Gone are the days of wearing traditional khakis when you need to look sharp. Welcome to the wonderful world of chinos! Chinos have taken the menswear world by storm and it’s for the better. Blue, green, burgundy, grey, you name a color, they exist. Chinos are the perfect choice when you need something more casual than dress pants, but dressier than jeans. You might be thinking “great, now I have to learn another category of clothing”; not quite, when I say ‘chino’, picture an upgraded version of khakis. Don't forget to select your height and bodytype to filter the information applicable to you!
3 pointers to get you started: Chinos can replace your khakis They can be dressed up or down, going with everything from t-shirts to dress shirts They make it easy to add color to your bottoms It’s important to pay attention to outfit and color combinations in the photos you see throughout this guide, don’t focus on fit, we’ll cover that further below
Feel free to read it in order or check out the table of contents to jump to sections.
Chino pants are trousers made from chino cloth, which is a twill fabric made of 100% cotton. Chinos were originally part of a military uniform because of their durability, but were soon adopted as day to day wear.
Your mind may have jumped to khakis as soon as you saw chinos. However, chinos and khakis differ in a few ways:
Chinos can be worn exactly as you would wear your khakis and then some. If you are choosing between khakis and chinos, you should definitely choose chinos because they look more modern and are so much more versatile.
Sometimes you’ll see pants that almost look like chinos, but they have similar details to jeans, like full back pockets. These pants are called “5 pocket cotton pants”. 5 pocket cotton pants are between chinos and jeans on the dressy scale and are a good option for those who like to keep things on the casual side versus going full chino.
You can wear cotton pants as you would wear chinos, with a few exceptions. For example, 5 pocket cotton pants are closer to jeans than dress pants, so if you were to wear them with a blazer, you wouldn’t pair them with a dress shirt and wear them to a wedding or a formal business meeting. Instead, treat them as you would wear jeans with a blazer and understand they don’t belong in formal settings.
How to tell the difference between chinos and cotton pants? Check out the pockets. Chinos always have slit back pockets, whereas a cotton pant will have full back pockets. You will also notice a difference in stitching details; chinos have subtle stitching while the cotton pants have obvious stitching details like you would see in jeans.
These cotton pants have 5 pockets just like jeans do, 3 in the front and 2 in the back (there is a pocket in pocket in the front), whereas chinos have side slit pockets. Rivets near the belt loops is another marker of the cotton pant, just like jeans have.
Which should you go for? It depends on your personal style. If you are more of a casual person, 5 pocket cotton pants will work fine for you. If you want the flexibility to dress them up a bit, chinos are your go-tos. It’s also nice to mix it up and have one of each and see what you end up wearing more.
Chinos and Jeans are two different things. Chinos are more "dressed up" than jeans. However, you can practically wear any top and shoe that you would wear with jeans with chinos. Swapping out jeans for chinos will give you a smarter and more professional look when you need it.
Chinos are slightly more casual than dress pants and that’s because of their material. Chinos are made of cotton where as a good pair of trousers is made out of wool and in turn has a drapey look. A dress shirt or button down can easily be worn with chinos and, optionally, a formal shoe to dress it up. However, it will be less formal than the same outfit worn with dress pants.
In the chino family, there are a few different details that can make the pants more dressy or casual. Let’s go over them!
Sometimes you’ll see Chinos say “washed” or “broken in”, this just means they don’t look “new” and were pre-washed by the manufacturer. Some people prefer washed because they look more casual and are more comfortable than a brand new crisp chino. However, you will notice the “unwashed” chinos have a bit of a shine to them, which are better for dressing up.
For example, if you wanted to pair your chinos with a blazer, for say a wedding, go for unwashed as it will complete the look nicely. However, if you wanted to keep the look slightly casual and with a blazer, say for work, a matte finish could work.
Washed chinos will also fade naturally, keeping up with the casual side of things, whereas unwashed chinos are not meant to fade and will keep that sheen.
Which one should you go for? If you like to look sharp and dressy, get unwashed chinos. However, if you’re naturally a casual person who likes a slightly rugged style, go for the washed chinos. Keep in mind, washed chinos pair better with a t-shirt and sneakers look, whereas unwashed chinos pair better with a dress shirt and dress shoes look. Can you dress up washed chinos? Totally. Throw on a button down, tuck it in, and pair the look with a dress shoe.
Some chinos come with a vertical crease at the front of the pants, which makes them more dressy. Wearing creased chinos with a casual outfit like a t-shirt and sneakers will throw off the look, so stick to a dress shirt, button down, or sweater if going for the crease.
To crease or not to crease? No crease is more of a modern look and makes your chinos more versatile, especially if you like to wear them casually. On the other hand, having a crease can make your chinos look more formal, especially when wearing them with a blazer. It’s also worth noting a crease makes the leg from knee to ankle look slimmer, which works for guys who like a slim leg, but can’t wear slim pants.
Although having a crease is a traditional look, it can be made modern by wearing them at a shorter length like in the photo above.
Chinos can be worn in a wide variety of ways, which makes them so versatile and fun to wear. Whether you want to wear them with a t-shirt or dress shirt, there are a couple details to keep in mind.
When it comes to length of chinos it’s best to either go for no break or a slight break in your pants. A break is the amount a pant dents at the bottom.
Chinos should have a clean finish, so I advise against going for a full break. If you like some breaking at the bottom, medium break should be your maximum. You can ask a tailor to hem the bottom for you to get your perfect length.
Having no break in your pants is a modern look. If you like showing off fun socks or like the no-show sock look, this is a great choice since it exposes some of the foot when wearing a low cut shoe. When going for no break, the chinos should stop at the lower ankle, near the ankle joint.
Examples of how to wear no break:
Having a little bit of a break won’t expose sock and foot, unless you sit down. If you work in a professional setting or prefer a classic look, this might be the one for you. The pants will hit the top of your shoe and will bend slightly. The pants shouldn’t go past the middle of the back of your shoe.
Examples of how to wear a slight or medium break:
Break or no break? The choice is totally yours. Do you like to show off socks or like the no-show sock look? Go for no break. If you like stick to a classic look, do a slight break.
Multiple breaks can be tricky. It’s not the end of the world if your chinos have multiple breaks, however they do give your pants a very casual and rugged look. If you want to go for multiple breaks, keep the leg slim to skinny, which prevents the chinos from folding over your shoes and looking frumpy. If your chinos end up having multiple breaks when worn with boots, it’s okay. More on boots and chinos in the next section.
Full or multiple breaks with a looser leg will make your chinos look like they are bunching at the bottom and are too long for you. Chinos should have a clean finish and wearing the right length will help achieve that. Bonus: Chinos at the no break or a little break length will make you appear taller, as the bunches will weigh you down. Check out the following examples for what NOT to do.
You might have noticed in some of the photos that the chinos are rolled or cuffed at the bottom. This look is a very casual, yet style forward way to wear them, especially in the warmer months. You can pair the rolled up look with anything from sneakers to boots.
Roll up your chinos when you want to look casual and relaxed. Rolling is great for warmer days unless worn with boots. Avoid rolling in formal settings.
Rolling your chinos is easier than you think. The photo above shows three rolls you can try: (1) pin-rolling; (2) messy roll; (3) cuffed
A couple of notes:
Step 1:Fold chinos at the bottom about ½ an inch. If you want to keep the roll low, you can fold ¼ of an inch or at the hem stitching at the bottom. If you’re rolling your pants while wearing them, have your thumbs on the outside of the pants and fingers inside of the pants and then fold up. It’s easy if you fold at the front of the pants first, then continue the fold at the back.
Step 2:Roll once more, this time the roll will be about an inch. This is the step where you can decide how wide you want the roll to be, so feel free to go up or down from an inch. Smooth out the fold. If you like this length, you can stop here.
Step 3:Repeat step two. If you feel the roll is too high, put your thumbs inside the roll and push down a bit until you get to your desired length.
Voila! There you have it. Keep practicing and it will get easier and easier, I promise. For more precision, wear your shoes while rolling to get the right length.
Wait, I have GIFs:
If you're working with "skinny fit", don't make your cuff as wide:
If you want to pin-roll your chinos, your first step is to fold the extra fabric to the side and then start folding up.
More and more men are showing off their fun socks or going for the no-show sock look as a stylish statement, especially with chinos. In order to do this successfully, avoid ankle cut or low cut socks, the last thing you want to do is show sock and foot at the same time.
You can have fun with prints or keep it solid when choosing socks. If you’re exposing socks, make sure no skin on your foot is showing. It’s pleasing to the eye if the sock color compliments a piece of your outfit (i.e. blue chinos + green socks = works!).
Colors opposite of each other, including the colors to the right and left of that opposite color, work well together. Example: Yellow works with purple (opposite), purple-blue (left of purple), and red-purple (right of purple).
Also, any three colors next to each other work well together. Example: Yellow works with green-yellow (left of yellow) and yellow-orange (right of yellow).
You might have noticed in a number of photos it looks like the guys are not wearing socks. However, the trick to save your shoes and feet from odor is wearing “no show” socks.
You can wear no-show socks with everying from dress shoes to sneakers. However, skip the no show sock look for formal occasions. The example below is an easy look to try as a stepping stone to wearing cuffed chinos and no show socks. The casual look with fresh white sneakers and a rolled up button down is perfect for testing out on the weekend or on vacation.
A lot of styles of shoes work with chinos and that choice can easily dress up or down your outfit.
Sneakers, including slip ons, will dress chinos down, but you can keep them stylish by going for a leather or suede sneaker as opposed to a running shoe. No break and rolled chinos work really well for this look. This combination is perfect for weekends and travelling, as it provides form and function.
Boat shoes are a step up from sneakers and are great for looking smart and casual at the same time. From a t-shirt to a casual blazer, boat shoes work well with a number of looks. Avoid boat shoes for any formal occasions.
Loafers pair well with chinos for guys who like to dress up thier look a bit. From penny loafers to tassels to suede to leather, they come in a number of styles for you to experiment with. You can show your socks with loafers or opt for no-show socks.
Oxfords and Derby shoes look great with chinos and can easily be dressed up or down depending on what your pair the look with. Wearing suede styles can help keep the look slightly more casual, while leather can really dress it up. This is a great shoe to pair when wearing chinos with a blazer for a formal look.
Monk strap shoes pair really well with chinos. Although on the formal side, you can wear them with something as simple as a t-shirt to something as formal as a blazer and decide where you want to take the look.
Pairing chinos with boots is a very modern and fashion forward look and can be worn in a number of ways. Keep in mind, when wearing them with boots, they may slightly bunch at the bottom and it’s okay.
There are a couple ways to wear rolled chinos with boots and it depends on your boot style. If your boots have a wide opening, you can roll your chinos to the top of your boot.
If your boot has a slim opening, you can roll your chinos to the middle or right below the top of your boot
You can also roll and tuck the front part of your chinos under the boot tongue.
If your boots are slim at the ankle, you can wear your chinos over your boots for a clean and classic look. Make sure the chino fits comfortable over the boots. When wearing boots with chinos, multiple breaks will naturally occur and it’s okay.
If your boots have a tongue that sticks out (like in a desert boots), you can tuck the chino into the tongue and have the rest of the chino naturally fall to the sides and back. Chinos with a slim ankle work for this look, whereas a wide chino would have too much excess fabric hanging off the side.
Fully tucking in your chinos into your boots is a casual and rugged style. Slim chinos work better for this look. You can either fold the chino out like in the example on the left or tuck your chinos nice and tight into your socks and let them naturally fall out as you walk. Make sure your chinos are not ballooning out at the ankle.
Wearing a belt with your chinos is optional. You’ll notice in some photos guys are wearing tucked in shirts without a belt, this works fine for a casual look. Not wearing a belt when wearing monochromatic colors streamlines the body and makes you look taller.
On the other hand, wearing a belt with a tucked shirt is a smart and professional look and will tie your outfit together nicely. If you’re worried about the belt causing a break in your body, go for a belt and shoe color that is close to the color of your chinos (i.e. navy chinos and black belt and shoes; green chinos and brown belt and shoes).
What to wear with your chinos can be broken down by Casual, Smart, and Dressy. You can mix and match the tops, outerlayers, and shoes to make something casual look more dressy and vice versa.
A couple of notes:
There you have it, all the diverse ways you can make outfits with chinos. Keep in mind, you can easily switch out certain pieces like shoes or jackets to easily dress up or down a look. Use the examples above as a base and make edits to fit your personal style and occasion.
Wearing pants that fit well can take your look to the next level and make you look more put together. Luckily, brands make a number of fits that can help you achieve a polished look no matter your size. Your chinos should be comfortable, but also give you some shape.
The bigger you are on the top half of your body, the less taper you want in your pants. The slimmer you are, the slimmer in the leg you can go. Just make sure you are balancing your body out. Here’s a test: If your body starts feeling like a popsicle, unproportionately big at the top and really slim at the bottom, try a looser fit (i.e. from slim to straight). Just because something is trending, doesn’t mean it’s for you.
The best way to understand what type of leg you should go for is by working with the shape of your body. If the examples below look really similar to you, pay attention to the fit from the knee to ankle to understand how the pants change from fit to fit. We’ll go over exact fit notes further below.
Make sure the waist is snug enough, but not to the point where it’s very uncomfortable and you get a muffin top. The pants should be able to stay up without a belt.
Test: Put a finger in your waistband and pull it, if it’s pulling more than an inch, go down a size. Keep in mind chinos will stretch about a ¼ inch as you wear them.
It’s okay for the chinos to initially be fitted around your thighs as this is the area where chinos will stretch out the most.
Test: You should be able to pull about an inch of fabric. However, you shouldn’t be able to pull more than 1.5 inches, otherwise they are on the loose side and will get more loose with wear.
The shape from your knee to ankle can be the difference between a modern fit and a classic fit. For a modern fit, the chinos should slim down from the knee to the ankle. A more classic fit can slightly taper or go straight down. Check out the body types section to learn what kind of leg is good for you.
Test: There should be no pulling at your calf, if there is, your pant leg is too slim. If you can grab more than 2 inches, your leg is too wide.
Go for no to 1/2 break. Avoid excess bunching at the bottom of your chinos. If you’re going for a skinny leg, some bunching is okay since the chinos won’t fall over your shoes.
Test: Fold your chinos in to test out different lengths and breaks. Make sure this length works with all the shoes you plan to wear with your chinos. Once you settle on the length you like, the amount of chino folded in is how much fabric needs to be cut off. A tailor can assist you with this. Make sure you account for any shrinking if you are getting them hemmed when you buy them.
You want your chinos to fit well around your butt and somewhat shape it. Keep in mind chinos will stretch, so if they are a little snug around your butt at first, it’s okay. If you can see the whole shape of your butt and see pulling (horizontal lines) at the seat seam, they are too small. At the same time, avoid diaper butt, which is when a bunch of excess fabric gathers under your butt.
Test: Your chinos should be comfortable and not have excess fabric at the back nor should it have pulling. See examples:
Refers to how wide the opening is at the bottom of the chinos. Each fit has a different opening. For example, a slim could have a 15” opening whereas a straight could have 16”. If you’re online shopping, it’s always good to compare your favorite pair of pants (jeans included) to the leg opening listed.
A tailor can make slight adjustments to your chinos to make them fit correctly. Some things will be worth it, while other things may not be and it’s better to get a new pair.
A bad fitting chino will make you look shorter and wider than you are. Chinos are meant to look polished, so it's important to find ones that fit well to achieve a modern look. Baggy chinos don't look good.
One of the coolest things about chinos are the color options. Some colors are easy to pull of, while others are can be a bit more of a challenge. Chino colors can be split into 3 categories: classic, earthy and bright. Classic colors are the easiest place to start, but earthy tones are a perfect way to transition into colored bottoms. If wearing colored bottoms seems out of this world to you, seeing full outfits will help.
Keep in mind all colors can work with anything from a dress shirt to a t-shirt.
Charcoal is a very neutral color that pairs really well with most colors. Instead of black shoes, try wearing medium brown shoes, which adds the perfect pop of color.
Beige is a very common and traditional color when it comes to chinos, which might remind you of boring khakis. However, wearing them with casual clothing, like sneakers and a casual jacket, can make them look more modern. If a classic beige is too boring, try a color like a “chai” or dark khaki instead.
If beige isn’t your thing, brown chinos are a great alternative. Brown chinos pair really well with blues, greens, black, white and earthy colors. Make them modern by wearing them with a pair of boots like Chukkas.
Blue chinos are as classic as you can get. They are very versatile and can easily be worn on weekdays and weekends with some slight adjustments. Tuck in a button down or dress shirt to dress them up for work or keep it casual with a t-shirt and sneakers for the weekend.
Black chinos make the perfect canvas for wearing stylish pieces such as a statement jacket or printed shirts. Pair black chinos with colored shoes to bring the look to life. You can also treat black chinos like a black dress pant and pair them with a sports coat for a modern suit look.
White Chinos aren’t for everyone, but if you’re ready to step into a pair, welcome! Spring and Summer are perfect for white chinos and they pair well with every color. If white seems to bright, try cream. Not sure where to start? Try pairing them with a blue shirt and brown or grey shoes.
Tobacco is a great option for those who don’t like beige pants. They pair really well with blues and other earthy colors like burgundy and forest green. Wearing brown shoes helps keep up the earthy look.
If you’re ready to step out of the box, burgundy (or wine) is an easy neutral color to start with. Burgundy makes a subtle style statement and works really well with a number of colors, especially blues and browns. You can go for more of a dark purple plum color if a brighter burgundy isn’t your thing.
If you’re not ready to step into burgundy quite yet, but still want to play with color, try green. Green adds the perfect pop of subtle color without going overboard. Green can range from the khaki family, which is more subtle, to bright green, which adds more pop.
Bright colored chinos work well for Spring and Summer. If you’re not sure where to start, go monochromatic or pair them with a neutral color like grey or blue. If bright colors seem a bit out of this world for you, stick to earthy colors or deeper shades like teal.
Printed chinos are more of a style statement, rather than a necessity. If you love having your clothes speak for you, you can play around with printed chinos. Since your pants are busy, keep the shirt solid. Going for geometric patterns or plaid is a safe stepping stone for those who want to try prints, but don’t know how far to push it. If prints seem a bit out there, try different textures instead. Here are some looks for inspiration:
Chino cloth is made of cotton, however, some brands like to add spandex for stretch, making them a cotton-blend. Chinos themselves are lightweight, but you can find different weights during different seasons or even find ones lined with flannel for winter. Chino cloth is a twill fabric, meaning the fabric is woven and has diagonal lines throughout.
Wash your chinos in cold water and hang dry them. Putting chinos in the dryer will make the fabric weaken and could shrink them.
Unless you are a naturally sweaty person who needs to wash their clothes after each wear, wash your chinos after about 4-8 wears.
If you’re going in-store, take 3 different fits in the change room and give them a go (i.e slim, athletic, straight). You can do the same for online shopping, just pick a store with an easy return policy.
When purchasing a new pair of chinos, you want them snug in the waist. They don’t need to be uncomfortably tight to the point where they create a muffin top, but keep in mind Chinos will stretch out a bit as you wear them. Depending on a the material, you can expect about a ¼ inch stretch.
It’s okay for the chinos to initially hug your thighs as thighs is the area where chinos will stretch out the most. You want your chinos to give your legs some shape, but not hug them to the point where you can see each muscle.
If you like the no break look, but your correct length in chinos (say 32) is giving you a break, try one length down (i.e. 30). If they are too short, get a tailor to hem them for you.
If you like rolling your chinos, go for a slim or tapered leg. Practice in the change room to make sure the leg cut you picked looks nice rolled.
Don’t be afraid to try colors beyond neutrals and classics. Burgundy or green chinos is a great place to start since blues shirts go well with both.
Congrats, you made it to the end! You're an expert on chinos now. If you have questions or feel like I missed addressing something, feel free to tell me in the comments. The next step is to check out the other guides. Boot and Button Downs pair really well with chinos, so check those out to start creating outfits!