A quality pair of work pants should not only withstand tough working conditions but also present well and allow for effortless movement throughout the day. But here’s the deal: All work pants are not created equally. From materials used in their construction to the various features found throughout the pant, there is quite a bit you will need to consider before making your purchase. In order to make sense of it all we are here to help. In this guide, we not only review the most popular and best work pants for men in 2020 but also share with you some key considerations you should be thinking about before you make your purchase. Let’s begin.
5 Tips on Finding the Best Work Pants
1. These 6 features are what men love in work pants
The features of your work pants are one of the most important considerations when you’re making a purchase. Consider the features you need the most to do your job the best that you can. Maybe you need a utility pocket or knee pads.
Maybe you need hammer loops or slash pockets. Perhaps bib overalls are more your speed or abrasion resistance is critical. Whatever pants you select, make sure they fit your needs.
- Utility/Cargo Pockets: Utility or cargo pockets are large pockets to hold your gear and tools. Utility pockets and tool pockets are typically larger (and therefore hold larger tools) and can be only partially attached to the pants. Cargo pockets are more of a patch, feature accordion folds for added storage potential, and have a secured closure like snaps, buttons, or Velcro. These are particularly important if you need to carry smaller items separate from or without a toolbox or workstation. Moreover, don’t underestimate the importance of back pockets in a pair of work pants. They may not seem terribly important, but your work environment can drastically change, and you may need as much storage as you can get. The back pocket is the perfect place for construction workers to clip their tape measure, for instance.
- Stretch Fabric: Stretch fabric improves comfort and ease of movement and is essential for workers who need the freedom of movement. The other option here is a loose-fitting fabric – this can be dangerous though if working in an area where extra fabric can be caught in machinery.
- Utility Loop: Similar in concept to a belt loop but stronger, larger, and usually placed on the upper leg or thigh. These are most often used to hold a hammer, with the head sitting above the loop and the handle dropping down.
- Knee Protection: Taking care of your knees is important, and knee protection is a must-have feature if your work conditions keep you on your knees. These take a lot of different forms, including double knee pouches to insert pads or sewn-in reinforced knee pads.
- Gusset: Possibly one of the most important features in work pants for the active man, a gusset is a diamond-shaped piece of fabric sewn into the crotch of pants. It eliminates all seams coming together in one spot to improve comfort and movement. It also keeps your pants from pinching your junk as you crouch – if that’s not important, we don’t know what is.
- Ripstop Fabric: Ripstop fabric refers to the way fabric is woven – it’s a special reinforcing technique that makes it resistant to rips/tears, a great feature for pants that will take a beating during your work. To create it, the fabric is interwoven with a crosshatch of nylon. While ripstop can be made from a number of different fabrics, it is most commonly cotton reinforced with nylon.
2. How should your work pants fit?
Fit depends on what type of work you do and how comfortable you are. It’s a matter of preference. A standard fit, for example, generally fits straight on the hips, legs, and bottoms. It’s not loose or tight. A relaxed fit will be looser in these areas. A slim fit will be tighter with less fabric. It’s important to note that these terms are often not defined the same way across the board. Check your favorite pair of pants or designer to ensure you match the size chart provided.
3. What style and type of pants will perform and look best for your workplace?
- Active styles allow you to move with ease.
- Features like stretch waist and fabric provide for a better range of motion. Other features most often associated with active style types are moisture-wicking technology for sweat, and stain and wrinkle resistance for easy wearing and care.
- Active pants are usually made from a breathable fabric like cotton.
- The key feature of cargo-style is the larger, open flap pockets that allow for lots of storage space.
- These are a very popular style of work clothes due to the pocket space, perfect for construction workers.
- Most commonly made of quick-drying cotton blends, including cotton canvas, that is ruggedly stitched. High-quality cargo pants are made with ripstop material.
- Made from soft denim, carpenter pants lack some of the storage options of a cargo pant but are some of the best men’s work pants for those that need lots of freedom of movement.
- They generally have more room in the seat for carpenters and other workers who bend and move around the workshop.
- Common features found in these pants are multiple tool and utility pockets, a hammer loop, and a leg hole meant to fit over boots.
- More professional styles of work pants may resemble chinos
- They generally feature fewer visible pockets and are made from smoother fabrics
- A good pair should still offer the features you need but not look out of place when you go from your workbench to your office.
4. Here are work pant materials most commonly used by companies
Cotton and Cotton Blends Cotton is the most common fabric for work pants due in part to durability and versatility. There are several types/blends, but two of them stand out as the most common.
- Cotton duck: The most common and the most durable, duck utility pants have nothing to do with actual ducks. It is simply a durable woven canvas, spun similarly to “duck” or duct tape (source). They most often come in tan, khaki, or brown and have a smooth surface not prone to snagging or tearing. They’re also generally great at blocking the wind, won’t melt when exposed to high heat (important if you’ll be welding), and although initially stiff, they soften with wear and washing. They can be washed normally too, making care easy.
- Denim: Initially made with workwear in mind due to affordability, toughness, and accessibility, denim is simply jean material. This means it is a rugged cotton twill fabric that is easily recognized with diagonal ribbing. It’s very comfortable to wear and is exceptionally durable. They are generally easy to launder and soften with wear and washing. Denim work pants are thicker than fashion denim.
Synthetics Work pants made from synthetic materials like nylon and polyester were not popular in the past, but technological advances have them rising in popularity. This is generally because they did not appropriately protect against heat, fire, and water and did not wear as well. Technological advancements have made this fabric much better.
5. How much should you pay for a good pair of men’s work pants?
Price ranges drastically between $25-200, with most being around the $40-50 mark. There are no luxury designer brands here, so be sure you’re paying for features and durability. There are some common brands, like Carhartt and Dickies, but the features and functionality matter far more than the brand.
8 Best Work Pants for Men of 2020 Reviewed
1. Best Overall Work Pants for Men: Carhartt Double Flex Rigby Double Front Work Pant
Carhartt has been developing work-focused men’s clothing for decades and has made a name for functional, and often stylish, clothing. The Rugged Flex Rigby is our choice for the best work pants out there. Available in hickory and shadow, these pants feature a button top closure and are made from 98% cotton with 2% spandex for just a tiny bit of stretch. The relaxed seat and thigh allow for easy movement, and the double front allows for the insertion of knee pads. Reviewers note that these are more of a straight fit as opposed to relaxed, so larger gents may want to steer toward a pant that has a bit more space. Right in the middle of our range, you can get several pairs, so you don’t look like a ragged mess, even on the job site.
- Move seamlessly from the job site to the bar afterward
- Knee pad inserts
- Cotton construction
- Limited color options
- Slim fit may not be best for all
What You Need To Know
2. Best Dress Work Pants: Carhartt Rugged Professional Series Pant
The best dress work pants are those that can exist simultaneously on the job site as well as in the meeting afterward. The Carhartt Rugged Professional series pants do just that. Crafted from a cotton, polyester, spandex blend, these pants aren’t necessarily for heavy-duty work. Still, they’re excellent for foremen or engineers who need to be present but not necessarily doing the work on location. Care is easy – pop them in with your other clothes and right into the drier afterward. Available in four colors, these pants won’t be out of place in a traditional office environment either, where business casual is the norm. Right in our average price range, these pants are cut and designed to impress.
- More refined look than traditional work pants
- Still rugged enough to be on the job site
- Low cost
- Normal cut may not work for some
- Could use at least one more pocket for storage
What You Need To Know
3. Best Construction Work Pants: Wrangler RIGGS Ranger Work Pant
The best construction work pants will be durable, have few stress points, and not break the bank. The Wrangler RIGGS Ranger Work Pant check the boxes, and at the lower end of our price range, they’ll do it for less. Made from 100% Cotton Ripstop Fabric with a relaxed fit, these work pants are developed specifically for you to move and get the job done. They include lots of space for storage, including a hammer loop, leather tape measure clip, side, back and front watch pockets as well as roomy front pockets. The gusset crotch provides important durability and mobility. Wrangler is known for making some of the best denim pants out there – these cotton canvas pants are perfect for the man at work.
- Available in a variety of colors
- About average price range
- Ripstop fabric
- For true heavy work only – not stylish
- May be bulky for smaller men
What You Need To Know
4. Best Hot Weather Work Pants: Proof Schoeller Trek Pant
Designed and woven in Switzerland, the Proof Schoeller Trek Pants are made specifically for adventures of any kind, from navigating the mountains to building on the construction site. The double weave design and custom PFC-free fabric keep you dry and cool in the warmer months. It’s important to note that the fabric is necessarily thinner and subject to ripping – additionally, they are quite expensive at the absolute top of our price range. Still, if you’re trekking and need to do some building along the way, these Proof pants provide the pocket space and color choices to get the job done in style.
- Perfect fabric for warmer weather
- Adjustable drawstring enclosures
- Very expensive
- Lighter material
What You Need To Know
5. Best Cheap (Affordable) Work Pants: Dickie’s Double Knee Work Pant
These may be the best affordable work pants on our list, but it doesn’t mean Dickies’ Double Knee Work Pants are any less functional. They do have fewer pockets but are available in a variety of colors with an easy machine-washable fabric. Deep front and back pockets allow for the wearer to get what they need. The distinctive tunnel belt loops also add a touch of that Dickie’s style.
- Available in many colors
- Logo label on the front left leg may not work for all
- Not cotton
What You Need To Know
6. Best Cargo Work Pants: Duluth Trading Fire Hose Cargo Work Pants
Firehoses are heavy, and so are these Duluth Trading Fire Hose Cargo Pants. Absolutely made for work with maximum storage, these pants are crafted from 100% cotton canvas and repel stains, water, and fire. The mid-leg utility pockets have in or out enclosures, and triple-stitched seams keep everything where it should be. The prewashed canvas means you get a broken-in feel right out of the box. At the average point in our price range, they are well within the realm for folks who need a sturdier pant for their work. The hidden gusset makes crouching and squatting easy without cutting into your important bits. Available in two earth-tone colors in a standard fit.
- Inseam and waist sizing
- Rugged as all get out
- Hidden gusset
- Would like to see a relaxed fit option
- The darker color option would be nice
What You Need To Know
Tactical wear doesn’t have to look like a policemen’s uniform, and the 5.11 Tactical Taclite Pro work pants definitely do not. Probably one of the coolest features here is the Teflon finish on the pants, which resists stains, wear, and soil without compromising the breathability of the pants themselves. Taclite ripstop fabric is constructed from a polyester-cotton blend that makes the pants sturdy and flexible. The crotch is fully gusseted, making stretching and reaching easy. Available in a whole host of different colors, the pants are foam kneepad ready, and right in the middle of our price range to boot.
- Plethora of pockets
- Fixed D-Ring on the hip
- Teflon coated
- Reviewers note that the cut is tight
- Casual look
What You Need To Know
These aren’t so much pants as they are a protective covering for your legs. The Filson Oil Finish Double Tin Pants are button fly with a snap top, water repellent, and a roomy cut. These oil canvas pants are made from 15 oz. tin cloth that is perfect for hunting, fishing, field, or work. Available in hemmed and unhemmed lengths, these Filson pants are the toughest out there and have the price point to prove it, at the very top of our range. They cannot be washed and must be brushed clean as well as reoiled to keep the fabric supple and waterproof. With two slash pockets, a coin pocket, and two rear utility pockets, these are perfect for welders or those who need as much protection as you can get.
- The strongest pair of pants you can buy
- Wide leg opening
- Button fly with bottom hem options
- Very difficult to care for
What You Need To Know
4 Must-Have Accessories for Work Pants
1. Utility Belt / Work Suspenders
Often called a tool belt, utility belts or work suspenders feature a combination of pockets, compartments, and loops for carrying tools and other items. These are especially helpful if you need to carry supplies that won’t fit in your pockets.
2. Work Boots
Work boots are a specific type of boot intended to protect your feet while working. Most work boots have reinforced toes that protect against heavy items, a thick sole that prevents punctures and a high ankle for support.
3. Work Gloves
Work gloves cover and protect your wrists and hands from cuts, blisters, splinters, punctures, heat, and chemical burns. Sort of a must-have if you work with your hands.
4. Work Jacket
A work jacket is meant to protect you and your clothes during manual labor. Generally made with heavy cotton and built loosely to fit over clothing, they’re a great call if you work with substances that will ruin other fabrics.
Work Pants FAQs
Q: What are the best work pants?
The best work pants are those that work for you. This could mean that you need something heavy with lots of pockets or something lighter and focused on movement. Think about your price point as well.
Q: Are Dickies work pants any good?
Yes. There are better options out there if you’re willing to invest a bit more money, but Dickies pants are perfectly good.
Q: Are five-pocket pants business casual?
They can be – this depends on the fabric choice, style of pockets, and their location.
Q: What are work pants called?
Work pants have a lot of different names, including canvas pants, cargo pants, cast iron utility pants, duck canvas, and more.
Q: Do skaters wear Dickies?
Yes, though they were originally created for uniforms.
Work Pants vs. Jeans vs. Chinos
Work pants are specifically designed to support the man doing manual labor or work that requires him to be around substances that would ruin other fabrics. They are often made of heavier materials, feature better enclosures, and more storage and are often ready to use with pads in the knee area. Quality work pants will not necessarily transition well to off the job site, but a variety can be worn in office settings where business casual is the norm.
Jeans can also be used for light work where there is no need to be cautious about water and fire. Men’s jeans are now more traditionally worn in fashion settings and do not feature the same protective or functional features as do work pants.
Men’s chinos are specifically designed for fashion and are not meant to be worked in. They tend to be lighter materials and will soil and stain easily.
Chore pants are a brand name from Taylor Stitch, a company that makes high-end work pants. Taylor Stitch pants are intended to be light to medium duty pants for doing work around your house. They’re pricey but also quite fashionable.
Our Criteria for Choosing the Best Work Pants for Men
We looked at a variety of features to come up with the best work pants for men in 2020, including fit, features, durability, and function. Work pants should meet your needs, especially in terms of storage, and not limit your motion. We took an objective look at a variety of types of pants and, gauging them against cost, picked our favorites.