What Are Chino Pants (And Should I Be Wearing Them)?
Men’s chino pants. You might not think there could be all that much confusion about a simple pair of trousers, right? However, there are more styles of pants for men than you probably imagine, unless you have some fashion experience under your belt (pun intended!). Today, the Oliver Wicks team provides their expertise on what chino pants are, how to fit and style them for any occasion, and everything else you need to know about these versatile, lightweight choices for men. By the time we’re done, you’ll have no problem adding them to your daily wardrobe… and hopefully you’ll be excited to!
In a nutshell, chinos are smart-casual pants that offer a pretty sharp upgrade over jeans. Not only are they versatile, they are lightweight and they’re a great option for outdoor events, summer picnics, and other arenas where you want to look put together, but not overly dressy. Because of this, they have a nice blend of functionality and practicality and can be styled up or down pretty easily.
While they wouldn’t be your go-to for formal events, they’re great to have in your daily rotation for a little extra style and verve. They even work well with a blazer, which as a bonus, gives your suit pants a rest.
Unlike so much of the history of men’s garments, we can’t thank our friends over the pond for chinos. They actually originated in the 19th century as part of the Spanish-American war. Much of the theater of these battles took place in the Philippines. In an area that was hot and muggy for huge swathes of the year, they needed something for military uniforms that was more slimline, practical, and lightweight than existing styles.
The pants themselves were made in China, arriving at their name, ‘chino,’ from the Spanish name for the country. The style allowed for reduced fabric usage because of the slimmer fit and lack of pleats, and they don’t have the ‘bells and whistles’ of other garments - no large pockets and so on.
While the war is long gone, chinos remain a popular choice in menswear and still look remarkably similar to the historic design.
It’s very common to confuse chinos and khakis, but they’re two different styles of pants. Chinos are streamlined and, provided they fit well, look pretty tailored. You’ll never find pleats in chino pants. You’ll also see them in a lot more colors, of course!
While many modern chinos have pockets, they’re small and typically sewn to the inside of the pants. Many people classify chinos as ‘preppy’ or ‘dressy,’ representing a nice balance between dress pants and casual pants. They’re often used in boys’ school uniforms because of this, but don’t let that scare you off! You will look like an elegant, well-styled man, not a boy, in these beauties.
Chinos are easy to dress up or down because of the material used (more on this in a minute), and many men enjoy their lack of bulk and minimal aesthetic. In a world where many men’s pant styles are baggy and difficult to fit without expert tailoring, we have a style that doesn’t fit too tightly but still has a clean and conservative line. At Oliver Wicks, it is all about the fit that suits you.
The straight lines help you elongate your legs, sleekly, and can make you look a little taller than you are. This is great if you have long legs to start with, and a fantastic way to tweak your figure if you lean towards the short side.
That’s not to say there’s no fit variances in chinos. You will still find chinos in the so-called ‘slim fit’ and ‘athletic fit’ options. Athletic fit allows for a little more muscle mass around the thighs, buttocks, and waist, while still tapering below the knee. So if you’ve had a bad experience with the fit of chinos, don’t write the style off just yet.
If you’re concerned that ‘trendy’ and ‘slim’ are not words that fit into your conversative, formal vocabularly, then don’t worry. We cater for chino cuts that are often hard to distinguish from dress pants, but you’ll feel the lightweight benefits when wearing them. More often than not, this is the approach to chinos that many of our clients enjoy - not too flashy.
Another distinguishing difference between khakis and chinos is the material. While both pant styles originate from wars, ironically, khakis are made of a stiffer, heavier material. Chinos, on the other hand, are classically made from a light cotton twill with a little stretch, and the fabric has become an iconic part of the chino look.
Cotton blends are easy to wear, comfortable, and feel weightless on the skin, but also regulate temperature well. This makes them ideal for variable outdoor temperatures, especially warm weather.
As with everything in fashion, we have seen some advances in fabric technology. While the cotton and cotton blend style remains the most popular today, you will find other, newer fabrics too. Baubax, in particular, is a blend of breathable bamboo, polyester, elastane, and merino wool for a little luxury. Both wool and bamboo are ‘wicking’ fabrics - they pull sweat away from the skin, keeping you cooler and more comfortable. Elastane replicates the slight stretch that makes for an easier fit, and it happens to be a sun-protective fabric rated at UPF 50+, which is the same as denim jeans, but without the cling and bulk. Chinos are also very ‘easy-wear,’ in that they resist watermarks and stains, again making them practical for outdoor wear.
With the newer fabrics adding extra versatility, you can find a style and weight of chinos to suit any mood. If you like some innovation with your style, there’s plenty to play with. Our chinos are 97% Cotton, and 3% Elastane - All the benefits of natural fabric, with a pinch of modern comfort thrown in (from the elastane).
Nope, they’re not! Khakis and slacks are probably what you see around you when everyone else is wearing chinos, but they’re not the same thing at all. Khakis may have a military background as well, but they are looser and a little heavier. This can make them slightly ‘frumpy’ next to the streamlined elegance of chinos, although the more relaxed style suits casual functions too.
While khakis are no longer confined to just the ‘khaki color,’ you’ll find a lot more color options in chinos. Khakis have larger pockets, a looser fit, and are typically pleated. They’re a little more robust, but a lot heavier and less forgiving on a range of bodies. While both work for a business casual look, chinos will always have the style edge over the more relaxed khaki.
Khakis have had a sartorial comeback in recent years, and can be dressed up quite a bit. If you’re not too sure what you’re doing in the personal style arena, though, keep the khakis for relaxing at home and use chinos as your go-to pants, as they’re a lot more forgiving of styling mistakes.
So, you have a lightweight, ‘outdoorsy’ pant style that is still neatly built and well structured. What can you do with it? If you’re new to chinos, the best tip is that anything jeans can do, chinos can do - and often better. How dressy your final vibe will be depends a lot on what else you pair with them, and it’s hard to go wrong. In particular, focus on your shoes and shirt to carry the overall vibe you want.
As we mentioned, you can pair them with a blazer, which makes for an office-ready outfit. We’d recommend this in relaxed professional environments. In formal offices, it’s probably a good idea to stick to a suit, and save the chinos for the weekends.
If you’re looking for a go-to style that’s casual enough to pass, but formal enough to look good, pair your chinos with a breezy button-down shirt. If you really want to create a smart-casual or business-casual look that will pass at most events, stick to light dress shirts, with darker chinos. Throw on a blazer or sportcoat and you have a smart look that will go anywhere, from date night to a casual outdoor wedding.
If you need a more casual feel, don’t be shy to introduce shirts that have a strong pattern. True casual events, or just heading out on the town, can even float a well-structured, clean, and neat t-shirt and still look polished. A much better choice for running to the store than your sweatpants, guys!
Shoes have a lot of power over how dressy your chino look will present, the same as with jeans. If the occasion is in any way smart, you simply cannot go wrong with a quality leather shoe, be it a very formal Oxford or a more casual loafer. Chinos give you a solid neutral background that can look smart indeed, without appearing over the top when paired with a suede or a fancy punched shoe.
Sneakers? It goes without saying that sneakers aren’t right for actual events, and you wouldn’t want to take them to the boardroom, either. However, for an ‘on the street’ look that lets you show off your favorite pair of kicks, chinos can be fantastic. As always, make sure your sneakers are impeccably clean and free of rips and tears.
Just be aware that sneakers come in various forms. You’ll want a simple design that is tailored to casual wear, rather than a “gym-style” sneaker that may feature big logos, a ‘busy’ design, or lots of colors. If in doubt, plain white is always a classic option with chinos, for sartorially-respectable streetwear.
A boot can be a little heavy for the breezier look of chinos, and we’d typically advise khakis or slacks for them, but a low-cut and stylish leather boot can be squeezed into your arsenal for cooler weather with a little flair. Try suede or something interesting for visual appeal.
Honestly, there’s so much you can do with this versatile style that we won’t go too in-depth here. Make sure you use a smart belt and match the leather to your shoes. Past that, the world is your oyster! Toss on a smart blazer for effortless style points, or stick with that structured t-shirt for a casual look that still showcases some style. While chinos don’t need a tie by default, you can add one if your shirt and destination call for it.
As we said, chinos can go where jeans would go, and also in the path of a smart blazer look. This gives a vast range of formality options, so you really can style them pretty much however you please. This brings us nicely to the next section!
Chinos are, honestly, go-anywhere pants… within reason. Obviously, events that require a full suit or black-tie dress code are a no-go, but chinos will fit seamlessly into any other situation. Make them part of your summer office wardrobe, wear them to run errands, and take them to the park or on a date. Many stylish guys like to kick back and relax at home in chinos.
Between the wide variety of colors, breathable fabric, and effortlessly tailored look, they fit into almost any daily situation. Remember what we advised above - opt for smarter, darker colors if you need to dress them up, and keep it fun and casual with stone, taupe, and khaki colors if you need a more casual vibe.
Chinos are great for an active lifestyle because of their sturdy fabric that resists snags and creases, so you never have to worry too much about what you’re doing - if you commute by bicycle and still need to look smart in the office, they’re up to the challenge. Many hikers favor chino-style pants for this same reason.
If you travel a lot, they’re a smart suitcase choice too. You can pack light because they match almost anything, they’re comfortable while in transit, and they are much more forgiving than other pants and fabrics when it comes to creases. There’s very little chinos can’t do. All the while, you’re saving your premium dress pants from wear and tear as well - Keep suit pants for when you’re wearing a suit!
If you’re on the look out for a casually stylish pant style that goes anywhere, make chinos your go-to choice. They’re also fantastic for men who are just starting their fashion journeys, and who don’t yet feel confident styling themselves. Seriously, you can’t go wrong with them, and it takes very little to create a clean, smart chino look that will turn heads wherever you go. If you haven’t already included a solid chino or two in the wardrobe, it’s time to get shopping.
Oliver Wicks is proud to offer you a comfortable range of chinos suitable for any taste and style, and our helpful team is always happy to lend a hand if you have any other questions about this fantastic addition to every man’s wardrobe. Don’t hesitate to reach out at email@example.com with any questions. For a practical guide, be sure to create a free account on our site where you’ll have access to instructional videos and measurement videos, helping you to easily have your measurements for that custom suit. You can also enjoy some extra styling pointers,, latest fabric news, and more if you sign up to our mailing list.