I want to make an admission: I’ve only owned one pair of khakis since getting into this whole menswear, dressing-better thing.
I know it’s a wardrobe staple, the bedrock of casual workplace wardrobes across the country, but I’ve really only owned one and even that pair I ended up selling after a few months. My preference has always been to wear wool trousers or denim.
(I will admit to buying a pair of beige canvas cotton trousers last year, however, I don’t consider them true khaki drill cotton trousers.)
For a while I was slowly considering several options from the usual suspects, but kept putting it off. After all, they weren’t a personal wardrobe staple for years, why rush a purchase now?
In a weird coincidence, Jim Ockert, the owner of J. Lawrence’s Khaki’s of Carmel, contacted me to ask if I’d be willing to review their new private label line of — what else? — khaki trousers.
Khakis from Khaki’s. Sure, I’m game.
(To get the obvious questions out of the way: No, they don’t just sell khakis at Khaki’s and the name “Khaki’s” was chosen by Jim because it was easy to remember — much in the same way “Polo” is identifiable with Ralph Lauren.)
When I first received the trousers, I took note of a few things. First, the fabric weight and density felt substantial. I’ve tried chinos and khaki trousers from several brands and some of their fabric just felt thin and cheap. Not the case with these pants, which are made of an English drill cotton.
Jim said the twill fabric he chose is unwashed and won’t stretch or change over time like some cotton fabrics do (indeed, I noticed such things happened on a pair of chinos from Brooks Brothers). The interior piping and pockets are made from Italian oxford cotton fabric.
In regards to the trouser’s construction, Jim said he instructed his manufacturer in New York to find details to add in rather than subtract out to save costs.
When it comes to fastening details, the trousers don’t cut corners. The trousers have a YKK metal zipper and a French fly with an extended tab on the front so the waistband stays straight.
On the interior, a two-piece pleated waist curtain gives the trousers better fit just below the waist and the waistband itself is split so you can alter it if you gain or lose weight (most cheap chinos will have a single-block waistband that’s unalterable).
The trousers completely lack branding with the exception of the center belt loop being a charcoal flannel material — a quirky signature from Jim (if this is too much whimsy for you, then a spare belt loop make of English drill is included, too).
While details are nice, cut and fit still matter the most. While the J. Lawrence line will feature two cuts, I asked to try the contemporary fit rather than the slim fit. Over the past year, I’ve come to find that slim trousers aren’t very flattering on me and combined with my larger feet, they can make me look a bit awkward.
I’m really happy with the contemporary fit. It’s relaxing to wear, but still very flattering. The trousers come unhemmed and I had them altered to just a bit past “no break” without a cuff. There’s enough room for movement in the seat and thigh area without it looking too wide and after a few wearings I’ve found them quite comfortable to lounge in while sitting down at my desk.
The rise is what I’d call a slightly higher mid-rise, which is another one of my preferences now. The legs taper slightly with a leg opening of 8” (on a 33” waist), which I guess one would call almost conservative by today’s standards.
Jim informed me that the cut of the trouser is unique to Khaki’s and their slim cut features a lower rise and more tapered leg, which may be the preference of others who are looking for that look.
"We’re not trying to make ‘candy clothing’ that looks good but you can’t wear it," Jim said. "It’s wearable and approachable anywhere in the world."
I’ve enjoyed wearing the trousers with a simple OCBD and a cashmere cable-knit crewneck sweater and penny loafers or chukka boots (as seen above), which all seem coherent with a casual trouser. Of course, I’ve also found myself wearing it with a navy blazer and wingtips.
Curious, I asked Jim how he’d choose to style the khaki trouser on one of the 98 mannequins in his store and he responded by styling three of them at his store with the trousers in their various colors.
If you’re interested in purchasing a pair, Jim said you can e-mail him personally at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the store at 1-800-664-8106 and he’d be happy to chat with you.
And if you haven’t read it yet, check out brokeandbespoke’s profile of Jim Ockert and J. Lawrence Khaki’s of Carmel. It’s a good read and after my chats on the phone with Jim I can honestly say it’s an accurate portrayal of Jim’s enthusiasm for menswear — and I genuinely hope to make it out to his store in the future to see it in person.