Whether you work in an artist’s studio, an office where the dress code is business casual, or from home, owning a good pair of black pants can go a long way toward helping you feel polished — and can make getting dressed every day so much easier. But, as with jeans, there are so many options out there that it can be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. So, we consulted 18 stylish women who practically live in black pants as part of their professional uniform to help us find the best pairs — including black jeans. Hopefully one (or two) of these will also become the workhorses of your wardrobe, so that you can spend less time figuring out what to wear each morning and more time on everything else.
Best black pants for work
Rachel Bullock, co-founder of outdoor furniture company Laun, wears black pants at least six days a week. “It’s not unusual for me to be on a dirty construction site, in a client meeting, at a metal shop, and at an event all in the same day, so black pants are a godsend for me,” she says. “They are classic, they hide dirt, they are easy to dress up or down, and they go with everything.” For everyday wear, she especially likes J.Crew’s Easy Pants, saying that she appreciates that they come in tall (she’s six feet tall), and that they’re “comfortable, affordable, and — very importantly — machine washable.”
Writer Alexis Cheung swears by these “inexpensive but not cheap-looking” pants that she found at Madewell a few years ago. “They’re essentially the equivalent of wearing sweatpants to work: They’re comfortable and require zero ironing,” she effuses. Cheung adds that “The fabric is neither scratchy nor shiny,” and told us she appreciates that the silhouette is “lean, slouchy, and wide-legged.” She also likes how the pants’ rise allows them to be worn with any number of tops and shoes. “The high waist looks good with tucked sweaters, tight turtlenecks, or flimsy vintage tees,” she says. “I wear mine with sneakers but have contemplated a pointy-toe kitten heel.”
Anne Read Lattimore, a co-founder of Lake Pajamas (who would know a thing or two about comfortable clothing), loves these affordable, stretchy cotton pants from Everlane, which she says have a more fitted silhouette but still look put-together. (The extremely palatable $50 price tag means you can stock up on multiple pairs and even experiment with a little color — like a brighter navy.)
If a slouchier look is what you’re after, consider this baggy, cropped, and pleated pair of black pants recommended by Refinery 29’s Eva Lee, who calls them “a nice twist on the traditional black pants.” They have a high waist and a roomier wide leg, making them a bit more casual. But they’re still polished, thanks to the front pleating.
Elizabeth Simikoff, a project manager at The Muse, pointed us to these stretchy tapered trousers from ADAY. She particularly likes this pair because she can bike to work in them and not have to change into something more work-appropriate when she gets there. “They’re fitted and they still look professional, as they have a very tailored look.” She also appreciates the fact that, as a short person, she doesn’t have to get them altered. She’s apparently not the only one who likes these pants — they’re a best seller for ADAY, and currently on backorder, but you can still preorder a pair for when they’re back in stock.
For something a little breezier, Simikoff also loves these, calling them her “go-tos.” She admits that “they’re pricey” — though less so now that they’re on sale — but says the pants are worth the investment because they’re comfortable and make her “feel like the most professional person ever when I wear them.” And it’s no secret that we love Eileen Fisher here at the Strategist. As writer Laura Perciasepe put it, “I’m either evoking a kind of Nancy Meyers–playwright aesthetic, or business-lady power vibe, or languorous-Italian-lunch scene,” every time she wears this black shirt. We think these pants have the same effect.
For Iva Dixit, an associate editor at The New York Times Magazine, the higher the waist on her pants, the better. (“Nothing less than an 11-inch rise will do,” she says.) Dixit goes on: “When I’m not wearing (high-waisted) jeans, I only ever wear high-waisted, wide-leg pants, because not only do they look massively better on my long torso and wide frame (cropped and tapered trousers make me look stunted in half), I also just find them more carelessly elegant in a way that makes me feel more adult and more refined.” Her favorites are these two wide-leg pairs. The Farrows have a more than 12-inch rise, while the Stelens come in at 15 inches. Both pairs also have a little more personality in the form of unique button detailing — the Stelens have a sailor-buttoned flap, and the Farrows have a thick waistband with two faux-horn side buttons.
Here’s another pair of wide-leg pants, recommended by Keesha Charles, who used to work in investment banking. “Tahari is my go-to for work clothing. The brand is super comfortable, size inclusive, and affordable. It has kept an excellent standard over the years.” Charles told us that it’s often hard for her to find pants with a wider leg that work for her, but that these have an especially flattering fit: “I have thick thighs, so wide-leg pants can be a problem. The pants fall very nicely and don’t feel bulky.”
Sarah Robinson says that this wider-leg pair from Thakoon are her favorite pants. “The fit is incredible and the quality is luxurious,” says the CEO and founder of the Wonder, a members-only club for families. The roomy trousers are made of cotton with the slightest bit of stretch and have a high waist, pintuck pleating in the front, and an elastic waistband in the back for a little extra give.
“One of my favorite pants right now are the Club Monaco Lillean Pant,” says Alexia Sheinman, the branding and communications director at interior design firm Pembrooke & Ives. Another bicycle commuter, she told us that “it is important for me to have pants that are comfortable and flexible in feel, while being professional and tailored in look. These pants cover both bases.” The tailored cotton-blend pants also have a little stretch to them and, according to Sheinman, are “incredibly versatile and can be dressed up or down.”
If you’re feeling splurgey, consider this tailored pair with a wide grosgrain stripe down the sides. “Rag & Bone tuxedo pants are a favorite of mine,” says Liza Bychkov-Suloti, partner at integrated marketing and PR agency Shadow. “They look cool with sneakers and chic with heels.” She says that they come in a different style every season — “with wide or skinny stripes, ankle zippers, or cropped lengths” — but they’re always “a great versatile black work pant.”
Best black jeans for work
For more casual days, Bullock can be found in black Levi’s, specifically either 501s or a super-skinny pair. “As a creative professional, it’s totally fine for me to be in jeans for the majority of my meetings,” she says. “When I know I’m going to be on an especially dirty job site (like one under demolition) or welding (because natural fibers are a must and the raw steel is usually pretty dirty and will stain), I’ll stick with jeans. They just feel more indestructible.” Strategist managing editor Maxine Builder also swears by the same black Levi’s 501s, saying, “I also like that the color is called ‘Black Heart, because that is exactly how black I want my black Levi’s to be.”
Le Whit co-founder Liza Curtiss also swears by black Levi’s. “I love the high waist on these pants,” she says, adding that shirts look great either tucked in or out in these. “I always feel like I can go anywhere in them, and the pockets are deep. (I’m a no-purse kinda person.) I also like the crop on them — they hit well and always show off my favorite boots.” We’re also huge fans of Levi’s Wedgies here at the Strategist. They happen to be another of Builder’s go-to pairs, as well as a favorite style of several stylish women and those who love a flattering mom jean.
When Bychkov-Suloti isn’t wearing her pricey Rag & Bone tuxedo pants, she’s often in a pair of much more affordable black American Eagle jeans. “I buy them in bulk because they’re affordable and versatile to wear endless ways,” she says. “Their Highest Waist Jegging is a sleek foundation for knits and layers, and their Flare Jean feels elevated with a blouse or blazer.”
“I realize that my job is more dressed down than most, but I truly love the black Rockstar jeans from Old Navy,” says journalist Alex Morris Kling. “They’re tight but also supersoft and stretchy — almost like wearing leggings. And they seem to sort of suck you in in the right places.” Charles agrees: “I love the Rockstar line. I find the jeans are super comfortable. Old Navy is the first of the Gap companies to have size inclusivity. I love all their jeans.” Rockstar jeans come in low-, mid-, and high-rise styles in regular, petite, and tall lengths (as well as other washes in addition to black).
For another pair of super-comfy, super-affordable jeans, consider L’Appart line cook Stacy Seebode’s favorites from Uniqlo. “I swear by Uniqlo ‘jeggings’ in black, which last forever,” she says. “Everyone thinks I am wearing jeans, but alas, no, they’re stretchy pants for extra comfort — and more eating.”
“COS has the best black stretch skinny jeans,” says architectural designer Corey Kingston (the other co-founder of Le Whit). These have a mid-rise waist, skinny leg, and are cut at the ankles. “I have had them for about four years and they haven’t faded color or lost the stretch. I usually wear them with an oversize blouse or blazer,” she says.