A tailored jacket, a knit tie, and a crisp shirt…this combination cannot shine if you’re not intentional about your pants. In years past, you had to drop serious cash if you wanted a pair of dress pants that had a nice drape and a svelte cut; or if you were on a budget, you could go to your local department store and grab a pair that were cut baggier than golf knickers from 1926. For many of us, this predicament relegated dress pants to more of a sartorial afterthought to be worn only when absolutely required.
Luckily, myriad companies are catching on that you can make pants at a reasonable price that actually look modern, and this is important because it creates more options depending on your needs. Do you wear dress pants every day? Are they chinos or slacks? And how much do you really want to spend?
Price point isn’t the only area of consideration; there are also fabrics to choose. Wool, cotton, or linen (if it’s summertime) are classic choices each with a unique drape, and they all allow your skin to breathe. And while it once got a bad rep, polyester has come a long way in the world of textiles. Look at the tag on even an expensive pair of dress pants, and you may find there’s polyester in the blend. Though it was once reserved for golf shorts and hiking pants, polyester has woven its way into dress pants with the “tech” moniker. These tech blends offer wrinkle resistance, quick drying, moisture wicking, and water resistance.
Here are a few options to get your dress pants game on point depending on what you need and how much you want to spend:
Entry Level Dress Pants
I’m a school teacher, which means I wear chinos every day to work with a shirt and tie. But I also have three little kids and a wife with a new business in the works, which means the budget is pretty tight. When it comes time for me to shop for work pants, I live in the $20-60 range because
- I need enough pairs to get me through the week.
- I can get a damn nice looking pair of pants for $20-60, and
- I’m pretty clumsy, so when I ruin a pair of light blue chinos with a black dry-erase marker, it’s not the end of the world.
If you need work pants that look polished without breaking your wallet, here are a few options worth checking out.
J.Crew Factory Slim-Fit Flex Khaki Pant
Cotton with a hint of spandex for flexibility. These flex khaki pants are a gateway into the dress pants game. Just keep in mind as khakis, they’re probably a little casual for the board room.
Slim Italian Wool Suit Pant Barberis Canonico Dress Pants
Stretch virgin wool from one of Italy's oldest fabric mills. These lightweight slacks are perfect for year-round wear.
Uniqlo Ultra Light Pants
Uniqlo's high-performance pants are cut with a refined wool-lycra fabric to keep wrinkles away while still letting your skin breathe.
ASOS Harris Tweed 100% Wool Suit Pants
Harris Tweed dates back to the mid 1800s in Scotland, where wool fabric was made so well that it was sometimes used as currency. These pants carry the Harris Tweed name but at a bargain price. I’m buying these. I’m buying the whole suit.
Banana Republic Wool Dress Pant
Banana Republic dress pants are some of the best you can get for the price when you can pick them up on sale. Regularly 40-50% off, it's easy to find wool, linen, cotton, and wool blend dress pants for around $70-$80.
Land's End Slim Fit Wool Dress Pant
Lands’ End clothing strikes the perfect balance between quality and affordability. They guarantee their clothing. What’s that mean? I recently had two Lands’ End dress shirts with plackets that were starting to fray. I called Lands’ End, and in a few days, I had two new shirts on my doorstep.
Mid-Level Dress Pants
Yes, there really is a difference between a $8 bottle of wine and a $25 bottle, and the same goes for dress pants. Once you start approaching the $100 mark in dress pants, you notice a few details: the fabric is smoother against your skin and has a more natural and flattery drape, it will seldom wrinkle as much as less expensive pants, and the construction will be stronger (meaning these pants will probably last you a long while).
Whether you don’t need to wear dress pants every day (so maybe you only need two pairs instead of five), or you do need to wear dress pants every day and want to make the long-term investment, these are a few great choices.
J.Crew Ludlow Slim Fit Oxford Pant
Spier and Mackay Merino Wool Pants
Wool is measured by grams per square meter (meaning it’s measured by weight), and anything above 250gsm is considered heavyweight wool. These pants are 265gsm, which means two things: 1. They’re warm as hell, and 2. They’ll last you forever. Oh, and the buttons are made of real horn. Mic drop.
Bonobos Stretch Weekday Warrior Dress Pant
Bonobos has become synonymous with clean silhouettes, quality construction, and middle-of-the-road pricing (especially if you catch a sale). Right now if you get one of their Daily Grind dress shirts along with a pair of these pants, you get 25% off.
Nordstrom Tech-Smart Slim Fit Stretch Wool Dress Pant
“Tech” does not mean you should go hiking in these. It means that these are a lightweight wool with 3% spandex for stretch and wrinkle resistance. Great for travel, great for summer.
High End Dress Pants
If you want the best, and your budget allows it, it’s hard to do much better than these pants. Top-tier construction combined with the softest fabrics like cashmere and virgin wool make for pants that will last for years and guarantee that you get compliments each time you wear them.
Keep in mind that most pants at this price point come with an unfinished hem, the idea being that if you choose to invest this much in a pair of pants, you’ll want your tailor to make sure the length is customized specifically to your body.
Suit Supply Jort Bolton Fishtail Trousers
Made of 100% wool, these trousers are the perfect blend of soft, smooth, and downright handsome. And no, cuffs have never gone out of style.
Boss Slim Fit Wool Trousers
“Virgin” wool means it came from the first shearing of the sheep, so it’s the softest wool you can get. These pants come with an unfinished hem, so make sure you have a tailor on standby.
Zanella Flat Front Plaid Wool Trousers
These trousers have a smooth drape, and have a classic cut with a low rise. And did we mention they’re made in Italy?