed up or down very easily. Start with classic colors like navy, khaki, and olive green. They’re neutral colors that only require base level understanding to pair. Consider branching out to brighter shades like red, yellow, and orange once you’ve got the hang of the basics. For patterns, keep it simple. Stick to solid colors or subtle patterns like herringbone or small checks. For a casual look, pair chinos with t-shirt and sneakers. For a dressier outfit, pair them with a blazer, dress shirt, and loafers.

Styling Slacks: Recommendations for Khakis

Khakis are a classic and timeless choice for dress pants. Stick with traditional khaki colors like beige, camel, and tan. Darker shades like navy and gray can also work well. Similar to chinos, solid colors are a safe choice. However, you can also try small patterns like pinstripes or windowpane checks if you want to experiment with something a bit bolder. Pairing khakis with a polo shirt and loafers is a great way to start casual, but if you want a dressier debut, pair them with a crewneck sweater, and desert boots.

Styling Slacks: Recommendations for Dress Pants

Dress pants are the most formal of the three types of pants, reserved for business or special occasions. A good rule of thumb for dress pant colors is to stick with classics like black, gray, and navy. You can also opt for subtle shades like charcoal or light gray. If you’re wearing dress pants for a formal occasion, it’s best to stay away from patterns. Of course, no fashion rule is set in stone, so feel free to experiment and see what suits you best. Speaking of suits, dress pants tend to work well with blazers and dress shoes, but don’t be afraid to mix in the casual sneaker and chunky roll neck sweater combination from time to time.

At Original Stitch, not only can you design the perfect dress pant – we have a robust selection of fabric types, colors, and patterns to choose from – but you can also confidentially upload your measurements to get the perfect fit! Our tailors hand-craft every garment as orders come in, so you never have to worry about cookie cutter sizing ruining your online shopping experience. Discover the luxury of tailor-made fashion from the comfort of home. You design it. We refine it.