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Is There a Difference Between Slacks and Dress Pants?

The terms slacks and dress pants are often used interchangeably, but are there differences between them? When you're looking for a great pair of pants, there are a lot of things to consider. 

It's important to understand whether or not slacks and dress pants are interchangeable. Here is everything that you need to know about the differences between slacks and dress pants and which is the best style for you.

What are Slacks?

Not surprisingly considering the word, slacks are a little bit looser than pants. Historically they have been more comfortable and generally used in more casual settings. 

Slacks were often held up at the waist by a belt or suspenders and had a loose fit throughout the leg. They may or may not require ironing, but traditionally they have been less likely to need ironing since they are supposed to be more comfortable and casual. 

Are Slacks Fashionable?

Slacks have always been more casual than pants, but they used to be more popular too. Reduction in slacks' popularity may be why the terms pants and slacks are so often used interchangeably now. 

Men tend to favor pants that have a tighter fit than slacks these days. As the style has gone towards pants with a more fitted look, the older fashions of wearing looser, more comfortable slacks became associated with older generations and less fashionable for younger people. When you're shopping for dress pants, you are unlikely to be considering slacks.

Get the Advantages of Slacks With the Style of Dress Pants

A large part of the reason that slacks are falling out of fashion is that improvements in technology have made pants a much more attractive alternative. When pants were primarily made of wool there were concerns about shining the wool during ironing. The restrictive nature of wool meant that looser and more casual slacks as an alternative to dress pants for casual wear became practical.

However, modern high-quality dress pants are even more comfortable than slacks. You can get greater comfort than slacks can provide with a form-fitting pant that is stylish and flattering. Here are the ways in which pants have replaced slacks as both the style and comfort go to:

  • Freedom of movement. Dynamic 4-way stretch fabric doesn't look like stretch material, but it can move with you to give you the same freedom of movement as you'd have if you were wearing much looser pants. In addition, this kind of stretch makes it less likely that your pants will move around on your waist.
  • Cooling technology. Wool pants were extremely hot, whether you wore loose slacks that allowed better airflow or tighter-fitting pants. Modern pants replace the need for loose slacks by enabling great airflow and coolness in form-fitting pants.
  • Non-iron. Slacks were often made to avoid ironing since they were usually casual. Modern pants also avoid ironing, but they look great doing it. Modern pants can go from the closet or suitcase to work without you having to worry about ironing. 

Choosing the Right Pants Fit for You

Pants are tighter than slacks, but there are still important variations in how they fit. Modern style dictates that pants are considerably more form-fitting than older styles. There are two great options in quality non-iron comfortable pants: extra trim and tailored. 

  • Tailored pants taper down from your waist in a very attractive and comfortable way. 
  • Extra trim pants have a tighter form-fitting design that is ideal for more slender or tall men.

Between these two fits, you're sure to find pants that look perfect on. Since they're made of a stretch material, they'll feel great no matter which fit you choose.

Picking the Right Pant Length For You

Another important element of choosing the right pants is what length they should be. Lengths vary depending on the style of pants. You will also choose the length based on how much break (or fold in the fabric at the bottom of the pant leg) you want to show.

Modern fashions favor narrower pant legs with no break. This is very different from the old fashioned slack that was often worn a little longer to create an extensive break at both the front and back of the shoe.

It is also popular to show a little bit of your sock above your dress shoe. Therefore, most men are choosing pants that fit a bit shorter than was historically popular. However, you should not have pants so short that your socks are always completely visible all the way around the shoe. Ideally, socks will only be slightly visible around the shoe's tongue.

When to Wear Dress Pants

Slacks were typically worn on more casual occasions. If you don't want to wear slacks during casual times and love how comfortable your favorite dress pants are, you may be wondering if you can extend wearing dress pants to more casual occasions. You'll be glad to know that there are all kinds of great ways to dress down your dress pants so that you will look and feel awesome.

With a Cool Dress Shirt

If you want something to look great when you're going out to the bars or the club, or even on a movie date night, a cool dress shirt with glow-in-the-dark details is sure to make exactly the impression you want. 

Wear it with slim-fitting black dress pants, and you're sure to be happy with the reaction that you get. The glow in these glow-in-the-dark shirts is subtle. It is only present in detail of the buttons and in the lining of the collar and sleeves. 

You'll be able to catch someone's eye, but you won't draw attention from everyone around you. This is one of the best ways to look casual wearing dress pants while also taking advantage of how good you look in dress pants and a dress shirt.

With the Right T-Shirts

Not every T-shirt is going to look great with your dress pants. However, a minimalistic graphic tee with a simple color design paired with a stylish pair of dress pants is a look that can with almost any casual event perfectly. With dress pants that are more comfortable than your favorite pair of jeans, you'll find that you're dressing up your style everywhere you go.

Untucked Collared Shirt

A superb way to dress down a pair of dress pants while not mixing it up too much is to pair them with a more casual dress shirt. Choose an untuckable dress shirt so that the length will be perfect with your dress pants.  

A short-sleeve shirt is a great option, especially if you want to be outside in very hot weather. Many men like the look of a long-sleeved shirt with rolled-up sleeves. Ideally, choose a long sleeve shirt that has a contrasting pattern in the lining at the sleeves that will be visible at your upper arm. 

Find the Best Pants for You

If you love the way that slacks feel but know that they aren't as stylish or as flattering as you'd like them to be, the right pair of dress pants may make a huge difference for you. 

Great dress pants look amazing in a wide variety of situations, but they also feel more comfortable than the average pair of slacks. Be sure that you choose pants that are the right length and fit for your body. 

Have fun playing with ways to dress down your style so that you can replace slacks with your favorite dress pants on all kinds of different occasions.