Chinos are man’s most practical and versatile trouser. The casual bottom – like the denim jean – is a style staple. But not all chinos are created equal. With so many types and colours on offer – from both cheap and luxury brands, finding the perfect pair (or two) is tough. But all that is about to get simpler.
What’s In A Chino?
Chinos can be defined as the combination of a smart trouser made from a more casual, cotton twill. Making their march from mid-century military ware and the days of Steve McQueen, the chinos’ rugged strength is even stronger today. But it’s crafted in slightly different cuts and versatile fabrics, ideal for conquering the urban streets or a precious dress-code party.
Meanwhile, the khaki colour has changed beyond the war zone too, realigning the classic pant with expectations of contemporary men’s fashion. That said, let’s learn how to wear the chino this season.
Fit & Styling
How to fit and style your chinos depends on the occasion, and a good understanding of your personal style.
More formal occasions require a mid-weight cotton with a structure that resembles a suit or separates trouser. Aim for a pair that sit nicely on the hip (no bunching) with the same rise and length in the leg as a trouser, and one with tapering at the ankle. Another way to achieve cinched-look is by rolling the cuff – 1.5 to 2 inches turned-up from the bottom is best.
A big trend this season is a slightly wider leg, with the chino being rolled at the ankle to create a tapering at the bottom. It’s a Fifties groove that can’t go wrong.
Colour Your World
Though khaki is the original chino hue, venturing into colour for your next pair is the best idea for the upcoming spring.
Soothing shades – from rose and lilac grey to peach and light red – are easy to wear and are big colours for men this season, pushed on by fashion week in June. The lightness and brightness counteracts over-the-top navy blazer formalities, and channels a bobo aesthetic with a collared shirt or jacket and silk scarf.
That said, nothing says ‘classic’ like neutral; navy and grey chinos for both formal and casual events and on trend marsala or dark red. Otherwise, try something more earthen such as forest green, rocky charcoal or taupe sand so a night-time pant.
Know Your Style
Style is determined largely by your personal taste and chosen life path. From chain retailers to the luxury moguls, the chino’s quality and appearance is also largely dictated by its maker. Learn who you are and what you need, based off this break down.
This is your average high-street or shopping centre brand chino. Their fast-fashion price point makes them super casual – emphasised in the meant-to-be-noticed stitching on the leg, hem and pockets of the trouser.
The cotton quality is lower too, giving them a lighter feel and a more worn-in look. With this in mind, they are very much ‘casual’ pants, paired best with equally casual pieces like a tee or polo and sneakers or boat shoes – no socks.
Key brands include Gap, Banana Republic and Jag.
These chinos are made from thicker, more durable fabrics and fit differently from the cheaper trousers. The best comparison is the denim jean. Recognised for their more relaxed fit, the worker chinos create a rougher, ‘vintage Americana’ aesthetic.
Textured, sturdy garments roll best with the worker chino – think a Chambray shirt, denim jacket, flannel plaid or this season’s shirt jacket or ‘shacket’. Hiker boots base out the heritage lumberjack or Steve McQueen-in-the-workshop looks.
The wide-leg style fits well for gym junkie bodies too or men with naturally larger thighs. But beware, the ruggedness of the worker chino makes them off-limits for preppy polos, and a clumsy companion for a button-shirt and blazer.
Key brands Denim & Supply Ralph Lauren, Levi’s, Carhartt and Cadet.
Smart is the chinos’ forte. But it takes some skill to get it right. Not to be confused for trousers, smart chinos – unlike their casual confreres – come clean and sharp with all details (stitching, buttons or zips) hidden for a more streamline and professional look.
Constructed from quality cotton in a mid-weight weave, the smart style traditionally features a higher pant rise too – worn on the waist just as you would a pair of tailored trousers.
Because of their neatness, you can wear the versatile chinos with casual shirts, long sleeve polos and crew neck jumper for a smart-casual look. Or try a dress shirt, sports coats, tie and formal shoes for something ultra chic.
This type is more expensive so stick to neutral shades to ensure the pair will last you a lifetime. And white is a very dapper, Pitt Uomo-inspired colour for the warmer seasons. Key brands include Incotex, Polo Ralph Lauren, J.Crew and A.P.C.
When tackling chinos, try a few different styles and then invest in your preferred type – buying two or three in different colours (and even the same brand if you strike gold).
Select a chino that reflects your personal style and don’t be afraid to play around with colour, ensuring at least one neutral pair makes it into your casual bottom repertoire this season.