I Went on a Quest to Find the Perfect Pants and Found 9

Writer Haley Nahman hunts for the perfect pair of trousers.

I couldn’t tell you why, but somewhere between 2017 and now, I grew so tired of all my jeans and wide-legged pants that I resorted to wearing a single pair of black trousers from Lou & Grey nearly every day. It was an odd, Doug Funnie-like era in my sartorial life, and the pants — which cost around $70 and weren’t technically a trouser as much as a track pant with a front crease — weren’t exactly built for uniform-wear. When I went to buy a backup pair, though, I learned the style had sold out, never to be restocked again. I looked at my jeans suspiciously.

Soon after, somewhat serendipitously, I came into the possession of a pair of Marni pants I’d have never purchased myself, and fell in prompt and accidental love. Unlike all my jeans, they didn’t miraculously change shape between wears. Neither did they dig into my waist when I sat down nor ride up my crotch when I walked above a snail’s pace. And unlike my wide-legged pants, they offered a silhouette that felt new and fresh without feeling overly trendy: structured but slouchy, and with a subtle flare.

Both of these pants injected novelty into my wardrobe, yes, but their introduction felt like more than my next trend cartwheel. They made me feel like a grown-up version of myself that I wanted to keep around. Whereas my wide-legs and vintage Levi’s felt distinctly 2017, these pants carried a sort of chin-up timelessness to them. At least, that’s what I’ve been telling myself, and it’s why I went on a hunt to find all the best non-denim pants that gave me that same feeling. Below I’ve documented my findings, categorized by type, with only the cream of the crop included.

1. Linen Pants

White pants are hard, but these Zara ones are the ideal mix of light and sturdy. They’re paper thin without losing their shape or making me feel exposed. I feel like I could wear them to the beach or a nice dinner, which I think makes them the perfect summer pants. (You’re welcome for not saying they can go “day to night.” Oops just did.) They’re also properly high-waisted, which I love, since I often find that pants marketed that way are more often mid-rise.

2. Track Pants

I’ve struggled to get on board with wearing track pants in a non-athletic context — maybe because I’d never tried cropped ones like these, also from Zara. I actually cuffed these a tad shorter than they came as it gave them a delightful Steve Urkel feel. I love the thick green stripe down the side. It gives me all kinds of styling ideas. I think I’m a track pants convert; I might even wear these with heels.

3. Fitted Trousers

These are really similar to the Lou & Grey pants I’ve been wearing ad nauseam, but they’re much sturdier and a little more dressed up (they’re COS). They’re the kind of pants that really hug you as you zip them up, and my immediate thought, before I’d even looked in the mirror, was these are perfect. These pants don’t have a trendy cut, which is a good thing. I feel like they could chameleon their way into any situation or any person’s wardrobe.

4. Canvas Pants

As you’ve probably gathered by now, I’m very loyal to stiff, structured pants, and this Lykke Wullf pair fulfills that tenet perfectly: They’re made of 100% canvas. Here I dressed them up a bit to see if they’d hold their own and they did. They almost feel like a denim trouser, but they have very little give, which is super satisfying.

5. Utility Pants

I’m still on the hunt for the perfect cargo pant, but in the meantime, these NEED utility pants will more than do. They have SO MANY FUN features, like a hammer holder and three nested pockets behind the left knee. Do let me know if you have any small treasures you’d like me to store, happy to be of service. They also have the perfect straight-leg cut and wide cuff; I can see myself wearing them entire weekends at a time.

6. Tapered Trousers

Rachel Comey pants, vintage button-down -- another here, Amazon slippersRachel Comey pants, vintage button-down -- another here, Amazon slippers

These Rachel Comey trousers are a little thinner and silkier (and pricier) than I’d normally go for, but they’re cut so well I decided to include them. Given their obvious good-for-work shape and fabric, I wanted to try dressing them down. I felt very ready to peruse a farmer’s market and buy produce that I definitely wouldn’t let rot, emotionally. That said, they feel more office-ready than long-walk-ready.

7. Khaki Pants

I really wanted to find some good baggy khakis to tuck into boots, and Ganni was the first place I looked. These ones are pretty roomy, so buyer beware — or enjoy. I was surprised to really like this outfit, even though it felt like a small departure from my typical style in that it’s horse-ready. In that sense, I’d say these were the “trendiest” pick, but they were so comfortable I had to include.

8. Athleisure Trousers

I’m pretty sure Amelia and Leandra both have these pants — and I know that because every time I see them I’m reminded of my beloved Lou & Greys, which sit at a similar athletic-trouser intersection. I think these ones can pass for either depending on how they’re styled, which makes them comfortable and also a good investment. I wish they were a little more high-waisted, but now I’m just being greedy.

9. Straight-Up Sweats

Okay okay I admit these are a far cry from grown-up trousers, but I’ve always been drawn to well-cut sweatpants — the kind you can dress up with sneakers and a sweater to run to the store without feeling like a slob. These FRAME ones drew me in from across the room (i.e. browser) with their mullet hems, and I was delighted by how they fell in real life. They’re more than I’d spend on sweats, but they perfectly fulfilled my vision and thus earned themselves a spot on this list.

So what do you think, chicken butts? Should we never wear jeans again or am I just being dramatic?

Haley Nahman

Haley Nahman

Haley Nahman is the Features Director at Man Repeller.

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