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 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.
Chino 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 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 counteract 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.
What To Wear With Your Chinos
Chinos & A T-Shirt
The most classic look – not to mention the easiest to achieve – is the chinos and t-shirt combination. Choose any colour chino and match with a black, white, navy or even striped t-shirt. Pair the look with white sneakers and you have an effortless, summer-ready look.
Chinos & A Shirt
If you need to look a touch dressier then we recommend a casual shirt to wear with your chinos. A linen button-down or classic chambray shirt will complement your chinos perfectly. Patterns and stripes are welcome, but be sure not to go overboard with colour. Match blues with other shades of blues to keep things on point.
Chinos & A Blazer
If you’re in a hurry and need to go out, then the chinos, t-shirt and blazer is a winning combination. Blue chinos and a black blazer is popular, khaki chinos and a blue (or black) blazer works too too. Stick to basic coloured t-shirts, otherwise, a casual shirt will also work nicely. This is a perfect smart-casual approved look.
Chinos & Bomber Jacket
As the temperature drops then you’ll need a jacket. We recommend the very casual bomber jacket to compliment your chinos. Wear either a light knit underneath or keep it casual with a t-shirt.
Chinos & A Coat
Lastly, if it’s wet then go for a trench coat with your chinos. It’s still very smart and will keep the rain and cold away. Underneath you’ll want some light knitwear and layers to ensure you stay warm. Footwear is best kept to anything warm.
What Shoes To Wear With Chinos
It’s important to know your footwear when it comes to chinos, luckily for you, most shoes match well with these types of pants. Our go-to choice would be a clean white leather sneaker or maybe a canvas Converse All-Star. Leather, chukka or suede boots will work well. Try a brown boot with light khaki chinos or black boots with black chinos. Dress shoes (ideally, polished) are a little more difficult but ensure your chino length is not too long and a brown leather brogue or loafer (no socks) will work perfectly.
RELATED: A Guide To Correct Trousers Length
Know Your Chino Types
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 are largely dictated by their maker. Knowing who you are and what you need will influence the brands you shop with.
Fast Fashion Chinos
Fast-fashion chinos come from your run of the mill high-street brands. Their fast-fashion price tag means they’re better suited to more casual occasions – emphasised by the (usually commonplace) stitching on the leg, hem and pockets. The cotton quality tends to be 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 of course.
These chinos are made from thicker, more durable fabrics and fit differently compared to their cheaper counterpart. 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.
Smart / High-End Chinos
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.