17 Aug

Kick Your Khakis Up a Notch

Elie tahari yellow blouse  Many of my corporate clients allow khakis on casual Fridays, and in some ultra-casual firms like those in the IT industry they allow them every day of the week. Most people think of khakis as one step up from denim, and they do occupy a fashion no man’s land somewhere between jeans and dress pants. They fill a great role in the dress code for certain kinds of business workplaces, for weekend wear, or when dressing for a casual retreat. As we begin to transition our wardrobes for fall, khakis are a great way to easily pull together a classically stylish yet comfortably casual autumn look. But the trick is to wear them in a way that keeps you looking modern and innovative – not just two degrees away from jeans.

Here are a few ways to polish up your look with khakis so you don’t look like the carpool mom who simply threw them on with a casual T-shirt for the sake of convenience. In business, your khakis need to say that although your industry may be a bit on the casual side your own personal way of dressing is immaculate and modern – just like your individual business ideas!

1) Shop for Modern Cuts: If you own khakis that are several years old it’s time for a change. Today retailers are making new cuts for khakis, especially for women. Look for the trouser style from Banana Republic, the slim-cut style from Talbots, or the tuxedo style – which is an updated version of the old chino pant from the Gap. All of these are work-appropriate or weekend-sassy styles. If you are wearing khakis for work, wear a long pant that conveys professionalism – unless your dress code specifically calls for Capris.TIPS FOR MEN:  Try on new styles of flat-front, wrinkle-resistant, and slightly pleated to find which one best suits your particular body type. 

2) Pair for Flair: If you love wearing khakis, try to pair them with some stylish tops and you’ll be looking sassy in no time at all. For these upcoming transitional days of autumn you might want to wear them with a dressy knit blouse layered with a great fall cardigan. A colored trench-coat style or a safari modern jacket with khakis can also give you a more approachable style, versus the conventional buttoned-up and suited look. TIPS FOR MEN:  For fall you can always wear khakis with a quality sport shirt or even layer with a V-neck sweater in an autumn color like olive green for added credibility.

3) Coordinating Shoes: The great thing that distinguishes khakis is that the fabric and cut is more casual, so you want to mirror that same look in your shoe selection. For work or weekend wear, opt for a wonderful wedge in tones of brown or metallic. Today there are also many fun flats in colorful prints, patents, and textures, and those can likewise help add some style to your outfit. But take my advice: always double check your corporate dress code to make sure you wear a proper shoe style! TIPS FOR MEN: When you dare to wear khakis, leave the formal dress shoes in the closet and slip into a new modern driving moccasin that looks dressy-casual and complements your look.   

4) Your Clothing Work Horse:  Khakis are a real wardrobe work horse. Even if you work in a conservative firm they can help you look polished on days when you are cleaning out the office or while at an off-site retreat. So be sure to have a few pairs in stylish cuts and different weights to get you through in a pinch all year-round. TIPS FOR MEN: You probably wear khakis more often than your female colleagues do because they are your go-to casual pants. But be cautious not to buy those old 100% cotton khakis that wrinkle easily. Otherwise by 1:00 PM it will appear that you slept through the lunch hour in your car!   

5) Today’s New Neutrals for Wardrobe Versatility: Along with all the new modern cuts, trims, and styles we are also seeing many vendors offering different tones of color in the khaki pant. Look for more modern tones like camel (fall’s new trend color), stone, putty, tan, and olive. TIPS FOR MEN: Okay guys, you can have some fashion flair too! Look for tones that look good on you, but especially shop for more modern colors so you don’t look like you pulled your pants off the hanger in your father’s closet. 

This fall, as the weather begins to change, I hope you will take an inventory of the khakis in your closet and see if you need to add some new modern cuts and colors to your professional or personal wardrobe. Then when you wear khakis for business casual you’ll be wearing them with unique style and power! 

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Sarah Hathorn is a professional image consultant, certified personal brand strategist, speaker, and author. 


Her company, Illustra Image Consulting, works with high-achieving future leaders and large businesses by enhancing their corporate and personal brand image to take their businesses and careers to the next level.

Blog, Ezine & Website: www.illustraimageconsulting.com


Copyright © 2010, Sarah Hathorn, AICI CIP, CPBS

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Sarah Hathorn
Sarah Hathorn, CEO of Hathorn Consulting Group, is the go-to-expert in working with leaders and companies to create successful corporate DNA. As an executive coach, consultant and speaker she collaborates globally with clients and brands such as Kimberly-Clark, Sherwin-Williams, Home Depot and other leading organizations.
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