How to wear chinos

Versatile, timeless and always in style, chinos are an alternative to jeans that allow the wearer to both look smart and feel comfortable  regardless of the event or occasion. However, if you’ve never worn them before, you may be interested to learn more about what goes with them and what doesn’t.

In this blog, we look at exactly what chinos are and how they differ from jeans and khakis before offering fashion advice on how best to wear them for both formal and casual events.

What are chinos?

Suited to both formal and casual events, chinos are a style of trouser that act as a compromise between the relaxed nature of jeans and the professional look of suit trousers. Originally created as practical clothing for soldiers during the Spanish-American war in 1898, chinos were then used during the Second World War and translated to civilian culture once soldiers returned home. Then, as American college students and Hollywood stars began to wear them casually, they soon became a staple in the typically relaxed yet defined American style.

Chinos are designed in pastel colours, without pleats and with concealed stitching. In modern fashion, they’re a popular component to any outfit as they’re comfortable and can be worn for almost any occasion. 

An older man wearing chinos walking with his wife.

What is the difference between chinos and khakis?

If you’ve heard of chinos, you may have also heard of khakis - a similar style of trouser that are often compared closely with chinos. Although khakis are best known for being less formal than chinos, the primary distinction between the two is that the stitching on khakis isn’t hidden like it is on chinos. Khakis are also heavier, thicker and more baggy, making them ideal for hands-on work such as gardening. Chinos, on the other hand, are better suited for meeting up with friends or attending a casual or formal event.

How to look good in chinos

For people who haven’t considered buying chinos before, they may be unsure of how they’re supposed to be worn. There are two general methods - choosing a baggy fit for a relaxed feel or ensuring they’re well fitted for comfort. The fitted approach is often advisable for older men and women as it allows them to look distinguished and effortlessly smart casual for any occasion.

A benefit to wearing chinos is that they go with practically anything. They could be an alternative to a pair of jeans that offer a more upmarket feel, or they could be swapped with suit trousers to make a suit appear more relaxed. Wear them with a shirt or t-shirt and a pair of boots or loafers for casual trips out, or pair them with smart shoes, a smart shirt and a blazer for formal events or an elegant meal. Alternatively, for especially warm days in the summertime, you could even consider wearing chino shorts

Can chinos be formal?

As previously mentioned, chinos can be worn both casually and formally. But if you’re considering wearing them as an alternative to smart trousers, you may be wondering how you would typically approach this change.

You should start by making sure that your chinos are as well fitted as possible. By doing this, you can ensure that they won’t stick out visually when worn with a dress shirt and blazer.

Alternatively, you may decide to wear chinos in a smart casual fashion. Fortunately, this is an easy look to pull off. All you need to do is wear fitted chinos with smart shoes, a smart shirt and a blazer. You could then blend the chinos into the rest of your outfit by wearing a belt that matches the colour of your shoes.

How to wear coloured chinos

Although chinos are typically available in a sandy beige or khaki green colour, the pastel tones also extend to dark blues, reds, browns and greys. If you’d prefer to stick to the more traditional options, you’ll find that beige and khaki works with almost anything. However, if you choose to try a different colour, you may be interested to know how to ensure that the style you’re looking for works with coloured chinos.

Tips for wearing coloured chinos:

- Ensure that all items of clothing work with the chinos. Then, if you need to take off your coat or jumper, the coloured chinos still match with the rest of your outfit

- If you’re considering wearing coloured chinos throughout the year, pick a subtle shade

- Match your chinos with items of clothing from the same colour palette

- Wear particularly bright coloured chinos for spring and summer outfits with plimsolls and a casual shirt

- When dressing formally, pair your coloured chinos with a white dress shirt, smart shoes and a belt.

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