Khakis Are A Man's Best Friend - Sometimes
Khakis are today the common denominator of all dress codes. It is okay to wear them with anything, and to any occasion; and they don't even have to be khaki color. For Mr. Regular Guy they are a great blessing: comfortable, easy-to-care-for, and relatively inexpensive, while truly functional and versatile. If you wear them with a patterned sport shirt, let’s say, or a knit shirt, and with a nice belt and clean shoes, you will look neatly put together. You can wear them with a blazer or a patterned sport jacket to a Level 3-style occasion; or with an oxford button-down dress shirt, tie and no jacket for the proto-preppy, all-American look. In short, they have an almost infinite variety of possibilities for wear.
However, cotton trousers wrinkle. And while we may celebrate innovation and novelty, still there is something that calls for looking neat. Some uniformity is necessary to make our culture cohesive, to give the individual a sense of belonging to something, of being someone. A wrinkled man is a non-conformist, true, but his disorderly appearance almost never seems intentional; rather, it appears as though he has no intentions at all. Okay. You get it. Neatness counts. Here's where innovation really pays off. Khakis that have a bit of stretch (Lycra, Elastan, whatever,) while they may not get that crisp, military look when they're fresh from the ironing-board, they just don't get as sloppy looking as their all-cotton counterpart. But if you're a purist, cotton-wise, be sure they’re ironed. Get them hemmed to the correct length. This is difficult, because they shrink, so it’s better to wash them a couple of times before you finish the bottoms. That’s right. Take them home, launder and dry them twice, then bring them in for alterations. It’s the only way to be sure. Have a bit of a break over your shoe. If you prefer to have no cuff, tell the tailor to hem them like dress pants, not with the seams showing like they do on jeans.
Oh, and by the way: make sure they fit. By golly, khakis should fit you. Not “cinched-up” looking in the waistband under your belt, not too baggy in the butt, not too tight or too full in the thigh. No matter how much or how little they cost, if you expect to use them for anything over a Level 1, at-home, wash-the-car event, they should look tailored. Try a bunch of them on until you're sure.
FYI Khaki is a color. Actually color of Indian dirt, the Hindi word for “dust.” Cloth of this color was long ago made, for practical purposes, into military uniforms for British soldiers on the Sub-Continent, and thence into trousers, which returning G.I.’s wore on weekends from Levittown to Los Angeles. The cloth and the color are now almost infinitely varied as to shade, construction, weight, and composition. There is every imaginable variant, from a yellow-brown, ochre shade known by Americans as “British” khaki, to a sort of ecru shade.
Khaki, it is generally agreed by cognoscenti of such matters, is an all cotton cloth of twill construction which is piece dyed (i.e., dyed after weaving,) to a dull tan with a slightly olive cast.
“Chino” was the name English soldiers gave to the light weight cotton material their uniforms were made of while fighting the Boxer Rebellion. It was apparently invented to be ruggedly comfortable for the campaign in China.
The English, as you can see, invented everything.