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. Since then of course, chinos have become a staple of every discerning gent’s wardrobe.
How to choose the right fit
Does the choice of slim-fit, straight-cut or wide-cut chinos leave you uncertain? Dither no more; it’s actually pretty easy to work out which fit will suit you best.
Pair of stringy legs that meant you were picked last for school yard footy matches? Forget your childhood trauma and make the most of your lean silhouette by choosing slim fit chinos that’ll show off those lanky pins of yours. 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 wide 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.
In fact, though slim-fit, flat-front, low-rise chinos have been the go-to lightweight trouser of recent times, this style only really suits slimmer men. Everyone else looks top heavy and is much better off choosing straight cut trousers with a slightly higher waist and /or pleats.
Go for chinos without a break, because half of the appeal of chinos is the trend for cuffing them – rolling up the legs a little to make more of your footwear, ankles and snazzy socks.
What colour chinos should you wear?
You’ll find chinos in every hue and 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.
Try your khaki or stone chinos with a sporty polo shirt. Or twin them with a crisp white shirt and contrasting textured tweed jacket. Slip on a t-shirt and a gilet. Wear them with pretty much anything and the look still works.
Navy chinos are another versatile option. Slightly more formal than your khaki chinos, they look great worn with a blue or grey tweed jacket or blazer. Or throw on a white-t-shirt and bold corduroy shirt left unbuttoned, for a youthful vibe suitable for relaxed barbecues and weekend city breaks.
Fancy being bolder with your 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, less observed are winter chinos which like the term suggests are made from heavier duty cloth than their summer equivalents.
When the 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, plus the extra texture gives twill a tactile feel 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 semi-formal wear, you won’t go wrong with a pair of black or brown brogues. Dialling down the formality? Take a look at a pair of penny loafers, moccasins or even boat shoes.
For winter wear, a pair of sturdy country or chukka boots are a good match for heavier weight fabrics, while a pair of simple pumps goes well with your summer-weight chinos, and gives a beachy feel that’s also super comfortable on hot summer days.
Top tips on how to wear chinos