Slacks vs. Dress Pants (Trousers) for Men- Best Choice?

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Last Updated on February 21, 2022 by admin_comfortabledressshoes

In many cases, you might have assumed that the term “slacks” was simply an unconventional way to refer to men's dress pants, but did you know that they're actually two very different types of pants? When it comes to choosing between slacks and dress pants, it’s important to think of the occasion, how they're designed, and the type of look they offer. In most cases, slacks can be an ideal choice, but for occasions that are more formal, you’re going to want to opt for traditional dress pants. With the help of this guide, you’ll not only learn the differences between slacks and dress pants but also when it’s appropriate to wear either.

Difference Between Slacks and Dress Pants


Style: Business casual types: Chinos, cargo, corduroy, or khaki suit: Classic, straight, slim, skinny, or boot cut: Machine washable and dryer friendly treatments: None

Dress Pants

Style: FormalTypes: Pleated or flatFit: Classic, straight, slimCare: Machine washable, dryer-friendly, dry-clean-onlyTreatments: Non-iron, lint-free, or anti-static

Breaking it down

There are several important things to think about when you look at slacks vs. pants, including their style, the available fits, as well as any treatments that may be applied to the fabric.

Available Fits

As one of the most important things to think about when it comes to choosing the right pair of pants, you’re going to need to consider their fit as this can influence the style you’re trying to achieve. This is also a significant difference between slacks and dress pants as one offers a far greater fit than the other, and for good reason.


As slacks are more of the business-casual type of pants, you’re going to notice there are a few more fits available than there would be with formal dress pants. This is because slacks can be paired with relatively any shirt, regardless of if you’re trying to dress them up or dress them down.

Depending on your style, this can be quite beneficial, though it might take you a little bit longer to find the perfect look you’ve been searching for. Typically, slacks can come in straight, classic, slim, skinny, or boot cut. Choosing the right fit not only depends on your body type, but also the type of shoes you intend on wearing. For example, a classic fit works well with dress shoes, as does a straight and slim fit. However, a skinny or boot cut fit is better with sneakers, boots, or casual walking shoes.

Dress Pants

There are fewer fit options when it comes to dress pants mostly because you typically don’t dress them down which means you’ll only be pairing them with some type of dress shoe. With that being said, it’s far simpler to find the right fit as there're only a few to choose from and they’re typically reserved for formal occasions or everyday business wear. Classic, straight, and slim are the three most popular dress pants fits and each accommodates different body types, for example, slim is recommended for leaner bodies however classic is perfect for a traditional appeal and a bulkier physique. Winner: Slacks. In terms of variety, slacks are by far the better option when it comes to finding pants as their extensive list of fits give you the ability to choose the perfect pair for everyday wear.

Fabric Treatments

Fabric treatments are particularly important, as they not only influence the feeling of the pants you’re wearing, but also their longevity. The more treated a pair of pants are, the more likely they are to last a long time and withstand things such as color fading, accumulation of lint, and even static.


Slacks typically don’t offer any type of fabric treatments and if they do, it’s mostly something pertaining to colorfastness. As they're the more casual of the two, you’ll be more likely to wash them on a regular basis, and as such, ensuring they don't fade is of the utmost importance.

Dress Pants

On the other hand, dress pants most often have a few fabric treatments that are designed to make maintaining and wearing the pants simpler. For example, you can find pairs that have non-iron treatments that prevent you from having to get rid of unsightly wrinkles.

You may also be able to take advantage of lint- and static-free materials, which help to make the pants ready to wear as soon as they come out of the dryer or dry cleaners. Winner: Dress PantsThere’s nothing better than being able to take advantage of fabric treatments that are designed to preserve the integrity of your clothing. With dress pants, you’ll be able to reap the benefits of multiple treatments that are purely designed for comfort and versatility.

Available Styles

As another giant difference between slacks vs. pants, style is an important factor to consider. The term “slacks” envelopes a wide variety of different types of business casual and purely casual pants, whereas dress pants are exactly as their name suggests – a dressier alternative. Thinking about style will give you exactly what you need in order to dress appropriately for an upcoming occasion.


As mentioned, there are many different styles covered by slacks including khakis, chinos, corduroy pants, and more. However, they're not as formal as dress pants which can work in your favor in most cases but could also work against you. You may be able to dress up a pair of slacks with a formal shirt or blazer, but it surely won’t set as striking of an appeal as a traditional suit.

Dress Pants

Dress pants don’t cover as many styles as slacks as you can typically choose between pleated (a single crease in the front of the pants) and flat (no crease). But, they're the perfect option for more formal events where you’ll be required to dress up and make the best first impression possible.

As dress pants are formal at their core, you won’t have to dress them up, but you can also dress them down by choosing a more casual top, which makes them fully adaptable. Winner: Tie. It’s hard to choose a clear winner between dress pants and slacks when it comes to style as it all depends on the type of event you’re getting ready for. At times, you may only be able to get away with formal attire (dress pants), and other times, you might be able to work with a more casual look (slacks).

Read also: Classic Fit vs Straight Fit

Final Recount

Slacks: 2/3Dress Pants: 2/3

Winner: Tie

Pros and Cons of Each

  • Comfortable
  • Flexible
  • Versatile styles
  • Business casual
  • No tailoring
  • Not formal
  • Less professional
  • Too many choices
Dress Pants
  • Professional
  • Formal
  • Fabric treatments
  • Adaptable
  • Restricting materials
  • Requires tailoring
  • Fewer styles

Final Verdict

Choosing the final winner between slacks vs. dress pants is all up to your style and what you feel comfortable wearing. If you have a career where business casual is the appropriate dress code, you can take advantage of customizing your wardrobe by choosing between a variety of different pant styles. However, this can be relatively time-consuming and overwhelming for many men who don’t particularly enjoy shopping. On the other end of the spectrum, dress pants give you the ability to have a perfect formal appeal, but they may not be appropriate for every occasion. Choosing dress pants can be significantly easier as there are only three common fits to choose from, but they can feel restricting and less comfortable against the skin. However, they are typically treated to last several years in comparison to slacks, which will deteriorate over time. Your best choice is to think about the occasion you’re getting ready for and determine which pair of pants would be the most appropriate as this will help you to look your best and feel comfortable at the same time.

Editor’s notes

Our look defines us in many ways. This is not just visually, but in the way, it affects us. We become more or less confident depending on how at ease we are with our looks. This is an important consideration because that affects how others react to us.

As noted, slacks can be both business and casual whereas dress pants are formal, but the lines can be blurred when worn with a sports coat or matching jacket. This alters appearances to create a smart casual look that defines modern elegance. Add in other elements and the mix becomes even more malleable.

With a dress shirt, a pair of slim slacks can be almost indistinguishable from formal pants. Suit pants can become part of a casual style when paired with a lounge shirt. A man’s closet increasingly becomes a vibrant mixture of different styles that can be blended to form a glorious cascade of looks. Each kind of pants brings something different to the mix creating myriad possibilities.

These looks can range from something suitable as part of a casual dress code to semi-formal settings and even formal events. There are still some rules to be followed through such as pants for formal wear ideally are a solid color, flat front, and not a loose fit. But beyond these rules, the modern look is eclectic and allows for mixing and matching in many different ways.

Pants act as a connector between footwear and belt and because of this a poorly chosen color can destroy a look entirely. It often seems that pants are underappreciated when it comes to the importance do their role in any look. People will talk about somebody’s shoes or their shirt, but seldom about their pants. It seems that they are taken far more for granted.

This should not be the case. Pants hold a look together but seem to go unnoticed.  This should not deter people from selecting the perfect pair of trousers. It is a truth that the best dress trousers can be part of a dressier style of casual wear.

In a world where a smart jacket can accompany a pair of jeans, almost any mix and match is possible. So, creating a casual style with formal pants and a bomber jacket is not a thing of horror, but even acceptable. Similarly, a pair of chinos with a tweed jacket does not contravene the boundaries of what is acceptable. Ideas change though and people need to make sure they stay abreast of these changes so as not to commit any fashion faux pas.

If I were to use one word for modern men’s fashion it would be mélange. With the exception of some rules that may be eternal such as stripes and dots do not go together and pink and orange are garish and vile color combinations together, in mélange anything goes provided that the final look is cohesive. If it makes sense in the mirror, it should make sense in public.

But this is about slacks versus dress pants so to break it down. Except for very formal events and business events that insist on a certain dress code, anything goes if it makes for a visually sound look. Formal pants and slacks which are really anchors in a person’s look can be mixed with a variety of shirts and jackets to create an eclectic range of looks that go from casual to a sort of acceptable, effectively formal appearance.

So in one sentence – when it comes to pants pick and choose and just make sure that you can rock your decision.