When comparing canvas vs denim fabric for work pants, there are several things to consider. Even though both canvas and denim are durable, canvas fabric will be the more durable option. But because of that, canvas work pants can feel stiff, and some people prefer denim due to the added comfort it provides.
The chart below compares just a few key factors in canvas vs denim fabric in work pants:
|Durability||Thick, tight weave, wear, and tear-resistant||Less durable, can vary based on thread-count|
|Comfort||Often requires a breaking-in period||Flexible, more comfortable with extended wear|
|Style||Typically geared toward work pants||Comes in casual and work styles|
How durable do you need your pants to be? Which style and fit do you prefer? Is breathability important? Do you spend more time inside or outdoors?
If you spend money on a quality pair of pants, you want to make sure you invest in a pair that will work best for your needs. In this article let’s take a closer look at canvas vs denim work pants so you can find the option that best fits your specific needs.
What is the Difference Between Canvas vs Denim Pants?
Cotton is popular for making fabrics across many industries. It is available in various textures and thicknesses and has high tensile strength, making it strong, durable, and less likely to rip or tear. It also washes and dries easily and can be washed as needed.
But in the world of pants—and specifically work and professional wear—there tends to be a debate about which is better: denim or canvas? So, what’s the difference?
What is Canvas?
Traditional canvas fabric is made from cotton. It is a compact, firm weave fabric that has a reputation for durability, sturdiness, and solidity. If blended with synthetic fibers such as polyester, it can be heat-resistant or water-resistant.
There are two types of canvases: plain canvas and duck canvas. These terms are typically used interchangeably, though there are some slight differences. Plain-weave canvases are usually made of cotton, which is lightweight and breathable. Duck canvases, on the other hand, are heavier and more waterproof.
The thick weave of canvas fabric makes them able to work for many occasions. Once used primarily in tents, boat sails, and the like, canvas has found its way into many different products because of its toughness. These include sporting gear, hats, sneakers, and bags.
The texture of canvas is sturdy and slightly rough to the touch. It can also be worn as leisure clothes, as well as workwear and will last a long time. Some companies may blend spandex in with the cotton canvas fabric to add flexibility to the work pants.
What is Denim?
Yes, we are all quite familiar with denim jeans. Denim is a woven fabric made of cotton. It’s a soft, hard-wearing material made with an indigo, gray or mottled white yarn using a twill weave that makes it softer over time.
Twill is a popular weave pattern that’s characterized by diagonal lines on the face of the fabric. The yarns are closely packed, resulting in a thick, sturdy fabric that makes great jeans and pants. Compared to canvas, it resists tears and creases easily but does not hold dye as well. While not all twill is denim, all denim is twill.
Denim comes in various types, including stretch denim (what are flex jeans?) that is woven with 2% spandex and poly-denim, in which cotton is blended with polyester to make it lighter and easier to care for. You can also find denim that is made with a blend of more durable fibers like Kevlar and Polyamide to make them more resistant to heavy wear and tear.
How Do Canvas and Denim Compare?
Canvas and denim are both textile materials that have been used for centuries. The difference between these two materials is small but can be significant in certain situations.
Denim is a cotton twill fabric with a diagonal weave that is used for making jeans, overalls, jackets, and other clothing items. Canvas is heavy-duty cotton or linen fabric with a plain weave usually used to make sails or tents.
In terms of pants, there are several factors you need to consider when comparing how well they function. Below we will be going over things like warmth, durability, comfort, weather resistance, and style. Understand what you expect from your pants and in what settings you plan to use them will help you determine which is ultimately best for you.
Warmth and Breathability
If you work in a climate in which you are experiencing extreme temperatures or harsh seasons, it’s important to pick a material that can match your environment so you aren’t left exposed and can focus on the job at hand.
In many work conditions—both indoor and outdoor—heat is often a factor. If your pants don’t allow air to move through them and allow your legs to breathe, you risk the possibility of overheating.
Overall, denim has much more breathability than canvas. Because of its tight weaving, the canvas is not the most breathable material for pants. However, there are options for lightweight canvas pants, which still aren’t on the level of denim, but allows your legs to breathe a little more in the heat.
On the other hand, if you are often exposed to cold weather, canvas might be the better option. Again, because of that tight weaving, the canvas is resistant to wind and cold weather. There are options for flannel-lined denim pants to provide extra defense against the cold. This doesn’t allow for year-round use.
Canvas vs Denim Durability
The last thing you want when buying pants is for the fabric to tear or fall apart shortly after wearing it (best heavy duty canvas pants). The durability of your pants is going to depend heavily on the fabric that is used.
Typically, synthetic fabrics are more durable than fabrics made with natural fibers because they are engineered to be stronger and last longer. Cotton/Polyester blends are generally regarded as more durable fabrics, but the cotton quality is also important to consider.
Most work pants on the market are made of thick duck canvas or heavy denim, both of which are known for their durability. Jeans are most people’s go-to pants and are what typically comes to mind when many people think of work pants, but they aren’t the most durable.
While blue jeans have been a symbol of classic Americana for the past 150 years, there is a reason why canvas has continued to be used in the outdoor gear market. Canvas is very abrasion resistant, and it won’t easily tear when pulled on. It’s also easy to dye, and it holds color well, even in harsh climates.
Is Canvas or Denim More Comfortable?
No matter how well-constructed your work clothing is, if it’s not comfortable, it might be difficult for you to fully focus on your job.
When it comes to comfort, denim is typically the way to go. Though denim work pants are thicker than fashion denim, they are comfortable and versatile enough to be worn by everyone. They are easy to clean and generally don’t shrink in size. Denim is also known to soften over time, providing more comfort.
Canvas is a tighter weave, which typically makes it stiffer. Although there is a bit of a breaking-in period, they soften with wear and washing.
Things to Look for In Pants for Extra Comfort
- Choose a stretch fabric. Buying work pants that use a stretch fabric blend is a simple way to add comfort to an active workday. There are actually a lot of work pants on the market today that use a stretch fabric blend. These pants often have a bit of spandex mixed with their cotton, which lets them move naturally with any movement. This ensures you can easily move without restriction, so even if the stretch jeans are tight-fitting, they’ll stay unrestrictive to your movements.
- Look for gusseted pants. Pants with a built-in crotch gusset help take the stress off the crotch area while bending and crouching on the job, making it a bit easier to bend and stretch with comfort (work pants with crotch gusset). The crotch gussets in these patterns don’t affect the makeup of the fabric, but they can increase comfort (jeans with crotch gusset).
- Choose a relaxed fit. Loose-fitting work pants can be a great way to stay comfortable and have enough room to move around. Tight work jeans, on the other hand, can restrict your movements and cause discomfort.
- Stick with lightweight. The weight of the fabric for your work pants will often be listed inside the description. Lightweight fabrics are less durable than heavier ones, but seams and knees are often made with reinforced stitches to counteract this. This way, you’ll still enjoy the benefits of using lightweight materials without sacrificing durability.
Canvas vs Denim Weather Resistance
If you work in an outdoor setting or a climate with harsh seasons, it’s important to consider the weatherproofing of your pants. Are they water-resistant? Will they block out the wind?
Canvas is naturally water-resistant and does an excellent job of blocking out the wind. When fibers of canvas become damp, they swell and prevent additional water from passing through the material. Some waterproofing agents can be applied to the surface of canvas for improved resistance to moisture, but this isn’t necessary.
While you can find denim treated with a water-repellent coating, meaning that water rolls right off the pants, the fibers aren’t woven tight enough for natural water resistance, so it’s essential to check the product description for waterproofing.
Canvas vs Denim Style
Originally created as an affordable, durable, and accessible fabric for workwear, denim, and canvas can now be considered a fashion trend. However, in this case, the style of your pants is more about how they fit rather than the current trend.
There are a few common styles of work pants, each one fitting a different body shape. You should choose according to your body shape and what you’re comfortable with:
- Classic fit: This is the best choice for most people. This style features a straight leg from the hip to the ankle and a waistband that sits right at or near waist level. The fabric of classic-fit pants tends to lay comfortably over the seat and hips without sagging. They offer a room in your seat, crotch, and thighs.
- Relaxed: Relaxed fit pants are designed to be more comfortable than classic fit. Relaxed fit pants typically have extra fabric in the hip and seat area, as well as slightly looser legs for increased comfort.
- Athletic: Athletic fit is also similar to the classic fit around the seat and hips. However, the waist is slightly lower, and more fabric in the legs allows for more movement, such as squatting and climbing.
- Slim fit: The waistband on these pants sits just below your natural waistline, and the fabric is snug over the hips and thighs. If you often do bending while working but prefer a slim fit, look for pants with elastic materials. This style is great for handling equipment and machinery, as any loose fabric could present a risk (the best slim work pants).
In terms of overall usability, canvas pants come out on top. They are more likely to hold up through tough work conditions while providing comfort and protection from the elements. The downside is that they tend to be less comfortable, and you run the risk of overheating in the summer.
In this case, your best bet would be to choose a lightweight canvas pair for the summer months or invest in a pair of reinforced denim. Ripstop fabric is another good summer option. Either way, you are now well-equipped to pick the style and fabric of pants that will best meet your needs.