‘Khakis Are the New Jeans’ and I Just Can’t Get on Board

To know me is to understand that my pre-K-through-college Catholic education has left an indelible mark (wound?) on my psyche in more ways than even I understand. I swear I’m not just being dramatic. The uniforms alone were enough to give me PTSD.

So imagine the chill that went down my spine when I read a recent headline boldly declaring, “Khakis Are the New Jeans.”

This may be true, but you won’t catch me dead in a pair. Allow me to explain.

For starters, there’s the chafe factor. Khakis were billed as the more comfortable alternative to our Black Watch plaid kilts, which required that you wear shorts underneath to A) avoid accidentally flashing your underwear B) accidentally being flashed by mean-spirited demon adolescent boys and C) sitting on the butt sweat of whoever was in that plastic desk chair before you.

But in reality, those uniform-issue khakis of yore were the furthest thing from comfortable. The fabric was not a soft, well-worn woven textile but something manufactured from steel wool. The inside seams felt like tiny splinters on your thighs and left angry red marks when you disrobed immediately after school. It would be more comfortable to zip into a pair of non-stretch, high-waisted jeans after a four-course meal than to wear these pants.

I swear I’m not just being dramatic.

Lack of comfort notwithstanding, there was also the element of—how do I say it lightly?—ugliness. Flared stretch chinos (the height of mid-2000s fashion) were not “UNIFORM COMPANY ISSUED.” No, we had to wear straight-legged men’s pants, which aren’t really cut to accommodate the body of a young woman in the height of puberty.

And it’s not like we were pairing our khakis with fashionably blousy, oversize tops or anything that would read “bookish chic street style.”This was not Gossip Girl. The administration’s argument was “the more heinous the dress code, the closer to God,” therefore our sartorial options were limited to either a blue button-down or a white polo that turned yellow with the accumulation of teenage sweat by the end of the school year. This is what some would call, “not a good look.”

Allow me to borrow from the single logic class I took in college: If khakis, then polo shirt.

This is not real logic, but I swear I’m not just being dramatic.

Back to the present: You might make the counterpoint that today’s trending chinos are nothing like the ones from my Catholic school days. Fair enough. But to that I say, where did the inspiration come from?

You might tell me how functional khakis are, how wonderfully neutral, how they “take you from work to play,” how they’re a nostalgic ’90s #TBT and ugly things are cool now! I’ll probably shake my fist, say they’re a form of oppression and that I don’t want to be just another brick in the wall.

I swear I’m not just being dramatic. You can have your khakis; I’ll sit this one out (chafe-free, mind you).

I Get Tons of Compliments on My Favorite Jeans (and They Cost $10)


Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...