Reviewed & fact checked: March 28, 2023 by Jamie Wilson BA
Almost everyone has heard about chinos before… but what actually are they?
A pair of chinos sit comfortably between any other kind of pants options. They can be worn for any kind of casual look or dressed up to suit a more formal occasion. Over time, ‘chinos’ has become more of an umbrella term to refer to lots of different kinds of trousers, when in reality, there is a distinct difference.
Check out our three different ways of how to style chinos for any kind of occasion.
What Are Chinos?
Simply put, ‘chino’ is a cotton twill fabric, which is actually also used to make denim. Although there’s a difference between chinos and jeans, both are rooted in sturdy and durable materials.
More often than not, a pair of chinos have features such as concealed stitching, no pleats and slanted front pockets, first gaining popularity in the military background. During the Spanish-American war, chinos were developed for American soldiers and preferred because of their cotton chino cloth composition which had just the right amount of weight over the body.
Chino pants can truly be styled in a multitude of ways, just like Ryan Gosling’s unexpected travel chic style goes to prove. Teamed with a graphic t-shirt and some well worn-in dress shoes, chinos don’t have to just be reserved for a smarter style – their foundation and fabric making them great trousers to anchor any creative and edgy outfit around.
Why You Should Choose Chinos
Chinos tend to be considered as less formal than dress pants, but more formal than jeans – so there’s a lot of wriggle room. The chino vs jeans debate is one that’s ongoing and also really interchangeable, although chinos are much easier to dress up.
If a guy could only have one pair of pants in his wardrobe, chinos would be the all-around safest bet. The difference between chinos and dress pants are not only the ability to maintain a more casual style, but they are also lighter than traditional wool trousers.
Chinos are not typically pants that need to be dry-cleaned or over ironed, maintaining an overall slim fit. When we’re choosing slacks vs chinos, chino pants should sit mid-rise with the fabric staying closer to the thigh before tapering off at the knee. This slim fit is also dependent on personal preference, and can also be changed up for different types of looks.
Neutral Chinos Chic
The ultimate chinos starter pack would be a neutral colour, to allow you to easily dress a pair up or down. These pants can easily define ‘business casual’, extremely practical for any modern workplace.
One of the biggest advantages of chinos is that they can elongate your height, meaning these trousers with a buttoned-down dress shirt is a foolproof styling tip that will give an overall chic and streamlined look. Make sure you keep accessories simple to achieve the ultimate clean lines, possibly adding a belt or thin chain as a finishing touch.
The most popular colours of chinos include beige, khaki and navy, easily the most versatile combinations to name. The perfect classic dress code, neutrals will look just as good with a t-shirt as they would with a blazer and oversized coat.
Neutral coloured chinos are also the best to be worn with boots. Although you will be able to wear chinos with brogues or slip-ons equally well, chelsea boots will blend in and better suit any neutral colour to give your overall outfit that little extra lift.
White Chinos Casual
White trousers are often a colour that is shied away from, but when it works – it works well. There’s real room to play and experiment with personal style through white pants, and being able to wear chinos that are white is in fact something almost everyone can pull off well.
The slim fit adding to the white colour of chinos means that your look is sure to be fresh, bright and crisply clean. White pants are more likely to either be high street chinos or high end chinos, giving either a more casual or professional look.
The ultimate colour combination with white chinos is navy – make sure to keep patterns away from strips to avoid your overall look seeming too nautical… or fully embrace it! Wear a plain tee or a lightly patterned shirt to keep your look equally classic with a fresher edge.
White chinos will also look great with added layers. With a stripped back pair of brogues or loafers – or maybe even open-toed sandals – white chinos work well with a neutral or light coloured blazer, thin jumper or multiple layers of the same colour. Don’t be afraid to go bolder with your silhouette and accessories up top… the white chinos provide the perfect blank canvas for you to build on.
Coloured Chinos Choice
Believe it or not, chinos come in a whole host of different colours. If you’re looking to stray from your usual norm, try a pair of chinos in a more unconventional colour. Red chinos, blush pink chinos and blue chinos are all popular choices, making sure you will truly stand out from the crowd.
If you want to make coloured chinos your everyday look, don’t be afraid of them. Colour will work great with vibrant whites and muted neutrals, offsetting the colour through the chinos as opposed to the upper half. A real look with a twist, keep your looks consistent by offsetting your chinos with classic and consistent colour anchors to ensure your outfit stays effortless.
A great way to keep your chinos vibrant and fun is to cuff them. The material makes it feel as easy as cuffing a pair of jeans, meaning you can wear fun socks teamed with a classic coloured sneaker or loafer to fully feel the fun. If you’re feeling brave, bring out the bold through printed shirts in complementary colours.
Chino Pants: The Debrief
There’s no getting away from it – chinos are the ultimate outfit chameleon. Don’t ask ‘what are chinos made of’ or get drawn into the jeans vs chinos debate… take chinos as the diverse pants they are and dress them up or down for relaxed or formal looks.
Use the slim fit to your advantage and tailor your chinos look to bring out your best frame. Don’t be afraid to style chinos with bolder colours – have fun with the looks you create!