The Pants Experiment

OK, confession time — I’ve got a dirty little secret.  Despite my constant love for free resources, I actually spent money recently…

The horror!

But before you start trolling, put down the pitchforks and keep reading — there’s an interesting story here!

Back in April 2016, I wrote a post called The Clothes For Financial Independence.  Therein I showed off my incredibly fashionable wardrobe — worn-out jeans, thrift-store T-shirts, socks with holes, and my incredibly durable Mucksters.

You could tell I REALLY CARED about clothing from that post.  😉

Eventually those cotton accoutrements rotted away (as most organic materials do), and Mrs. Tako threw them in the trash when I wasn’t looking.

Daily Attire
Eventually my 100% cotton jeans (with holes in the knees) bit the dust.  This happens to me with most jeans, they just don’t last very long.

This happened right around December of last year.  It was getting cold, and walking around pantless wasn’t going to be a good option for long-term early retirement success.

Thus began the my quest for a new pair of pants…


Pants! For Less!  Pants-less!

Normally, I get most of my clothes from thrift stores, various free groups, or gifts.  I consider this kind of clothing “pre-depreciated” from a financial perspective, and it’s significantly less expensive than full priced “retail” clothing.

Christmas was fast approaching, and I wanted to try out some of the industrial clothing ideas I brought-up in the clothing post — Was industrial clothing worth the higher price?  Would it be tougher and more durable?

I wanted to do some experimenting!  So, I put a pair of “industrial” cargo pants on my Christmas list and hoped for the best.

Thankfully I wasn’t walking around in my underwear for too long in the middle of December — Santa was willing to provide a pair for this experiment.  (Ho! Ho! Ho!)

Yes, I could have just ran down to the mall and bought a $60 pair of “fast fashion” jeans that would have looked awesome … and they would have lasted a couple of months before they completely fell apart.

Weak cotton pants ARE NOT what I’m looking for anymore.  Even fashion is optional these days.  (Nobody cares what you look like when you’re early retired.)

Instead, I wanted stronger, more durable fabrics that would last for years.  Ultimately this meant finding a better return on investment than cheapo “fast-fashion” clothing.

Most stores don’t sell this kind of clothing, you have to hunt online for it.

A typical retail store only carries “fashionable” cotton clothing, that gets refreshed frequently.  It’s thin, and poorly constructed stuff — meant to keep buyers coming back over and over again.

Thankfully, Amazon carries just about everything…


Industrial Pants, The Review

Now, after nearly 5 months of wearing those “industrial” pants, I believe I can finally provide a proper review.

For this experiment, I opted for cargo pants.  Specifically, I went with the Dickies Men’s Relaxed Straight Flex Cargo Pant, which also have a cell phone pocket.

Why did I go with Dickies pants over other industrial brands like Red Kap cargo pants?  Mainly because Dickes offered more options when it came to fit control — Regular, Relaxed and Loose fit versions are available.

I’d also like to mention that this is not a sponsored review.  I received absolutely no monetary or promotional consideration (aka I didn’t get any free pants) for this post.  This review is entirely my opinion, and unless you go buy a pair of pants using affiliate links, I won’t see a dime from this review.

With that said, let’s get on with it…

new pants
New pants, fresh out of the Amazon box.  The cell phone pocket is only barely visible above the cargo pocket.

The pants I chose were a 65% polyester 35% cotton blend, and they look exactly like regular cotton pants.  (No plastic shine here.)

Polyester is a win when it comes to price/durability — It’s a durable synthetic fabric that does not stretch or shrink, and has a higher tensile strength than cotton or wool.

Because the fabric doesn’t stretch or shrink, getting the right fit was important.  The first pair I ordered was way too small.  I simply returned those and ordered the next size up.  The second pair was a much better fit.

The fabric is also seems to be quick drying and wrinkle resistant — both traits that are fantastic for busy Dads who have no time to iron pants.  (Hey, don’t judge me because I don’t iron!)

poly cotton blend
The 65% polyester 35% cotton blend seems a little stiff at first, but after a couple washes they feel like regular cotton pants.

When it comes to tensile strength, Kevlar pants would be stronger than polyester, but also a hell of a lot more expensive.

Fiber tensile strength only tells part of the story when it comes to fabric durability.  Abrasion resistance and fabric weave have just as much to do with durability as the fiber does.  You can find entire scientific papers online that research the effectiveness of different fabric weave patterns, but it’s pretty dry stuff (TLDR version: Twill is pretty good).

In my size, the pants were $29 from Amazon.  I could easily spend two or three times that buying a pair of “fashion” pants, so I consider this a great deal.

How do these fancy “industrial pants” hold-up to hard work?  Very, very well indeed.  After nearly 5 months, I would have expected to see some wear and tear … except I don’t!

Don’t believe me?  Here’s a photo I took this morning:

no wear pants
After 5 months of hard work, they still look like new.  (Yes, I wasn’t wearing any pants when I took this photo… they were on the floor.)

Typically I wear the same pair of pants 3-4 days a week, and then wash them.  That means they’re washed and worn at least once a week.

The difference in wear between these pants and regular pants is actually pretty astounding.  I literally wear these pants everywhere — out in the garden, mowing the lawn, shoveling dirt, working in the garage … everywhere!  These pants are no stranger to hard labor — Dirt, oil, and grass stains all seem to come out fine in the wash.

The pants are also double stitched at the seams.  I expect the double stitching will provide additional durability over time….but so far I haven’t broken any stitches.  So, too early to tell on that one.

And, before you start making jokes about my indestructible plastic pants — please consider that they’re still 35% cotton.  They feel soft, breathable, and have a very comfortable feel after a few washes.

(In case you’re wondering, Dickes also sells work cargo pants for women too!  Seriously ladies, consider these pants!  They’re awesome!)


Then There Were More

“But wait a minute Mr. Tako!  If you put them on your Christmas list, you didn’t actually spend any money!”

Well, that’s true … but ONLY FOR THE FIRST PAIR.  I liked these pants so much, I purchased a second pair a few weeks later!

For the second pair, I went with a Khaki-colored Men’s Regular Straight Stretch Twill Cargo Pant.  Basically the same pants as before, only with a slimmer fit.

Now I have two pairs of pants! One to wear when the other is in the wash!  Nudity is now an afterthought!

So yes, I did spend actual money on these pants.  And yes, if it’s not clear, I really really like them.  Enough to spend real actual money buying another pair.

Based on the wear I’m seeing, I expect these pants to last significantly longer than a typical pair of thrift-store jeans at $10.  Years longer in fact.

Will I end up getting my money’s worth?  It seems very likely these pants will provide a very good ROI….but only time will tell.

So I consider this an ongoing experiment.  If at any time the pants start to break down, I will provide an update to this review.

What’s my final review score?  7 out of 8 financially independent tentacles!

7 out of 8 tentacles


[Image Credit: Flickr]

35 thoughts on “The Pants Experiment

  • May 6, 2017 at 4:52 AM

    Seriously! 29$ for a pair of pants? What, you think money grows on trees? My last pair of 100% cotton Faded Glory Jeans from Wal-Mart that fit me like they were tailored (no dad jeans for me!) set me back only $9.99. They are all cotton so they will wear out quicker than yours but probably not three times quicker. And cotton beats blends for soft comfort when it is really hot or really cold.

    • May 6, 2017 at 10:29 AM

      Fair criticism I guess. If I wasn’t clear, I’m not looking for low quality jeans made by Chinese slave labor. Disposable culture and low quality is not a way to wealth (unless you’re selling that crap).

      Instead, I’m looking for quality goods that WILL LAST. I honestly DO think they’ll last more than 3 times longer than a pair of Walmart jeans.

  • May 6, 2017 at 4:54 AM

    Haha I really enjoyed reading this post. I think it’s money well spent, so you don’t have to feel bad or anything. I also think they will last for a while. I recently bought 2 dresses from Amazon for $20 and $25 for a wedding. I was very happy with the purchase.

    My husband bought two pairs of Old Navy pants for $25 each and have been wearing them for almost four years. They look a bit worn out, but there’re no holes or anything. And the most important thing is Mr. FAF doesn’t care enough to ask for a new pair of jeans, so I’ll let him enjoy those when he can.

    • May 6, 2017 at 10:23 AM

      I have a few things from Old Navy, but I’m not impressed by the quality. It’s cheap for a reason.

  • May 6, 2017 at 5:28 AM

    Yep! I did something similar. My last year of work I bought two identical pair of Wrangler Carpenter Pants at Walmart and wore either one or the other every day for a year. No one ever noticed. My shirts all come from thrift stores.

    • May 6, 2017 at 10:21 AM

      I’m still looking for a good solution for shirts. A cotton t-shirt only seems to last about a year on me before its ruined.

      • May 6, 2017 at 6:03 PM

        I’m wearing a few Russell Athletic brand “DriPower 360” polyester t-shirts and really like them. I think Walmart has them, but I get mine from Goodwill. Never a wrinkle, smooth and silky feeling. When I can snag a Columbia brand fishing shirt there I definitely do, and the “Holy Grail” of all these is a super smooth and finely woven one called the “TAMIAMI II MENS S/S FISHING SHIRT” not the same as most of their much more wrinkly ones.

    • May 6, 2017 at 10:20 AM

      As a resident of the great-white-north I think you can appreciate how *cold* going sans-pants can get.

      That said, I do my fair share of traumatizing the neighbors — no joking! 😉

  • May 6, 2017 at 12:05 PM

    Thanks Mr.Tako
    I already have 5.11 Cargo pants with the same ratio 65/35 and they are awesome. I was thinking to buy another pair, but the price… almost two times more than the pans you’re talking about. So, I’ve bought Dickies as a second pair.
    If you are interested, I will let you know if there a difference in quality between 5.11 and Dickies
    Friendly Russian recently posted…April 2017 Net Worth Report – $102,337

    • May 8, 2017 at 9:23 PM

      I’m not familiar with the 5.11 brand, but I would guess because of the fabric blend it probably comes from the same mill.

      Let me know how they compare. Dickes seemed a little on the small side for me, so I ordered on size up. Fit perfect on the second try.

    • May 9, 2017 at 6:31 AM

      5.11’s are really more popular among the Military/LEO set (of which I include myself). They are durable and I have had mine for years.

      Now if you are really daring, they offer a Tactical Duty Kilt with pockets that may never wear out…… (think where most pants wear out, crotch and knee’s, something that these lack) Great for hot days.

  • May 6, 2017 at 2:06 PM

    Glad to know I’m not the only one who wears jeans day after day. I believe Tommy Hilfiger, whose jeans I don’t own, said you should never wash his jeans (or yours) unless they’re visibly soiled.

    Does Dickie’s make Polyester pants with the bell bottoms? That would be rad.


    • May 8, 2017 at 9:25 PM

      Not certain! They’re not really a “high fashion” brand, they’re more associated with industrial clothing — scrubs, coveralls, work pants etc.

      You being in the medical field, I’m surprised you haven’t encountered their scrubs.

  • May 6, 2017 at 3:13 PM

    Houston is pretty hot 9 months of the year. I usually wear basketball shorts (nylon? they have been indestructible) and a t-shirt. I go through a lot of socks because I pace around in them and wear holes in the heels. I could probably buy a sturdy dress sock that would hold up but like the feel of cotton. Call the internet retirement police; the Lizard King is out of control for cotton sox budget!

    Also, I am human or cephalopod.

    • May 8, 2017 at 9:29 PM

      Nylon is a super tough fabric too, that’s why those shorts are pretty much indestructible.

      I’m with you on the crazy cotton sock budget too. I go through a costco pack of cotton socks about once a year.

      Hmm…maybe there’s a high-tech solution for socks too….. Let me investigate.

      • May 9, 2017 at 6:33 AM

        Check out the Darn Tough socks. You can get them on Amazon or there is almost always a drop of them on MassDrop. They come with a lifetime warranty.

  • May 6, 2017 at 3:14 PM

    I have a pair of new-looking Wrangler jeans (not my preferred brand, however…) that cost $6 at Goodwill around 7 years ago. They’re my “leaving the house” pants. I consolidate all trips out and only leave the house a total of 2-10 hours a week. Which is why they’ve lasted 7 years. I wear old sweats or knit pants at home, the newest of those is around 4 yrs old and look new.

  • May 6, 2017 at 5:58 PM

    You had me at “cell phone pocket”, Mr. Tako!

    I don’t think I’ve ever owned cargo pants… cargo shorts, yes, but I haven’t see the pants version many places.

    Clothes are one thing I don’t spend much money on. I typically wait to find some ridiculous online deal at Macy’s that I can stack like 4 discounts at once. Then I buy it blindly, try it on, and return it if I don’t like it.

    My last purchase landed me a couple of shirts, shorts, and a pair of pants for ~$40. 🙂

    • May 8, 2017 at 9:33 PM

      Dickies and Red Kap also make “industrial” cargo shorts too. Made from the same non-shrinking no-wrinkle tough-as-nails fabric.

      Not sure if Macy’s carries those (unlikely). From one FI guy to another, I highly suggest you give them a try.

  • May 6, 2017 at 7:19 PM

    Way to go Mr. Tako. I can’t wait for the day that I can ditch my desk-jockey slacks for real man’s attire.

    I do follow the same strategy as you and only wash after 3-4 uses, sometimes, gasp, 5. My wife thinks it’s gross. I’ll let her know I am in good company.

    • May 8, 2017 at 9:36 PM

      From the comments, it’s pretty clear this behavior is fairly normal for FI folks!

      Just ask your wife if she washes her bra after a single use. Most women don’t. Same difference.

  • May 7, 2017 at 4:58 PM

    I’ve found the Charles E. Schmidt canvas/cotton work pants from Tractor Supply to be very durable and comfortable. They run around $28, and I’m on the same pair I bought 3 years ago. I abuse the heck out of them doing everything from car maintenance, construction, landscape work and painting. I like the earth tone color choices too. Just thought I would suggest another option to consider if anyone is interested.

  • May 7, 2017 at 5:28 PM

    Have had very good luck with george walmart poly/cotton pants. They also sell Dickies but I though those were only for yuppies! 🙂

    • May 8, 2017 at 7:31 AM

      Haha. Those kind of Dickes are usually the 100% cotton kind, not the work pants I’m talking about here.

  • May 8, 2017 at 5:55 AM

    I hate polyester and spandex, and I am tired of trying to find any clothing without it. I get so hot in it I come close to fainting at times simply because it doesn’t breathe. Fleece is different, for some reason, but the idea of running around in polyester predominant pants, or spandex at 2%, is not a thrill. Give me a good heavy denim any day, and a good 100% cotton shirt, wool and silk, cellulose, and I am happy. Recycled dinosaurs aren’t my first choice in clothing.

    • May 8, 2017 at 2:31 PM

      I think you’d be pleasantly surprised by modern blend fabrics. It’s surprisingly breathable.

  • May 8, 2017 at 7:57 AM

    Nice! I usually buy my jeans from GAP when I can find them on sale. Probably spent around $40 on my last pair. I think it’s money well spent because I wear them very often and they last for years. Dickies sounds pretty good. I will check them out. Although, I suspect they are made in a sweatshop somewhere too.
    My secret to keeping jeans for a long time is to not wash them. They don’t get dirty from day to day uses so I just wear them a lot of times before washing them, around 7-10 times. If I’m going to get dirty, I wear old jeans.

    • May 8, 2017 at 9:03 AM

      Jeans just break down way too fast for me. I’m tough on clothes, and needed something stronger.

      (So far) the Dickes pants seem to be holding up. I try not to wash them more frequently than necessary….but after a week they’re usually caked in dirt.

      I’ve heard of crazy stuff like people putting jeans in the freezer instead of washing.

      Unfortunately I don’t think it’s possible to buy clothes that aren’t made in a sweatshop anymore. Well, maybe if you had a personal tailor…. but I don’t think I can’t afford that.

  • May 8, 2017 at 9:59 AM

    I’m not fashion minded at all, I used to think it mattered a bit in my early twenties, but by my mid twenties I could already care less. I do find that I will spend a bit more for jeans than I probably should, think Diesel, Hugo Boss, or the like. However, when I buy a pair they usually last me for seven to ten years before I need to buy another and they fit/look better. I think I take a more targeted approach for myself with certain items. I haven’t bought a pair of jeans in at least five years and they still look fantastic too. That being said congrats on investing in something that will make conversations less awkward with others 🙂

  • July 4, 2017 at 7:12 PM

    I definitely go multiple wearings between washes. I just don’t wear the same pair two days in a row. They have a chance to breathe. I’m sure science says this is fine.

  • October 30, 2019 at 3:16 PM

    I’m curious, now that it’s ~2.5 year later, what are your thoughts? How are these holding up? Are these still your go-to pants or do you have a different favorite now?

    • October 30, 2019 at 4:25 PM

      They’re definitely still my go-to work pants! The two pairs I own are practically like new. One pair had a button break off (again, I’m hard on clothes) but Mrs. Tako was able to fix that no-problem. Other than that they’re perfect.


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