Chinos are so ubiquitous it’s easy to imagine that everyone knows how to wear them. But if you’ve ever happened across some poor soul wearing slim fit, when he has legs like tree trunks, or that poor fellow with skinny legs sporting a pair of baggy trousers that look like the sails on HMS Pinafore, you’ll know that’s just not true.
Here to ensure your comfort, dignity and sartorial elegance, is our guide to wearing chinos. Everything you need to know to look and feel great in a pair of these classic cotton trousers.
Originally developed for military use by the Brits and Europeans, chinos became popular smart-casual wear when US soldiers returned home from the American-Spanish war of 1898 wearing pantalones chinos – Chinese trousers – reflecting the fact that the original fabric came from China. Since then of course, chinos have become a staple of every discerning gent’s wardrobe.
How to choose the right fit for chinos
Does the choice of slim-fit, straight-cut or wide-leg chinos leave you bewildered? Never fear, it’s actually pretty easy to work out which fit will suit you best.
Do you have a pair of stringy legs that meant you were picked last for school yard footy matches? Make the most of your slender silhouette by choosing slim fit chinos that’ll show off those lean legs. This elongating cut also works well for shorter men.
Muscular legs of a true sporting natural? Straight cut for you – slim fit might show every ripple of your swollen quads, but you’ll look like a ballet dancer in tights. Straight cut offers shape without going too tight.
Are you the sort of chap with the powerful legs of a champion caber tosser? Yes? Choose a wider fit, especially if you’re generally “well built”.
Still in doubt? When you try on a pair of chinos, they should fit around the waist without needing a belt to hold them up, and you should be able to pinch about an inch of fabric around the leg.
What style of chinos suits your body shape?
For a long time, pleats were out. But now they’re back – especially if you’re keen to embrace that other return from the fashion wilderness, the high-rise trouser. Forget entertainment mogul Simon Cowell, Brad Pitt’s been spotted wearing high-rise pleated trousers, so you know you can too. This is good news for bigger men – the higher-waisted cut looks good on you.
Though ultra slim, flat-fronted, low-rise chinos have been fashionable in recent times, this style only really suits slimmer men. Everyone else looks top-heavy and is much better choosing straight-cut trousers with a slightly higher waist and/or pleats.
Want to give your chinos a more youthful vibe? Go for chinos without a break and cuff them by rolling up the legs a little to make more of your footwear, bare ankles or snazzy socks.
What colour chinos should you wear?
You’ll find chinos in every colour, from black and white to brights like red, but an original khaki pair deserves its place in your wardrobe. That’s because they go so well with pretty much every item of smart-casual clothing you’re ever likely to possess. Here are some classic combinations to try:
- Khaki or stone chinos with a plain t-shirt, a sporty polo shirt, or a crisp white shirt and navy blazer.
- Navy chinos with a white shirt and a pink or yellow blazer.
Fancy bolder colour selections? Just remember the colour wheel. Hues closer to that of your chinos are complementary colours which go well. Colours directly opposite offer contrast and should be used more sparingly.
Watch your weight
We’re talking summer and winter weight fabrics. Because while chinos are known for their summer suitability, you can also find winter chinos that are made from heavier duty fabric to keep you warm in the cooler months.
When summer gives way to autumn, switch from the traditional 7-9 ounce fabric to a heavier 10-ounce plus fabric for warm legs all winter long. Can’t find a suitable pair? Give cavalry twill a try – it’s a heavier material with a tactile texture that’s perfect for pairing with thick woolly jumpers.
What shoes to wear with chinos
The simple, clean lines of a well-fitting pair of chinos look great with similarly classic shoes. For smart-casual summer wear you can’t go wrong with a pair of black or brown brogues. Dialling down the formality? Take a look at penny loafers or deck shoes.
For winter wear, a pair of sturdy country or chukka boots are a good match for heavier weight fabrics.
Top tips on how to wear chinos