Dress pants is a broad category. Unlike chinos or jeans, there is no singular definition dictating what they look like, how they fit, how they're made or what they're made of. In fact, the only thing tying the spectrum of options within the dress pants category together is their appropriateness at a wedding or at work or at any other formal get-together. They should work well with your dress shirt, no matter whether it's a standard white one or made from performance fabrics.
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What Are Dress Pants?
Like I said, there isn't a single definition for this style. At the bare minimum, they're a step above basic blue jeans or chinos, but separate from suit and tuxedo pants, which are designed to match your chosen jacket. Dress pants, on the other hand, are meant to worn with a dress shirt and dress shoes — two more styles that, although loosely defined as well, are easy to spot when you see them. Together, this outfit works in traditional work environments, at church services, country clubs, conferences, parent-teacher catchups, school concerts, job interviews and so on and so forth.
How Should They Fit?
Although trends will rise and fall around them, your dress pants should never change. They should be properly tailored, not too short but not too long and made from a material that'll never be considered out of style. That means no adornments like branded patterns, drastic pleats or distressing, but they should not be too slim-fitting or too wide. And the break shouldn't be too noticeable.
"'Break’ refers to how much your pant cuffs bend or fold when they come into contact with your shoes," a Spoke London stylist tells us. "If your dress trousers are bunching at the ankles, they’re too long but if they’re getting caught around the calf, they’re too short. With jeans, there can be less of a ‘break’ but with dress pants, the proper inseam leg means there should have only be a slight break."
You can tell a pair of pants don't fit by the fly, too, the stylist explains: "Apart from being a tad embarrassing, if your fly is constantly falling down, especially when you sit down, then your pants are too tight."
What Color Should They Be?
Because you probably won't be matching them with a suit jacket — but maybe a blazer or a sport coat, which are different things, folks — they can be whatever color you'd like, as long as they complement the tops and shoes you already own.
What Should I Wear Them With?
The most traditional way to wear dress pants is with a dress shirt, a tie and dress shoes. But, you could also pull them off with a simple T-shirt, perhaps a polo or even a soft sweater. Since dress pants aren't tied to a matching jacket, what you wear up top is really up to you — and the dress code of the event (or office you're in).