The Ultimate Guide To Men’s Carpenter Pants
Once the reserve of blue collar workers, this functional utility pant has become a go-to for stylish men that demand more from their clothing.
Most trouser styles have had their time in the limelight at one stage or another. From cargos to pleats, chinos to tailored designs, there aren’t many that have flown under the menswear radar. But carpenter pants are one of them.
Until only relatively recently, this utilitarian style was the reserve of blue collar workers, who made use of its multiple pockets and durable fabric as part of their work uniform. Given the style world’s love of functional garments, it’s surprising it took so long for this once humble design to break through and become part of the long established menswear canon, but here we are.
If you aren’t privy to the benefits of this distinctive trouser, allow us to show you why this might just be the jean-replacement you didn’t know you needed.
What are carpenter pants?
Carpenter pants are essentially a form of utility trouser, in the same family as cargos and fatigue pants. They can be differentiated by their signature hammer loop and quirky side pockets on the thigh, which, you guessed it, were originally designed to hold tools such as hammers and screwdrivers.
Today, assuming you’re not wearing them on site, these are handy places to store your own essentials, from keys to phones and wallets. You can clip your keys to the loop, allow them to fall in the pocket below and never worry again about where they are. You’ll typically find large drop pockets up front and two more on the rear.
Carpenter pants tend to come in relaxed fits, with mid rises and wider legs, which allow for increased comfort and room to move. They might also feature ‘double’ knees, with an added layer of fabric stitched over the top for increased durability.
Even if your idea of manual labour is chasing toddlers around the floor or battling the occasional flat-pack, you’ll notice the difference.
Given their traditional use as a functional work trouser, carpenter pants are typically made from robust, durable cotton or canvas. These are certainly the fibres to look out for if you’re after a traditional workwear look. They’ll instantly inject your fit with a utilitarian feel that’s obviously furthered by the trouser’s multiple pockets.
Don’t be afraid to look a little further afield though, as carpenter trousers can be picked up in softer cloths, like brushed cotton or corduroy. This gives them a slightly smarter feel, which is better for dressing them up with seasonal knitwear, shirts and overcoats.
Don’t go too wide
There’s a temptation with carpenter pants to go a little too baggy. Yes, they’re comfortable, but a pair that’s excessively wide will be harder to wear, unless you’re going for a Y2K boyband look.
It’s safer to aim for something more middle of the road. Think relaxed rather than oversized. This will allow you to effortlessly incorporate them into your existing rotation, giving you the freedom to combine them with regular fit tees, shirts and jackets up top.
Google Daniel Day-Lewis’s style and you’ll see what we mean: robust, artisanal but just fitted enough.
The safest bet with carpenter pants, as with all trousers, is to go with neutral colours that you know will work. That means navy, black or stone; shades that don’t require much effort or thought and suit all skin types.
This is a style that takes to bolder shades particularly well though. Consider off-white, burnt orange or warm chestnut shades, all of which are surprisingly wearable when rendered in cotton canvas, a fabric that naturally mutes vibrant hues. So don’t be afraid to experiment.
The best men’s carpenter pants brands for 2023
If there’s one brand that can lay a legitimate claim to kicking off the carpenter pant style, it’s Carhartt. The Detroit-based label has been producing proper workwear clothing for over a hundred years, so the trousers it makes today have close ties to some of the original designs which were no doubt knocking about when your grandad was young.
Look out for pairs made from the brand’s signature duck cotton canvas, a durable, hardwearing fabric that’s been using for decades.
Another originator, Dickies is a brand that still produces clothing for proper builders, carpenters and anyone who works with their hands. They come with triple-stitched outseams and a little polyester in the mix to give some flex when you’re on your hands and knees looking for missing screws.
Its trousers typically come at fairly reasonable prices too, so for authentic carpenter pants that won’t break the bank, Dickies is the one.
It’s better known for its outdoor clothing than its indoor styles, but Patagonia’s workwear collection includes some very tough carpenter pants.
Made from the brand’s hemp canvas – which it claims to be more abrasion-resistant than traditional cotton duck canvas – they don’t feature the usual hammer loop but there are practical pockets aplenty.
Aime Leon Dore
Aime Leon Dore has been at the forefront of many style resuscitations of late, including the New Balance 550 model it brought back and subsequently turned into a sell-out sneaker.
It has been a proponent of the carpenter pant for multiple seasons too, showcasing the streetwear-inflicted potential of this once humble workwear staple.
Wrangler Riggs is the denim label’s workwear line, and it’s made for actual workmen – so if you’re just pretending for the craft ale crowd, then you might want to look elsewhere.
But these are carpenter pants authentically and thoughtfully designed with lots of details – not just the hammer loop but leather reinforced tabs on the pockets where your tape measure can go and a fit designed for movement.
Carpenter jeans are a slightly less common sub-category but they’re just as hardy and practical as regular carpenter pants. Levi’s is, unsurprisingly, one of the brands that do them best, offering modern, relaxed fits compete with the signature hammer loop detail.
Ralph Lauren is one of those brands you could turn to for an entire wardrobe. While usually doused with an all-American, preppy flair, its carpenter trousers speak of the brand’s appreciation for workwear staples.
Expect slimmer fits than elsewhere, as well as luxurious fabrics, giving its carpenter pants a softer, smarter feel than most.
For expertly designed, responsibly produced clothing that will last, Toast is a solid bet. Its pieces are always made from interesting fabrics and come in relaxed, contemporary fits, with its carpenter pants no exception.
Look out for cotton denim pairs made in collaboration with London workshop Blackhorse Lane, which specialises in producing exceptionally crafted jeans under its own roof.
P&Co is well known for its workwear styled garments, making it an obvious choice for utility trousers. Its carpenter pants feature all the traditional detailing, including riveted panels, side pockets and a classic, relaxed fit.
Gap might not be your first port of call for carpenter pants, but it should be. The US brand makes use of surprisingly soft yet durable cotton for its own takes, which are as classic as they come.
A mid rise is combined with hammer loops and relaxed legs, but it’s the comfort of its fibres that makes them an underrated choice, especially for the price point.
Blacksmith regularly turns its hands to workwear classics, often putting its own spin on tried and tested staples, from utility vests to smocks.
It isn’t shy of updating iconic trouser designs either. Look out for its utility pants made from subtly contrasting colour panels, with their relaxed fits and soft cotton fabrics.
Why carpenter pants are on trend
The fashion world, and particularly menswear, has an eternal fascination with functionality. Think about it. Most of the iconic items of clothing you know and love started out as pieces designed for a purpose.
Trench coats, bomber jackets and chinos began as military-issued garments, while motorcycle jackets, chore jackets and button-down shirts were all originally intended for specific uses. Carpenter pants are no different. Men love functional details, so it’s no surprise that the distinctive hammer loop on this practical trouser has seen it take off in a big way.
The yearning for something utilitarian is partly (if not wholly) aesthetic, of course. When our lives are so digitised and glued to our screens, there’s something comforting about clothing that makes us feel grounded and earthy. It worked for hiking boots and fleece a few years ago and it’s working for carpenter pants now.
Comfort plays a part too. These are trousers that boast a mid rise and loose cut, ensuring the wearer isn’t restricted in any way, making them more comfortable than chinos or jeans. They also suit a wide range of styles, from chunky streetwear and workwear looks through to smarter, more tailored fits.
If you’re after an alternative to your beloved denim jeans, this is one of the more versatile offerings out there.
Why carpenter pants have staying power
Time will tell how long carpenter pants will stay on trend, but they’re certainly built to last. And it’s not just about those double-strength knee sections. They’re often made from a tough but comfortable cotton twill.
They feature a few extra pockets and a typically wider fit than other styles, but aside from this, they’re not too different from chinos. Find a pair in a neutral colour and a comfortable cotton fabric and they’ll be just as stylish now as they will in a decade’s time.
You can wear them like you would your favourite khakis too, meaning they’ll slot seamlessly into your wardrobe. That makes them easy, which is, in the end, why we don’t think they’re going anywhere.
Plus, they’re just different enough from other utility pants, and not as bold as cargos, meaning you can expect your favourite brands to be producing them for the foreseeable future.