Khakis vs. chinos: What's the difference?

Paulina Kulczycki

You may have noticed that khakis and cargo trousers are making a comeback this year and seem to be competing with chinos. But if we’re being truthful, we’re not sure a ton of people know the difference between chinos and khakis. Add khaki chinos to the mix, and we’re all pretty much confused! And even though the differences between khakis and chinos may seem insignificant to you, the small but subtle differences can quickly make an outfit top or flop. That's why we at SANVT explain how khakis and chinos differ, and how to wear them best. 

It’s not uncommon to see chinos and khakis used as synonyms, despite them being two different types of trousers. Don’t worry if you’re confused – you certainly aren’t the only one. Even fashion brands keep confusing the two terms. The reason for this is that the chino evolved from the khaki pants – as a kind of a more elegant version. So if there should be one notable difference, it's that chinos are clearly “dressier” and more sophisticated than khakis. Any other differences, you ask? Let’s take a look at the other differences between khakis and chinos.

Khakis vs. Chinos SANVT

At a glance, here are the 5 most important differences between khakis and chinos:

  • Cut: chinos have a tapered leg and fitted cut, while khakis have a straight or pleated leg and a looser fit.
  • Fabric: chinos are made of a light, breathable, and slightly shiny cotton twill, while khakis use a heavy, thick cotton twill.
  • Seams: chinos have hidden seams and pockets for a more sophisticated look, while khakis have visible seams and side pockets.
  • Colour: chinos come in many different colours, while khakis are only available in khaki, brown, or beige.
  • Occasion: chinos are suitable for business casual meetings, formal occasions, and sometimes even as a substitute for suit trousers, while khakis are only suitable as casual wear.


Khaki trousers are made of a heavier cotton fabric and have a looser, straight cut. The seams of khakis are visible, similar to jeans, which gives the trousers a nonchalant look. Khakis come in muted earth tones, such as khaki, brown, or beige, and they often come with visible pockets, side pockets, and zips. This makes khakis extremely comfortable and functional, but not quite as fashionably sophisticated as chinos. Khakis are therefore more ideal for hiking, barbecues, and leisure, but definitely not for more formal occasions.

If we're honest with you, we find it significantly harder to stage the khaki trousers in a stylish context than the chinos. With an oversized heavy t-shirt in black or a tucked-in black sweatshirt, black Dr. Martens boots, and a black beanie, the khaki can certainly be worn quite casually, but this won’t suit everyone. Find out how else you can wear khakis in our style guide for women and men. 

Khakis vs. Chinos: The Smart Chino SANVT


Chinos are made of a finer cotton fabric that usually has a matte-gloss shimmer, making them look far more sophisticated than the dull, rougher fabric of khakis. With hidden seams, discreet pockets, and a slim fit, chinos are a smart and casual alternative to suit trousers, and can be worn for both business and leisure. Chinos are considered an all-rounder and can be appropriately staged in different colours for different occasions and styles, especially business casual

Combined with white sneakers and a white t-shirt, you get a minimalist and versatile look that just always looks good and effortless. You can read more about when and how to wear chinos here

At SANVT, we simply love chinos, which is why we've developed the smart chino, made from a luxurious mix of stretch cotton (97%) and elastane (3%). While the high percentage of cotton ensures temperature and moisture regulation, elastane increases the elasticity and thus the wearing comfort. Our chinos are available in beige, grey, dark blue, black, and khaki.

Khakis vs. Chinos: The Khaki Chino SANVT

Khaki chinos

Yes, you heard that right: besides chinos and khakis, there are also khaki chinos. Because khaki is not just a trouser model but also a colour. So if you want a pair of khaki trousers without sacrificing any refinement, you can add our new khaki chinos to your eco-conscious wardrobe. And like all our products, these chinos are produced in a fair and sustainable way, and are also climate neutral. 

Khakis vs. chinos: summing up

As you can see, there are subtle yet crucial differences between khakis and chinos that declare chinos a timeless classic and rather outshine khakis. Therefore, we at SANVT believe that khakis and cargo trousers will remain more of a short-lived trend, much like they were in the 2000s. Chinos, on the other hand, will remain with us for many decades to come. And since chinos are now also available in khaki, we fortunately no longer have to rack our brains over which of the two trouser styles is more appropriate. With our khaki chino, you've got the best of both in one pair of trousers.

And if you like the khaki trousers for their heavier, sturdier fabric, check out our classy, heavy chinos in dark blue. With a 420 g/m2 stretch fabric made from premium organic cotton, these trousers are ideal for autumn and winter.


Photos by Valentin Rudloff & Chris Fraas

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