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Work Pants Buying Guide

From denim to duck

When your job is active, messy, or even just outdoors, you need a pair of work pants that are durable, comfortable, and won’t fall apart after a few washes. And that means not any old pair of jeans or khakis will do. Luckily there are plenty of options out there, from Carhartt’s best selling washed duck work pants to our own Work ‘N Gear MP20 work pants.

Are you new on the job? Or just looking to gift a pair of the best work pants to a loved one? Here’s all you need to know about buying quality work pants for yourself or your favorite contractor, welder, carpenter, mechanic or construction worker.

Fit

There are three main types of fit when it comes to work pants: classic, relaxed and slim.

Classic fit – This is the average, “middle of the road” fit

Relaxed fit – Offers extra room in the seat and thigh, and is roomier than classic fit work pants.

Slim fit – A more modern fit, slim fit work pants have a slimmer leg than classic fit pants, but are not tight. Even with slim fit work pants, the leg openings are often specially designed to fit over work boots.

Fabric/material

Work pants are typically made out of one of two fabrics: Denim or cotton duck. (Just like with work jackets, cotton duck has no relation to ducks themselves). Here’s a quick overview of the pros and cons of each:

Denim

  • The more you wear and wash it, the more comfortable it gets
  • Denim work pants are thicker than fashion jeans
  • Can be flannel- or fleece-lined, great for working in cold weather
  • Less durable than cotton duck but often more comfortable

Cotton duck/canvas

  • Less prone to snagging and tearing, since it has a smooth surface
  • Great wind blocker
  • Not an inherently flame resistant fabric, but it does well in high heat situations
  • Like denim, can require a breaking-in period

There are also special FR fabric blends, like cotton/high-tenacity nylon blend canvas or cotton duck that are inherently flame resistant.

Fabric weights

You will often see the weight of the work pants’ fabric listed in the description. Heavier fabric, like 14-ounce, is reserved for heavy duty work clothes. Lighter fabric is less durable but is better for lighter clothes and warmer temperatures. Many times light fabric work pants will come with reinforced seams and double knees to add some durability while maintaining their light weight.

Special Work Pants Features

There are a number of features to look out for when purchasing a pair of work pants. Many of these are designed to add utility or durability to the pants so they can last for years on the job.

  • Durable seam construction. Triple stitched main seams and taped seams help prevent the pants from falling apart after repeated stretch and strain
  • Rivets are pieces of metal that reinforce seams
  • Bartacks are extra stitches that reinforce seams
  • Heavy duty zippers are built to withstand dirt, grime and repeated use better than standard zippers
  • Durable Water Repellant (DWR) treatments help water bead off work pants in wet (but not soaking) conditions
  • Extra belt loops, wider belt loops, and fortified belt loops help support the weight of your tools
  • A hammer loop is, well, just what it sounds like. A special loop built into the side of the pants to hold your hammer while you work
  • Reflective high-visibility tape is particularly common on FR work pants
  • Wind blocking technology is available on many Carhartt work pant styles
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