Guys' Style Essentials: Chinos
How to wear this wardrobe must-have
Take Style Girlfriend’s No Jeans January challenge! How? Just go denim-free, all month long. You’ll discover new ways to wear the clothes you already own (like how to wear chinos dressed up and down), and learn what your wardrobe may be missing…
In the spring of eighth grade, I borrowed a pair of Gap chinos from my friend Kate. I wanted to wear them to graduation rehearsal at the church connected to our parochial school. Wide-leg with that useless hammer loop that no middle schooler needs, and stone-white, these pants were the coolest.
Sitting in a pew, waiting for my turn to walk up to the altar to fake-receive an invisible diploma from my principal, I suddenly realized I’d gotten my period for the first time. Not wanting to call attention to the…situation, I yanked my sweater down towards my shoelaces. Then I walked up in front of my entire class, and accepted that invisible piece of paper with a firm handshake and pained smile. Thankfully, a clean pair of jeans sitting in my locker saved the day. Literally.
The whole experience felt (probably?) a lot like getting a boner during a spelling bee—you know it’s not your fault, that your body doesn’t mean to betray you in front of all your pubescent peers…and also that you should go home, hug your parents goodbye, change your name, and move out of state, never to return again.
So yeah. That, coupled with the fact that chinos on women aren’t really a thing, means I’m not a big chinos person, personally. However, I’m telling you here to do as I say, not as I do (or wear). Because on men, chinos are great, and you almost never find yourself bleeding through a light-colored pair!
Below, everything you need to know about how to wear chinos:
Are chinos different than khakis?
First, let’s start with some terminology. “Khakis” aren’t pants. Khaki is a color.
When someone says khakis, what they’re really talking about are chinos. A simple casual, cotton pant that exists in the middle ground between jeans and dress pants. Think of chinos as the oxford shirt of pants—versatile enough to be dressed up or dressed down, and always in style.
Khaki chinos are chinos that come in a tan color. Burgundy chinos are chinos that come in a burgundy color. And so on.
Chinos are dresser than five-pocket twill pants, which look pretty much exactly like jeans except for the material, but not as dressy as dress pants, which usually have a tab waistband closure and are made of wool, or some other fancier material.
How to wear chinos
Chinos are the antidote to complaining dark denim jeans are “all” you have to wear. When you want getting dressed to be easy, reach for chinos! They’re so easy to swap in as a substitute, and they’ll put you leaps and bounds ahead of your be-bottom’d brethren.
Like jeans, you can dress chinos up, or dress them down. The beauty of a great pair of chinos is that they go with literally everything. Get preppy with a white dress shirt, navy blazer, and tie. Go for that simple Scandinavian aesthetic with a pocket tee and fresh sneakers. You’d be hard pressed to come up with an outfit that a great pair of chinos won’t complement.
SG Says: We’re saving joggers for another day, but know that there are chino joggers out there, too, and that we’re in favor of them, if you’re up for going (a little) outside your comfort zone.
How chinos should fit
Remember those wide-legged chinos that we all had growing up? The ones that made us feel like the fourth member of Blink 182 and fit like your favorite pair of JNCO jeans? Yeah, we’re not wearing those anymore.
Cut and fabric are key to versatility when it comes to chinos. Look for a chino with a medium rise, not too high or too low. Flat front is a must, and make sure the seat of the pants fit close but not too tight.
And about your backside? A close-fitting seat is the cure for “dad diaper butt.” Us ladies want to see your cute butt as much as you like to look at ours, so a shapeless, sloppy backside is a definite Don’t.
Make sure the leg is tailored close to the body, and the length falls somewhere between the top of the shoe and the top of the heel. Stay away from chinos that are too washed and distressed as this makes it harder to dress them up.
Shop #SGApproved chinos:
One thing that chinos have over jeans in terms of versatility is that you have w-a-a-a-a-y more options for colors that are still neutral and super-wearable.
Think about it. As soon as you veer off the path from dark blue denim, you get into “types” (black jeans that make you feel like a rocker) and fads (the light blue “dad” jeans that are cool now but who knows about next season, or next year?)
From there, experiment! Warm weather is great for lighter shades from salmon to sea breezy blue, while the colder months make more sense for darker shades like aubergine and rust.
What shoes to wear with chinos
The image above from Effortless Gent does a great job of showing you a bunch of the options you have when it comes to what to wear on your feet with chinos.
With a more dressed-down look, it makes sense to go with a sneaker – personally, I’m a sucker for a really bright, colorful low-top with an upturned cuff (like this) which adds a really modern vibe, but you could also go with something a little more on-the-nose, like a lace-up canvas sneaker or a boat shoe.
If you want to dress up your chinos, a loafer or desert boot will do the trick.
Shop #SGapproved shoes to wear with chinos:
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PAIR OF CHINOS RIGHT NOW?