The Best Work Pants for Men
December 13, 2018 | By Cameron Martindell
Work pants handle tough jobs while protecting your skin. Whether you work in carpentry or landscaping, or just need a tough coat of armor over your skin while hunting or doing home improvement projects, these are the best work pants you can find.
One weekend, you may be bushwhacking through thorny briars while trying to reach a secret trout hole. The next, you could be blowing insulation in your attic. Amazingly, work pants often do both jobs well.
When assessing work pants, we considered how well the pants do hard jobs while protecting the body. We also considered durability and how it relates to price, comfort, and overall construction.
The pants below will suit many full-time tradesmen. They will easily suffice for the weekend DIY’er or someone who needs something a bit tougher than jeans (especially those new soft, stretchy ones) but probably won’t be adding a tool belt to their ensemble.
Best Work Pants: A Note on Selections
It’s always tough to include every brand. We didn’t dive into several great brands aimed specifically at the tradesperson like Jobman Workwear, Blackrock Workwear, Walls, and Snickers Workwear. While they make excellent clothing, these don’t bridge into recreational apparel very well.
Below, we profile some top products from mainstream brands Carhartt, Dickies, and Duluth Trading Company; outdoor brands like Patagonia and Mountain Khakis; technical brands like 5.11 Tactical; and boutique brands like 1620 Workwear and Topo Design.
But we’re always keen to learn about other brands you love. Let us know in the comments below what your favorite work pants are and why. And, as always, we’ll update this article over the years as we put more pants to the test.
Best Men’s Work Pants
Across the board, I favored the pants that had a midthigh utility or cellphone pocket. My quip for most is that brands tend to place utility phone pockets on the right side. It would be nice to see a left-side phone carry pocket here and there. Even as a right-handed person, I like to use my phone with the left hand to leave my right hand free for other things. But we all have to make compromises.
For sizing notes, I’m 5 feet 11 inches tall and 170 pounds. I have a 33-inch inseam, which puts me at that awkward place of needing to get pants an inch longer than I’d like because most manufacturers only cut even-numbered lengths.
That said, as you’ll see below, some manufacturers cut their pants on the short side of 34 inches, which works better for me. All of the pants tested are size 32-inch waist and 34-inch inseam. Also, I still have an iPhone SE in a protective case. That’s a relatively small phone by today’s standards, and I suspect most bigger phones might have a hard time fitting into some of the utility pockets mentioned below.
After living and working in all of the pants below, my absolute favorites are those from 1620 Workwear. For me, the argument for these pants is they are a perfect fit: the modern cut, the waist, the legs, the length, and the feel. They easily transition from the workday to social gatherings without looking like bulky work pants.
The argument against them is they are really pricey. 1620 manufactures a few styles in a small shop in Massachusetts. And as is the case with many small, American-made brands, they cost a lot.
But let’s get to the point: These pants are tough as nails. They will last you a long time, even if you abuse the heck out of them (like I have).
I tested two models from the brand: the Double Knee and the NYCO Shop Pant. Both pants have innovative pocket designs including slanted rear pockets for easy access (especially while sitting), right-hand midthigh utility pockets, and deep (but not awkward) front hand pockets.
Within the left-hand pocket is a coin pocket that is too deep to dig coins out of — maybe it’s good for something else. All of 1620 Workwear’s pants include wide belt loops. GearJunkie covered these when they first launched in 2016.
The Double Knee, now available in an upgraded version, is a tough Cordura fabric blended with nylon and spandex. These pants will shed some light precipitation as well as certain chemicals and oils to avoid stains. The fabric is stiff enough to inspire durability confidence but is not constricting. The pants also include a vertical zipper pocket on top of the right-hand utility pocket, where I stash a lightning cable to charge my phone while out.
There’s also a small tool and pencil pocket on the left leg. I’d like to see those pockets trade sides. And the outside edges of the hand pockets are reinforced for clipping a knife or tape measure.
The NYCO Shop Pant isn’t as stiff, but the face fabric is a nice tight weave that also sheds spilled water, oil, and chemicals. The drape of the fabric and better stretch gives them a little looser feel, which is good for breathability in warmer environments. They have the same pockets as those mentioned above.
These are better pants for those who may want to go from the office to the field or worksite. They look fairly professional yet have many attributes of a great work pant. They should also be a top choice of professionals like machinists who want to look snappy at work while having a tough pant with lots of pockets.
Check out the full review here.