When the going gets tough, when it’s time to get down and dirty, you just can’t go without a pair of sturdy work pants. Like the right winter hat or work boots, if you’ve selected improperly, you’ll know right away. Work pants need to be able to, well, work, and they need to meet more than a few criteria to pass muster in your wardrobe.
On days when it seems like my to-do list expands exponentially, the last thing I need to worry about is the quality of my work pants. The best work pants are tried-and-true, rough-and-tumble and ready for anything. Here are my top picks.
A brand you can trust? A brand that gets the job done, and always has? That’s Carhartt, with a reputation for quality, durability and toughness. These pants boast strong duck canvas fabric, blended with just enough stretch. Plus, the tool pockets and reinforced knee design are as useful as it gets.
Carhartt reigns supreme as a tried-and-true workwear brand trusted by the masses for decades, so consider them a surefire winner in your search for the best work pants.
Here, they’ve used a blend of cotton and sturdy duck canvas spandex, serving up both toughness and comfort. The double-layer knee design is even built to accommodate knee pads, while multiple tool pockets deliver crucial storage space for all those trusty EDC tools you can’t live without.
The Carhartt Brown color is also iconic in its own right, a reliable way to tell you’re getting classic quality.
You also can’t go wrong with their durable work jacket.
The best work pants can be used for more than just, well, yard work and garage projects. 5.11 Tactical designed its abrasion-resistant ripstop cargo pants with plenty of durable details, from gusseted construction to a double reinforced seat and knees.
The brand’s action waistband accommodates the tools of the trade and then some. A total of 8 pockets delivers outstanding storage space. Of course, triple-stitching and bar-tacking at key stress points further drives home the point that these are pants for men of action.
The Dickies 874 Work Pants might have turned into more of a fashion statement these days than the brand ever imagined, but at its core, these are still some of the best work pants on the market.
The elastic active waist offers terrific ease of movement for tight corners and close quarters, no matter the project, while long tunnel belt loops are a durable, signature Dickies feature.
Pick up at least two colorways, including classic Dark Navy, and you’ll have work pants well-suited for whatever the day holds, in the field or at home.
Not every work pant has to be made out of cotton canvas, and it’s always a safe bet to explore your options as far as work pants are concerned.
TrueWerk takes innovation to the next level with its own proprietary, woven poly blend fabric, the kind that moves, stretches and breathes well right alongside.
That fabric is also soft on your skin, and these work pants manage to be abrasion and water-resistant at the same time. Another bonus? Four-way stretch fabric and plentiful pockets that deliver top-notch utility all day long.
The Proof Rover Pants are the perfect work pant for the modern man, with a slim and streamlined fit that looks as good at the brewery or bar as it does on the go from chore to chore.
The breathable, durable fabric wicks away moisture as you work, while the gusseted crotch delivers crucial mobility.
The five-pocket design makes these a more cleaned-up pair of work pants than other styles (although each deserves space in your wardrobe).
Dart seams at the knees also deliver key ease of movement, and it doesn’t hurt that you’re getting all of this in a range of versatile, crisp colors.
Versatility is as important as any attribute when shopping for your new favorite pair of work pants, and it helps that KUHL designed the Free Rydr Pants with as much mobility and utility as any on the market.
They’re designed like a simple five-pocket jean, yet boast true workwear details like an articulated knee design for added mobility, plus a gusseted crotch and reinforced pockets and cuffs for long-lasting durability.
The patina-dyed finish is also tasteful and surprisingly stylish. Think of these like work pants suited for tough jobs and for a cold beer afterwards.
Wrangler doesn’t mess around when it comes to some of the most hard-wearing, hard-working pants on the planet. The cotton ripstop fabric on this particular pair sets these apart from the pack, while reinforced knees and seams provide long-lasting durability, too. They’re even built with a watch pocket, roomy cargo pockets and deep front pockets to store your EDC.
The best part might be the fact that they’re priced under $50. They’re certainly made to last, just like your favorite pair of Wrangler jeans or your trusty denim jacket.
Recall what we said about the best work pants needing to check some crucial boxes? These pants from Arborwear feature top-notch details, and then some, starting with the sturdy ringspun cotton canvas construction.
From there, a gusseted 3-piece crotch delivers ease of movement, while double-layer knees bolster durability to the max.
They’re also designed with a boot cuff to fit snugly around your trusty work boots. The Chestnut color is also a stylish touch that looks good if you’ve got a job that calls for time in the field and time in the office.
Filson’s Tin Cloth fabric is the stuff of legend, used to great effect on chore coats that can stand up to just about anything.
It makes perfect sense, then, that the fabric would work outstandingly well on work pants, the kind that Filson has a penchant for perfecting.
They’re designed with a double layer of fabric from the crotch to the shin, with a helpful utility stow pocket positioned on the thigh. They’re breathable yet sturdy and comfortable, made to get better with age as you power through project after project.
Patagonia makes stellar gear for the trail, to be sure, and they also deliver a pair of tough-as-nails work pants made with sustainability in mind.
It’s the use of industrial hemp, plus recycled polyester and organic cotton, that gives these pants an eco-friendly yet workwear-minded edge, complete with a contoured mid-rise waist for a secure, comfortable fit.
Crucial details abound, including front pockets designed with fabric made to hold clip-on tools, and side carpenter pockets provide ample storage space, too.
You can trust American Giant to make some of the toughest, hardest-working gear on the market, and you can trust even more that it’ll be made with care in the U.S. of A.
Its zip hoodies – another workwear essential on brisk days – are a fan favorite for their long-lasting quality, and its Roughneck Pants serve up much of the same mix of rugged performance where you need it the most.
They’re tough, abrasion-resistant and cut with room to move without looking sloppy. They could be the last pair of work pants you buy for a long time, if American Giant has anything to say about it.
By their very nature, work pants are going to fit differently than classic chinos or jeans, but you’ll recognize some similarities.
Work pants typically come in three fits: Classic, Relaxed or Slim. In my opinion, the best fit depends on the nature of your work and personal preference.
A slim-fit work pant isn’t going to feature as much taper through the thigh or ankle as a pair of slim-fit jeans, while a Classic-fit work pant might fit more like a pair of straight-leg jeans (think minimal taper through the leg and plenty of room to move).
Relaxed-fit work pants offer the most leg room of all – think plenty of space through the thigh and calf. But ensure you’re still buying your proper pant size. After all, you don’t want overly slouchy work pants that bag and hang over your work boots. When in doubt, opt for your regular pant size in a reliable fit like Classic, or go with a Slim-fit work pant if you want a more modern look and feel.
It’s worth noting that different brands and styles may fit differently, even within the same category. Therefore, I always recommend trying on different sizes and styles to find the best fit for your body type and personal preference.
Yet another way that work pants depart from classic jeans? Fabric, of course.
Work pants can be made from cotton denim, sure, but the most common type of work pant material might be cotton canvas. This is a thicker, heartier, textured and tightly woven cotton fabric that can be reinforced with a waxed finish, and it’s also often called Duck canvas (brands like Carhartt have proprietary canvas fabric blends, for instance).
Some work pants use a lighter material known as ripstop. Ripstop is a tightly woven fiber made from nylon, sometimes reinforced with even tougher materials like Kevlar. Ripstop can be found on bomber jackets and in travel bags, but it’s particularly useful in work pants for its lightweight durability.
Denim is yet another classic material found in work pants (blue jeans were the original workwear pant, after all). Denim work pants are often designed differently than five-pocket blue jeans – they might feature additional details like reinforced knee stitching, reinforced belt loops or pockets of different shapes and sizes (more on this shortly).
Work pants aren’t made for a life of leisure – they’re made to get the job done, with features designed accordingly.
You’ll find touches like extra belt or leg loops to hold tools (for instance, a hammer loop), and the best work pants feature sturdy designs like reinforced knees or thighs (via a layer of fabric stitched over the work pant itself).
Key stress points are also reinforced using rivets, especially at the front and back pockets, and belt loops themselves might also feature a second, reinforced loop.
One other crucial feature of the best work pants? A gusseted crotch, another layer of fabric (often in the shape of a triangle) stitched onto the seat/crotch area of your work pants to provide added mobility and flexibility.
Find a pair of work pants with these features, and you’ll be all set to tackle the toughest tasks on your to-do list this year.