Best Budget Pants for Men of 2021
The Rhone Commuter pants are an incredibly versatile pair of trousers that have no trouble adapting to whatever your varied days have in store for them. With a slim modern cut, these sharp-looking pants can be easily dressed up or down. The flex-knit fabric ensures that, despite the slim fit, your range of motion is fully unencumbered, making them an ideal choice for bike commuters, fast walkers, and those that simply appreciate excellent mobility. The soft material is comfortable and stretchy enough to even hit the local climbing gym on your way home from work — without needing to change.
The flex-knit fabric also proved to be the most breathable material of the pants we tried on, so whether you're crammed on the subway on a hot day or going for a hike, these pants help keep you from getting too sweaty. These highly versatile pants have a high price tag, and the top-tier quality is apparent as soon as you slide them on.
The Original 874 work pant brings the heavy-hitting durability you would expect from the workwear giant Dickies. This incredible durability comes at an exceedingly low price point, making these the ideal pants to thrash at the job site or the skate park. The straight fit and creased legs give the pants a classic look, appropriate for all but the most formal work environments.
The cotton-polyester blend that makes these pants exceptionally durable also makes them a little scratchy on the skin and somewhat restrictive of movement. The more you wear and wash these pants, the more supple they become. While they are great for heavy-duty work, they wouldn't be our first choice to wear on hot days. The thick and durable material does not breathe well and has trouble shedding moisture when it gets wet. That being said, they are an excellent option for cold weather or when durability at a lower price is an important consideration.
The Amazon Essentials Slim-Fit Chino is the more stylish and modern-looking version of the Amazon Essentials Classic-Fit Chino. With their slimmer fit, these pants were more restrictive than their relaxed fit counterpart — but not overly so with. While you might not be able to max out your high kicks, they have enough range of motion to comfortably walk to work and spend the day moving around the office.
The slimmer fit and modern style has no trouble going straight from the office to evening drinks out on the town. Their affordable price tag means it's easy to grab a couple of pairs and round out your weekly office uniform. We appreciate these chinos for their budget-friendly price and style.
The Carhartt Relaxed Fit Dungaree is the quintessential work pant. Equipped with numerous utility pockets and a hammer loop, these pants were designed with construction work in mind. With a longer hemline and a relaxed fit, they comfortably fit over a pair of boots and ensure you have a decent range of motion. The 100% cotton fabric is one of the softest and most comfortable materials we felt throughout our testing. The material is thick enough to withstand the abuse of hard labor and airy enough to keep things comfortable, even in the heat.
As a clear favorite, we have a hard time finding any caveats. While these are undoubtedly excellent work pants, their fit and style details will keep them out of most office spaces. Buy them if you want a comfortable pair of pants that'll hold up while hammering away at a project or hanging out with friends.
The Dockers Slim Fit Workday Khaki is a comfortable office pant that is just as much at home at a backyard bbq as it is at your daily 9-5. Made from a stretch cotton blend, these pants are minimally restrictive despite their slimmer cut. Although these still fall into the category of slim fit, our testers found them to straddle the line between slim and straight. They're more relaxed fitting than the tight-fitting Rhone Commuter pants but by no means baggy. If you're looking for a modern-looking office pant that isn't too tight, these are a great choice.
While these perform well in moderate climates, hot weather will not be your friend while wearing these slacks. We found the fabric was thick and less breathable than we wanted. These pants are versatile and stylish enough to wear to any semi-formal affair.
The Wrangler Cargo pant is exactly what you might think of when somebody says "cargo pants". Love them or hate them, cargo pants are an enduring trend that will always have their place in the world of workwear. Whether you need pockets for small tools or snacks, cargo pants provide you with the means to carry a surplus of items readily at your fingertips. These pants are equipped with a total of six pockets, including two extra-large flap closure side pockets. Our testers appreciated the utilitarian functionality these pants offer.
These are not over the top or in your face about their pocket space as far as cargo pants go. On the slim side for relaxed-fit pants, they have a clean silhouette and wear comfortably if not a little tight on the hips. While their range of motion is adequate for work pants, they were slightly too restrictive to use, as say, a pair of hiking pants. That said, we recommend them for anyone needing a surplus of handy pockets.
The Lee Extreme Comfort Straight Fit pants are incredibly comfortable. With a loose fit from the waist down through the thighs, these pants give you room to move. With mesh pockets designed to contribute to breathability, they make great hiking or summer work pants.
Living on the more casual side of the spectrum, these pants might not be office-appropriate, but they could be suitable for a dressed-down office look depending on the dress code. With a stretch waistband and breathable, stretchy fabric, these pants are all about maximizing comfort. Buy them if you seek hiking pants that don't look too techy to keep you from wearing them to work or out on the town.
The Amazon Essentials Classic-Fit Chino is an affordable, no-frills office-ready pant. With a relaxed fit, this is one of the looser-fitting pairs of pants in our fleet. The cotton-polyester fabric proved to be soft on the skin and thin enough to be highly breathable. The relaxed fit and airy fabric made these our pants of choice for hot summer days stuck in the office.
Despite the relaxed fit in the bum and thighs, we found the waist to be a little tight. The baggy fit and pleated legs pigeonhole these pants to be exclusively for office wear.
The Bonobos Stretch Chinos are made from a soft stretch cotton blend that is pleasing to the touch. Despite being 2% lycra, these pants were fairly restrictive and did not offer an exceptional range of motion. However, given their cut and look, these are best as business casual office pants or semi-formal dress pants, so their lack of mobility isn't entirely relevant.
The legs were a little too long and extended well past the ankle, which is fine if you cuffed the pants for a casual look. For a more formal look, we would have needed to hem the pants.
The Unionbay Survivor Cargo pants are casual pants best suited for weekend yard work. With a relaxed fit bordering on baggy, these pants are much too casual for office wear and a little too thin to be serious work pants.
They have ample pocket space and are made from light cotton material, making them comfortable and utilitarian but the least stylish of the pants we reviewed. If you're looking for a pair of pants to knock around the yard in or use for casual, cool weather hiking, the Unionbay Survivor Cargo pants fit the bill.
Why You Should Trust Us
Buck Yedor, our lead tester for this project, fancies himself a bit of a pants connoisseur. Having worked jobs as far-ranging as working for Yosemite Search and Rescue to attending management meetings for one of the largest climbing gym companies in the world, he has experienced a dress code that is almost as diverse as the work. Buck knows firsthand that you have to dress the part to be successful, and having the right pants for the right job is a crucial part of the equation.
From style to comfort, a good pair of pants needs to check all the boxes. After scouring the internet to find the most sought-after pants, we independently purchased 10 of the most promising models for Buck to put to the test. He hit the field to compare which pants had the most comfortable material and the highest level of breathability, and which were the most stylish and versatile. We also determined how restrictive each pair felt on our tester.
Analysis and Test Results
You'll find that the subtleties of what makes a pair of pants great lie in the details. To get a true sense of how each pair performed, we started by washing them per the manufacturers' instructions and then walking a mile in each pair. After the walk, each pant was subjected to a series of squats and stretches. By running them all through the same tests, we could objectively compare how each fared in each of our specified metrics.
Ease of Care
To determine the ease of care for each pair, we washed them per the manufacturers' instructions and then noted whether or not there was shrinkage, how well they dried, and if they needed to be ironed. Of all the pants we tested, only the Rhone Commuter Pants had to hang dry rather than be put in the dryer. While this made for a longer dry time, the pants came out completely wrinkle-free and ready to wear.
The Dockers experienced a bit of shrinkage after their first wash, and it's important to remember they must be washed cold. The Bonobos Chinos came out of the dryer a little wrinkly and needed an iron, given their intended use as business casual wear.
Comfort of Material
To test the comfort of the material, we looked at how the fabric felt against our skin, especially after continual rubbing during the mile-long walk.
The highest performer in the metric was the Rhone Commuter. Made entirely of synthetic "flex knit" fabric, they were incredibly soft to the touch and didn't chafe at all during testing. The next most comfortable pair was the Carhartt Dungaree. Despite its thickness, this 100% cotton heavyweight twill was incredibly supple. The Dickies Original 874 were made from the least comfortable material. The 65% polyester, 35% cotton blend was a little scratchy and made the pants feel stiff.
While each pair is designed to be a specific fit, such as slim, straight, or relaxed, we looked specifically at how each pant fits at the waist, the bum, and around the thighs. We were also looking at where the hemline fell in relation to our tester's ankle. Our favorite fitting pant was the Rhone Commuter. The pants are slim-fitting but not overly tight. The waist was true to size with a little extra give from the stretchy material. The hemline was a little long for our tester, but the pants accommodated a quick cuffing well.
The Carhartt Dungaree was another standout in fit. Tailored to have a relaxed fit, they were comfortable but not baggy. The waist fits true to size and didn't require a belt to keep them from falling off. The relaxed fit made walking in them comfortable despite being made of non-stretch cotton. The longer hemline is ideal for fitting over a pair of work boots and fit exactly how you'd want and expect if you were spending all day in them, performing manual labor.
We found the Unionbay Survivor Cargo to have the least flattering fit. Baggy all around, they required a belt to stay in place, and the extra-long hemline had the end of the pant legs pooling on top of our feet. The Amazon Essentials Classic-Fit Chinos were tight-fitting in the waist for how loose they were in the bum and thighs.
When evaluating breathability, we measured how sweaty and moist the different pants became during a mile-long walk. The highest performer was again the Rhone Commuter. The flex knit fabric kept our tester cool, and at the end of the mile-long walk, had little to no moisture build-up. The Amazon Essentials Classic-Fit Chino fared surprisingly well in this metric. The looser fit and cotton blend stayed pleasantly dry and cool on our summertime walk. The Dickies Original 874, given their thick and stiff fabric, proved to be the least breathable, and our tester reported high amounts of sweat being built upon their walk. The Dickies wouldn't be our first choice to go hiking in better suited to cool weather wear.
Ease of Movement
Ease of movement refers to how big of a range of motion each pant allows for. The Rhone Commuter gave the wearer a complete range of motion. The stretchy synthetic fabric lets all movements feel unencumbered, which is especially notable given the slim fit of the pants.
The Lee Performance Series lived up to their name and also offered unrestricted movement. The roomy fit and stretch cotton was highly flexible. A surprise high scorer in the metric was the Dickies Original 874, which allowed for a decent amount of movement, despite their thicker fabric and tighter fit.
Perhaps the only truly subjective metric in the bunch, there is an element of personal taste when it comes to rating style. That being said, we took into account modern trends and sensibilities when looking at this metric. A long-time staple of streetwear fashion, the Dickies 874 Originals were some of the most stylish pants we tried on. With a clean silhouette and a fit that was straight or bordering on a slim fit, they offer a classic look that won't be going out of style any time soon.
The Rhone Commuters were another pair that typifies modern style. With minimal details and a slim, slightly tapered leg, these pants simply look good. The Amazon Essentials Classic-Fit Chinos were some of the least stylish pants we tried. Their pleated legs and relaxed fit feel like they were taken from your dad's old stash of dated office wear.
Versatility refers to how well each pant can be worn in a variety of situations. Are they relegated to office wear only? Can you go out on a Friday night in them? Can you ride a bike or go for a hike in them? The most versatile pair of pants we tested was the Rhone Commuter. With its modern style and breathable and stretchy fabric, this pant does it all. It would make a great travel pant given how well it functions in so many roles.
The Dockers Slim Fit Khaki is another choice that can work for a variety of functions. Dressed up or down, this pant fits in just as well at the office as it does for a Saturday BBQ. Though high performers in specific categories, some pants are just meant for one purpose. The Carhartt Dungarees, for example, are great work pants, but given their specificity, they're not very versatile. Along the same lines, the business casual Amazon Essentials Classic-Fit Chino is best suited for a dressier environment.
After trying on and wearing 10 different varieties of men's pants that ranged from relaxed-fit dungarees to slim-fit chinos, we were able to break down the best and worst qualities of each pair. We tested ease of care, the comfort of material, overall fit, breathability, ease of movement, style, and versatility. With an overwhelmingly large selection of pants on the market, it can be hard to know what you're purchasing. We hope our in-depth breakdown of these pants will help take the confusion out of what pair you want to slide into next.
— Buck Yedor
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