From trousers to joggers to jeans, pants come in many different types, styles, and materials. Picking the right pair of pants to go with your outfit is much easier if you know what each type of pants looks like! Check out this handy guide to the 34 most popular different types of pants to find out all you need to know about your legwear.
Types of pants can depend on the style or shape of the legwear, such as cargo pants vs cigarette trousers or capris vs chinos. The pant type can also depend on the type of material used, such as jeans, corduroys, and khakis. Finally, the type of pants can also depend on the cut or fit of the legwear, as in high-rise pants or boyfriend pants.
In this article, you will learn how to differentiate different types of pants. You will discover the key characteristics of 34 types of pants. Finally, you will find tips on how to pick the best pants for you.
How Many Types of Pants are There?
There are dozens of different kinds of pants for men, women, and children. In this article, you will learn about the 34 most popular types of pants defined by the style, material, or cut of the garment.
You can use many other pants names, like trousers, slacks, leggings, and even bottoms. English being the weird language that it is, in the UK, “pants” actually refers to undergarments, and the term “trousers” serves as the catch-all for legwear instead.
In the States, any type of legwear that reaches between the knee and ankle is classified as pants. This covers everything from jeans to capris to tuxedo trousers!
Popular pants styles for women include jeans, dress pants, palazzo pants, cigarette pants, and many more. You can easily argue that modern fashion features at least 20 styles of women’s pants.
In fact, women’s pants tend to come in a more varied range of styles than men’s, despite the fact that historically, women have only worn pants for about 100 years.
Some of men’s most popular types of pants include jeans, dress pants, chinos, khakis, and cargo pants. You can divide the most popular styles of pants for men into just ten to fifteen types.
Of course, this includes styles like jeans, khakis, chinos, cargo pants, sweatpants, and joggers. But you can also break down the category of jeans and trousers by the garment’s cut, such as slim fit vs skinny fit, straight fit vs relaxed fit, and high rise vs low rise.
Just like for men, you can find about ten to fifteen popular styles of pants for boys. These include school uniform staples like khakis and chinos and the always-popular many different styles of jeans. Any pants with a drawstring closure, like sweatpants and joggers, work great for boys for everyday use because they provide easy comfort.
For Teenage Girls
Teenage girls win the most stylish award hands-down and wear a wide range of different pant styles, with jeans probably coming as the most popular style of pants for teens. Teen girls wear all the trending styles women wear, such as palazzo pants, yoga pants, leggings, and many more.
The thing about finding the right pants for a teenage girl is that she will want the style to exactly match either a current trend or the knowledge she has about her own body, meaning that she will likely see many minute differences between one style of pants and another similar style.
34 Different Types of Pants
The thirty-four most popular types of pants today include different styles of pants, pants that contain unique materials, and pants that feature special cuts like high or low rise.
The most obvious way to classify different types of pants is based on stylistic features such as the length of the leg, the decorative elements on the pants, or the overall shape of the garment.
Bell Bottoms/Sailor Pants
Bell bottom or sailor’s style pants have close-fitting upper legs and a wide flare out from the knee, kind of in the shape of a bell. They had a practical purpose when they first gained popularity for military use in the 1800s: the wide lower leg allowed sailors to quickly cuff their pants when water flooded their ships!
The counterculture move of the 1960s took military items and turned them into symbols of peace, so it is no surprise that the hippies made bell-bottom pants a sign of love and peace instead of war–and also made this style of pants famous forever.
Capris have a casual appearance and a short length, ending mid-calf or at some point between the knee and the calf. They look more like pants than shorts because they always reach below the knee.
These summery pants can have many different lower leg styles, including slim tapered cropped legs, flared cropped legs, or even skinny fit cropped legs. You can even find special styles of capris, like side-button models that feature militaristic rows of buttons on the outer side seams of the cropped pants.
Cargo pants feature several external pockets down the outer legs of the loose pants. Originally designed for paratroopers in WWII, the pockets allowed soldiers to carry lots of supplies, leading to the nickname “cargo” pants. Today, you sometimes also see these casual pants called combat pants.
Chinos contain a twill-weave cotton fabric and have slim, fitted legs with no pleats or extra pockets. They fall somewhere between khakis and slacks in terms of casual wear, as the fitted styles present a slightly more formal appearance than the looser, more informal khaki, but the cotton twill makes them less formal than a traditional pair of dress pants. They often form part of school uniforms and remain popular for preppy business casual in the workplace.
Cigarette pants have narrow, fitted legs that end just above the ankle. Audrey Hepburn made this look famous for women in the 1950s, but it remains trendy today! You might think that the idea is that the slender, tight tubes of these pants legs look a bit like cigarettes. Still, the pants get their name because they incorporated a side pocket for storing cigarettes, back before people knew about lung cancer.
True cigarette pants also have a vintage-style high waist and back zipper, allowing the flat front waistband to present a flattering, slim fit.
For a while, it seemed like culottes had died away with other wild 80s trends, but these days popular fashion once again sports these eye-catching knee-length pants cut very wide to resemble a skirt. This style originated in the 1920s and served as a “split skirt” to help transition from women wearing skirts to pants.
The big difference between culottes, gaucho pants, and palazzo pants is that culottes end at the knee, gaucho pants end mid-calf, and palazzo pants are full-length.
While the name may feel problematic in the modern era, harem pants constantly cycle in and out of popular fashion due to their extremely comfortable baggy shape with an elastic gathered ankle. While harem pants have an ancient history in Persia, it was British suffragettes who brought the style to Europe because the loose-fitting pants served as a strong contrast to the constraining corsets and hoop skirts the women opposed at the time.
Today, harem pants often come in vibrant colors and patterns and serve as a relaxed, happy, laid-back style.
Stirrup pants or jodhpurs fit the legs tightly like leggings, but they have a stirrup-shaped strang that stretches beneath the arch of the foot to keep the pant leg fully extended. Horsewomen wore this pants style, called jodhpurs because they fit well with tall riding boots. In the 80s, exercise videos made the unique type of pants popular with the general public.
Joggers feature lightweight knit athletic material, a drawstring waist, and usually have slimmer legs than more casual sweatpants. One of the other key characteristics of this kind of pants is that the legs usually taper to a narrow ankle or even have a gathered elastic cuff at the ankle. This style of loungewear or “athleisure” has a breathable material that makes them ideal for jogging, hence the name!
Leggings have a skin-tight, stretchy fit, much like tights, but they feature a thicker and opaque fabric and end at the ankles or higher on the leg. These days, you can wear leggings in place of pants, especially for sporty occasions or to the gym. Leggings feature many different stretchy knit fabrics and can have special features like an external pocket for a phone, but they always have a tight, stretchy fit.
Sometimes called overalls, painter’s pants, or dungarees, this distinctive type of pants has a bib and straps that cross the shoulders. Painter’s pants traditionally feature canvas fabric, while overalls and dungarees may feature denim, corduroy, or other heavier fabrics. They generally have loose, straight-cut legs.
Lounge or pajama pants feature soft, cozy fabrics like light cotton knits, thin fleece, or flannel. They usually have an elastic or drawstring waist and loose, roomy legs. The names get used interchangeably, but sometimes loungewear, more specifically, means super casual pants you could wear in public. In contrast, pajama pants sometimes describe an item you would sleep in but not wear in public.
Palazzo pants have super full, long legs that look like a floor-length skirt if you stand with your legs together. They use light, summery fabrics that flow well and sometimes have a bow tie closure at the front of the waist. These pants can have a beachy casual vibe or a super formal style depending on the type of material they contain and the outfit you pair them with.
Running tights or running leggings feature thick, breathable, stretchy fabric that you can wear while running without putting shorts over top of them. Running tights cover your feet, and running leggings typically end at the ankle. Both styles of athletic wear often use high-performance athletic fabrics that provide moisture-wicking or other advanced features for athletes.
Stovepipe pants remain a popular style for men’s and women’s dress pants and jeans. While the exact cut can vary from brand to brand, most stovepipe pants feature a fitted upper leg and a straight leg below the knee with a slightly closer fit than most regular or straight-cut pants. Women’s stovepipe pants may also end at the ankle and feature decorative ankle slits.
Sweatpants can come in several styles but always feature thick, soft material. Most sweatpants feature an elastic waist and loos-cut legs for easy movement. Some styles also have elastic at the ankles, though a straight-leg style is equally popular.
They often contain sweatshirt fleece, which has an external soft knitted and an internal brushed fleecy pile. Sweatpants serve as loungewear rather than for exercise like joggers.
Track pants often have the same shape and style as sweatpants, featuring elements like elastic waists and loose, comfy legs. But they always use smooth athletic fabrics and usually have a bold stripe down the side. These pants can work as athletic apparel for a light workout but often also serve as a protective item to wear over an athletic uniform at a sporting event.
Trousers serve as a catch-all term for more formal styles of pants such as dress pants and slacks. The term “trousers” typically refers to men’s pants, while “dress pants” can mean men’s or women’s pants.
These pants often feature midweight fabrics like twill weaves, wool, or linen. They come in many different cuts, such as slim fit or straight fit. You often wear trousers with a nice sweater, a button shirt, and a blazer to the office.
Tuxedo pants form the lower half of a tux and always have a distinctive satin ribbon down the outer leg. They also do not have belt loops and use internal pants tighteners instead. Tuxedo pants traditionally come in soft black wool for a super formal appearance, but today, you can find tux pants made in many different colors.
Yoga pants, like leggings, always feature soft knitted fabric, often containing a small percentage of elastic fibers within the weave. Some yoga pants have a form-fitting shape that clings to the legs all the way down, but other styles flare below the knee to allow for a wide range of flexibility. Yoga pants feel super comfortable but originally had a strictly athletic purpose and often still feature athletic fabrics today.
Some styles of pants get their distinctive characteristics from the type of fabric they contain.
Camo pants contain a fabric printed with camouflaging patterns, like blotches of greens and yellows, tans and browns, greys, blacks, and blues. The inspiration for this style comes from military uniforms and remains popular with urban street styles and hunters today. Camo pants can have several different cuts but often come in a cargo pants style with lots of pockets or a loose parachute pants style for comfort.
Corduroys feature (suprirse, surprise!) corduroy fabric. These cool-weather slacks have a distinctive appearance because of the special three-yarn weaving technique used to create raised wales, or ridges, on the surface of the cloth.
Jeans feature denim material, a special cotton cloth made by twill weaving indigo and white yarns together. Jeans come in every style imaginable for men and women, including skinny, flared, and straight-leg jeans. Jeans hold the uncontested position as the most popular type of pants in the world.
Khakis contain sand-colored cotton fabric in a sturdy twill weave. This type of cloth came from India and traveled around the world when the British military adopted it for use in uniforms. Khakis usually have a slightly more relaxed fit than trousers or dress pants and have a slightly less formal appearance, though you can often wear them in a business-casual setting.
Parachute pants originated in the 80s when break dancers needed loose pants made from a material that could protect them from friction burns. These pants have a loose, baggy shape and elastic ankles to gather in the material in a distinctive shape. Plus, they always contain ripstop nylon, like a parachute, which is how they got the name.
Another common way to classify different types of pants is to divide them based on the cut or shape of the garment.
Bootcut pants or jeans have a fitted seat ad thigh but a distinctive flare down the lower leg from the knee to the ankle. This style of pants became popular among cowboys and ranchers who wanted a pan leg that could comfortably fit over a boot top. Hollywood cowboys made the style trendy for popular use, and it continues to cycle in and out of style today.
Boyfriend-cut pants have a super loose and baggy shape, meant to mimic the idea of a person wearing their larger partner’s clothing. They have a much less fitted shape than regular pants and often look boxier than mom or dad jeans.
High Rise/Low Rise
High-rise pants have a waistline that reaches higher on your torso than the natural waistline. This look has a vintage feel because fashions of the past dictated pants with high waistbands that are common today.
Low-rise pants have a waistband that falls below the navel, and can have a trendy or edgy look, depending on what you wear with them.
A regular cut in dress pants, slacks, or jeans can mean very different things from one brand to another, But it usually includes straight-cut legs and a less tight fit than other styles like slim-fit or skinny. You can think of a regular fit as the traditional or middle-of-the-road style for most pants brands.
Relaxed-fit pants or jeans provide more space in the seat, crotch, and thighs than other styles of pants. This style presents a slouchier, comfier appearance than a regular fit or slim fit cut. You would typically wear related-fit pants for casual events or just around the house, not out for an important occasion.
Skinny-style pants feature super narrow legs that fit so closely to the body that these pants almost always use fabric containing a small percentage of elastic fibers. Skinny jeans typically have an incredibly small leg opening at or above the ankle, measuring between 10 and 14 inches.
Slim-fit pants and jeans seem to become more popular each year, with their sharp silhouettes and slender legs. Slim-fit pants fit pretty closely in the seat and thighs and often have slightly tapered legs narrowing to a small leg opening.
You can find both slim-fit jeans and slim-fit dress pants. For both jeans and dressier trousers, a slim fit often makes the garment look more formal.
Tapered pants have legs with a wider top and a more narrow bottom. This mimics the natural shape of the leg and often appears quite flattering. Perhaps, for this reason, tapered and fitted pants typically present a more formal and stylish appearance than looser straight-cut pant legs.
Pants with a straight cut have legs that do not widen or taper below the knee–the fabric forms a straight leg from the knee down. This cut has many popular uses in jeans, trousers, sweatpants, and even corduroys. The straight leg usually has a wider leg opening, but you can also have more slim-fitting straight legs with a narrow lower leg from the knee down to the ankle.
What are Casual Pants Called?
Many different styles fall into the casual pants category, including khakis, jeans, overalls, and parachute pants.
The line between casual, business casual and formal-style pants blurs a lot because this distinction often depends on what other garments you wear with the pants. For instance, you can wear a button-down shirt and a sweater vest with khakis and turn them into appropriate business-casual attire, but if you wear a t-shirt with the same pair of pants, you will look more casual.
Casual pants generally use cheaper fabric than formal pants. Formal pants include types like dress pants, trousers, and tuxedo pants. You can think of these as the type of pants you would wear as the lower half of a suit.
More comfortable pants like sweatpants and joggers typically fall into the loungewear category rather than the casual category. Leggings, yoga pants, and track pants usually get classified as athletic wear.
What are Four-Way Pants?
Four-way pants are a type of athletic pants or leggings that contains a special high-performance material with the ability to stretch in all four directions. Four-way stretch fabric contains fibers that can stretch, such as elastane, Lycra, or Spandex.
What Style of Pants is Best for You?
The awesome thing about having so many different styles of pants to choose from is that you can easily pick a style that looks best on your body type.
- If you have a rectangular body shape, you may want to wear pants that define your midsection more clearly. Consider pants with a pleated waist or bow tie for women or more high-waisted pants for men.
- If you have a V-shaped body with very broad shoulders, you will want pants that balance your shape. Look for bootcut jeans or wear pants with wider, more relaxed legs. For women, consider boyfriend jeans on more casual occasions.
- If you have more of an hourglass shape, you will look great in straight-leg pants or jeans that highlight your defined waist. You will want to avoid baggy cuts like boyfriend jeans because this will detract from your silhouette.
- If you have a pear or inverted triangle body type, your hips and thighs look wider than your upper torso. In this case, you want pants in dark colors like black and grey or dark-wash jeans. Avoid pant styles that draw attention to your hips, like low-rise waists.
Different pants have unique styles like external pockets, extra-flared legs, or satin stripes down the leg. Pants can also come in unique fabric types, like jeans, parachute pants, and corduroys. Finally, pants types can vary based on the individual cut, such as a high or low-rise waist and a slim or more relaxed leg.
Out of the 34 most popular types of jeans today, jeans have remained the single most popular type of pants in the world for decades. Other super-popular styles of pants include trousers and dress pants and loungewear like sweatpants and leggings.