What are chino pants? Arguably one of the influential types pants in the fashion world.

Endlessly versatile, hard-wearing, and elegant, chino pants first stepped onto the scene over 150 years ago. And they aren't dwindling away any time soon! The chino pant has an appeal across all ages, tastes, and professions. Whether you’re adopting a polished or rough-and-ready finish, we can show you the best ways to jazz up your wardrobe the next time you find yourself asking 'what are chinos'.

The past 20 years have seen a growing trend for many types of chinos - the most adaptable pant in the world. A-list celebrities from both genders opt for these pants for formal events and errands. Given that they're a key staple to any balanced wardrobe, let's see what all the rage is about. Before you know it, you'll be ditching blue jeans, skinny jeans, boyfriend jeans, stretch jeans, mid-rise jeans or low-rise jeans, and even khakis for an upgraded pair of chinos to serve as your new dress pants.

What are chinos and why are they so popular?

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So what are chinos exactly? Best described as a casual cotton trouser, chino pants are a slightly smarter jeans alternative. The typical wearer will opt for them when they’re tired of sporting men's jeans or women's jeans. Or, perhaps they are reaching for a smarter item of clothing which also has a comfort factor. So take off your stretch jeans and opt for an attractive pair of slim fit chinos.

Typically, chinos make an appearance during the spring-summer season (we hear they even make men's chino shorts). They’re made from a light twill cotton fabric which makes them breathable during the hotter months. Chino cloth is mostly found in brown shades at any conference, dinner party, or get-together with friends. No matter the occasion, they’re considered a stylish garment. The added versatility of chino shorts ensures that no matter the weather, you'll be on par for style.

Chinos provide a well-rounded option. They’re simple, lightweight, and adaptable with almost any footwear and t-shirt. They come in one standard trouser form, which makes them perfect for most body types. A regular size leg opening, pockets, various fit options, and colors make these suitable for men and women looking to ditch their go-to pair of jeans.

From War Uniform to Fashion Essential

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Next time you get asked, "what are chinos?" prepare to drop some historical knowledge on your friends. Military officer Sir Harry Lumsden developed the chino in 1848. He encountered the issue of his troops' white trousers having many freckles of sand on them. This made them more noticeable to the enemy. Thus, he dyed their uniforms with river water and tea to create the yellowish shade formally known as khaki.

British and American-armed forces then began wearing chino pants as part of the military uniform. It’s at this moment that they became known as ‘chino’. Many speculate its name derives from the Spanish word for Chinese -- ‘chino’ as US soldiers had their trousers made by Chinese tailors.

The pants were a movement from a rugged denim material to one which offers more flexibility for soldiers in battle. The lightweight cotton and breathable material were much more suitable for regular use – especially in tropical heats. Thus chinos for men arose, gaining popularity as functional men's pants. 

Fashion Emblem

After WWII, chinos became an integral part of the Ivy League look. Former troops continued to wear them on campus whilst resuming their studies. Civilians caught on to this trend and began sporting them for personal use.

Many manual workers adopted them as part of the uniformed etiquette too. But, it wasn’t until later that women became regular wearers; though still to this day, they are more popular with males. However, recent changes in fashion perceptions have also extended this option to women due to the universally flattering fit for most body types.

Chino pants then made an entry into the office realm. The likes of Gap, Brooks Brothers, and Ralph Lauren gave them an uplifted look to replace suits for office professionals. Now, we see the many variations that chino pants offer to the working and non-working world upon all ages.

What are chinos and how do they differ from khaki pants?

Credit: Public Domain Pictures, Lynn Greyling

What are chinos? What are khakis? Khakis and chinos, chinos and khakis -- what's the difference? With so many different types of pants it can be difficult to distinguish between them all. Even still, we've got you covered! With a bit of insight, you'll be able to tell the two apart in no time.

While there are khaki chinos, this refers to the color, rather than the type of pants. There are several distinctive characteristics that make khaki pants and chinos unique. Due to the origin of chino pants, they portray a more formal style than khakis. They are both worn on different occasions. Khakis are for a laid-back approach, and chino pants are a must-have for a slightly more formal attire.  

To spot the difference, you will notice that chinos have a polished finished, with concealed stitching. Khaki pants have obvious detailing for a mellow finish. By feeling each pant, the fabrics are massively different. As chino pants were initially designed for soldiers, they are often lightweight and made of 100 percent cotton twill fabric. This gives them a closer fit.  


A Guide To Completing Your Chino Wardrobe

Chinos are limited in the leg design and shape. Consequently, we recommend always trying them on before leaving the store. To perfect the chino look, you want a streamlined finish that cuts off around the ankle bone. They should never be too long or drag down to the feet, or you’ll butcher its notorious look.

To complement your height and build, choose a size which enables you to fit your hands in your pockets. They should still have some slack around the back. The goal is tight enough to flatter, but loose enough to move around. Ideally, they should be tailored to maintain a classic look. You can recycle a previous pair and cuff the bottoms to complement a summery take, and leave a gap before the shoe (we like ankle boots for these pants).

What To Wear With Chinos

Depending on the occasion and your destination, you will want to adjust what you pair with your chinos. Follow these guidelines to do your chinos justice.

Casual Get-Togethers

Keep your other garments simple; chinos should be the star of the show, so refrain from boisterous shirts or unnecessary accessories. A white t-shirt always saves the day and is well suited with almost any chino-pant shade.

Avoid a t-shirt which is too long though. We recommend adding a jacket on the same spectrum as your chinos for a slick, organised appearance. 

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Chino pants allow you to have fun with the rest of your ensemble. Keep it chill with a denim jacket for those days you’re meeting up with friends. Stick to neutral tones on the bottom half to enable you more creativity for t-shirts and jackets.

Polish the look with a pair of trainers and preferably low-cut socks, or none at all for the hotter seasons. A bright pair of trainers works well with a plain, white t-shirt. But, stick to neutral shoes if you’re adding a jacket to the mix.

Semi-formal Events

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To ensure you don’t look underdressed or overdressed, keep the rest of your outfit suitably sophisticated. Depending on the occasion, you can opt for color, such as grey chinos or olive green chinos. A smart shirt with short sleeves works particularly well, along with your smartest pair of shoes.

Have a little fun with the shirt style. Try patterns such as vertical stripes for an elongated look. But, we also like bright colours with details. Complete the look with a dark hat to match your shoes.

Due to the chino fabric, you can play around and mix with a slim-fitting denim Western shirt or a button-down shirt. Choose a darker shade which offers a smart-casual look – great for an afternoon dinner. 

Formal Occasions

Take your chinos in a shade darker, such as dark blue or black for a formal feel. This works especially well to appear you’re wearing suit trousers or jeans, but still gives you an edgy feel. Opt for chinos with a slightly tighter feel than a daytime look. Ditch the trainers for smart shoes with a darker tone also.

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It’s so easy to wear the chino pants to a professional occasion, especially when teamed with a shirt that’s tucked in. Match your tie with the same colour blazer for a uniformed feel. But, if you feel like eliminating the tie, keep the blazer and always close the top button.

What are chinos and what shoes match these pants?

Of course to be the most sophisticated in the room, casual or formal, you'll need to put your best foot forward. When asking what are chinos, you'll also need to ask yourself which shoes will match the pair you wish to wear.

There’s so much personality and style you can bring to the rest of your ensemble with these pants. A consistent colour palette throughout the top, pants and shoes is key to maintaining a slick look.

Casual

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Converse trainers are the staple footwear for a casual chino look – particularly in white. These are a great combination with light-coloured chino pants and a plain white t-shirt for a casual look. This look works particularly well in the summer season. But, you may wish to switch to a smarter shoe when the occasion calls for it.

Semi-Formal Events

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Loafers are a great shoe to team with longer-length chinos and are a smarter alternative to a trainer. Opt for a bolder design on the loafer for a punchier style and smart-casual appearance. A dark brown or plum makes a great footwear if you’re feeling courageous with a blazer or loud shirt.

Formal Events

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For those more formal occasions, a boot with a slight heel helps to not detract too much from the overall look. Stick to darker shades for the rest of the outfit, and deep brown footwear. You can also play around with the style of the boot and edge towards loose laces. A purposely-scuffed texture gives an edgy look for casual days.   

Chinos are the perfect way to elevate your wardrobe.

Never again will you have to ask, 'what are chinos?'. Maintain a classicism, dress for any occasion and replace your jeans for a tidier fit with more versatility. The chino pants are an essential wardrobe statement that can take you from morning, afternoon, and into the evening. People will be turning heads as you enter the room!

If you have some suggestions on wearing chino pants for any type of event, please leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you! Additionally, please share this article with someone who needs a bit of chino advice.

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