The Case For Cotton Twill Trousers

Quite why the word ‘chinos’ strikes sartorial fear into the hearts of certain men remains a mystery to us. Perhaps it’s the fact that our mothers would reach for the starchy cotton twill strides when dressing us for ‘smart occasions’? Some memories, evidently, are not so easily erasable.

However, we’re here to show you that chinos can, and will, become an indispensable element to your spring/summer wardrobe.

What Are Chinos Exactly?

You may have noticed that these days, what might have been invariably labelled chinos ten years ago, or perhaps even five, are now more commonly referred to as ‘cotton twill trousers’. That sounds much smarter, doesn’t it? The term has none of the boring connotations that ‘chinos’ has somehow been encumbered with. A little marketing swizzle perhaps, but what’s in a name?

Chinos, by definition, are indeed cotton twill trousers. As with many of our contemporary wardrobe staples (and, for that matter, the technology we rely upon), chinos were initially designed with a military purpose, most notably for British and French soldiers of the mid-19th century.

Strong and rugged, yet lightweight and comfortable, chino cloth was ideal for crafting fighting pants, and it took many years of khaki incarceration before chinos began to be rendered in the colourful styles available today.

How Should They Fit?

Fit and form are both necessities of function when it comes to chinos, meaning there is no one set of rules you should figuratively take into the changing room with you.

When dressing for more formal occasions, your chinos should be of a fine lightweight twill and fit pretty much as your suit trousers do, hanging perhaps a little lower on the hip, but maintaining the same rise and length in the leg and tapering toward the ankle.

“Chinos always look better slightly tapered and either rolled at the hem or, for a more sartorial look, cut with a 1.5 to 2 inch turn-up,” says Mehmet Ali, creative director of Savile Row tailoring label Hardy Amies. If you’re going to be wearing them with a blazer, then you don’t want any unnecessary wrinkling coming from a more accommodative rise or looser waist.

For a more casual look on the other hand (when teaming chinos with an Oxford shirt and crew neck jumper, for example), Ali suggests focusing on leg width: “Currently I’m liking how a slightly wider-legged chino that is rolled just above the ankle can look less try-hard than its slim-fit counterpart.”


Chinos, thankfully, no longer just come in khaki. Stick a pin in a Pantone swatch book and you’ll probably find a pair on the high street in the same colour. That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with khaki – it teams nicely with many different washes of denim or chambray for a workwear-inspired look – but it’s worth broadening your palette for the spring and summer months.

If you would prefer to stay neutral and classic, navy and grey chinos are the very definition of versatility and were seen on many a recent runway complementing other shades of blue – meaning they will both slot seamlessly into your current wardrobe.

Pastels shades – from pistachio green and lavender to pale lemon and powder blue – are also relatively easy to wear and a key trend this season, after being spotted in collections from Savile Row stalwarts such as Gieves & Hawkes, Hardy Amies and Richard James. They offer an excellent way to offset the formality of say, a navy blazer and crisp white shirt, while also looking elegantly bohemian when paired with a simple T-shirt and linen scarf.

The bright red variety is, however, the Marmite of chinos. If you’ve got the confidence to pull off red chinos (despite the slight Made in Chelsea stigma) then go for it, but otherwise you might want to try a less in-your-face shade. If you’re in any doubt as to which red we are talking about, Look at my f*cking red trousers! should shed some light.

Men's Coloured Chinos - Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

Massimo Dutti May 2014Digel SS15Gant SS14Mango Man SS13New Look SS15L.B.M 1911 SS13Reserved SS15Mango Man SS15Reiss SS14Reiss SS15Mango Man SS13Tommy Hilfiger SS14
Which Brands Do Them Well?

Given that chinos are – strictly speaking – only ever made from cotton or a cotton-blend, the disparity between the cheapest and most expensive on the market is comparatively small. Naturally, going to superior Italian brands such as Corneliani, Incotex, Canali, Brioni and Cucinelli is going to set you back upwards of £200 for top quality cotton, while at the other end of the scale, you can pick up a decent pair at Uniqlo for a mere £30 and nab something even more affordable at H&M.

John Lewis, whose eponymous collections have been excellent in recent years, have really upped their in-house tailoring and do a very elegant pair of chinos for sub £50.

The likes of Hackett, Hardy Amies, Ralph Lauren, J.Crew, Reiss, Ted Baker and Brooks Brothers are excellent options if you’re looking for something around the £100 mark, which is fair going given that a pair of jeans will set you back the same, if not more.

Overall, brands whose ethos revolves around classic, timeless menswear pieces will more often than not boast some fine offerings.

Current Styles: High Street
  • Asos Slim ChinosAsos Slim Chinos
  • Asos Skinny ChinosAsos Skinny Chinos
  • Topman Dark Blue Vintage Slim ChinosTopman Dark Blue Vintage Slim Chinos
  • Topman Charcoal Oxford Cotton Skinny Fit ChinosTopman Charcoal Oxford Cotton Skinny Fit Chinos
  • He By Mango Slim-fit Tailored Cotton ChinosHe By Mango Slim-fit Tailored Cotton Chinos
  • He By Mango Straight-fit Cotton ChinosHe By Mango Straight-fit Cotton Chinos
  • John Lewis Lumsden Straight Leg ChinosJohn Lewis Lumsden Straight Leg Chinos
  • John Lewis & Co. Mason Laundered Slim ChinosJohn Lewis & Co. Mason Laundered Slim Chinos
  • Uniqlo Men Slim Fit Chino Flat Front TrousersUniqlo Men Slim Fit Chino Flat Front Trousers
  • Next Straight Fit Stretch ChinosNext Straight Fit Stretch Chinos
  • River Island Pink Slim ChinosRiver Island Pink Slim Chinos
  • River Island Stone Slim ChinosRiver Island Stone Slim Chinos
Current Styles: Mid-Priced/Luxury
  • Acne Studios Satin Chino TrousersAcne Studios Satin Chino Trousers
  • Ralph Lauren Slim-straight Varick ChinosRalph Lauren Slim-straight Varick Chinos
  • Ted Baker Sorcor Slim Fit Cotton ChinosTed Baker Sorcor Slim Fit Cotton Chinos
  • Incotex Four Season Relaxed-fit Cotton-blend ChinosIncotex Four Season Relaxed-fit Cotton-blend Chinos
  • Ami Cotton-gabardine ChinosAmi Cotton-gabardine Chinos
  • J.crew Broken In Slim-fit Brushed-cotton ChinosJ.crew Broken In Slim-fit Brushed-cotton Chinos
  • Share It! Hardy Amies Classic ChinosShare It! Hardy Amies Classic Chinos
  • Acne Studios Slim Fit ChinosAcne Studios Slim Fit Chinos
  • Brunello Cucinelli Aged Gabardine ChinosBrunello Cucinelli Aged Gabardine Chinos
  • Reiss Tullum Heavyweight Twill ChinosReiss Tullum Heavyweight Twill Chinos
  • Reiss Bandon Slim-fit ChinosReiss Bandon Slim-fit Chinos
  • Dolce & Gabbana Slim-fit Cropped Cotton ChinosDolce & Gabbana Slim-fit Cropped Cotton Chinos
How To Wear Them

The best thing about chinos is their versatility; rivalled only perhaps by denim jeans in their ease of wear, they lend themselves to virtually all types of scenario.

For a casual look with a leaning towards a more rugged and outdoorsy style, classic khaki chinos in a slightly more relaxed fit team really well with hiking boots, a chambray shirt and quilted gilet.

For a dressier casual style, a slim-fitting pair in a pastel shade works nicely with a simple T-shirt or polo and fine-gauge cardigan, and is a particularly easy look to pull off through the summer, finished with espadrilles, sandals or even trainers.

“I like styling them down by pairing with a terry-backed cotton mélange sweater and luxe sneaker,” says Ali. Throw over a cotton-linen blend blazer or similarly lightweight unstructured sports coat and you immediately dress the look up into something markedly smarter. “Alternatively, style them up properly with the perfect jacket in matching fabric as a casual ‘chino suit’ with sockless double-monks,” adds Ali.

For occasions with a smart-casual bent, opt for rich navy chinos turned up with tan loafers (and matching tan belt) and team with a crisp white shirt and blazer of a lighter blue hue. Throw a pocket square into the mix or drape a contrasting silk scarf beneath the lapels of your blazer and you have a consummately slick look for the warmer months.

Lookbook Inspiration: Casual

Men's Casual Chinos Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

Avva SS15Banana Republic Pre-AW14Next SS15Mango Man SS15Tommy Hilfiger SS15Mango Man SS15Zara SS15Windsor SS15Jigsaw SS15Banana Republic Pre-AW14J.Crew August 2014Reserved SS15
Lookbook Inspiration: Smart-Casual

Men's Smart-Casual Chinos Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

Mango Man SS14H&M Modern Essentials 2015Banana Republic Pre-AW14Corneliani SS15Windsor SS15Mango Man AW13Gant Rugger SS15Suitsupply SS15Massimo Dutti SS15Sarar SS14Aquascutum SS15J.Crew February 2015
Final Word

Chinos are far more than just an alternative to denim. In fact, we would go so far as to say that they are considerably more versatile than their indigo-dyed cousins and enable you to mix and match with a wide range of pieces you already have in your wardrobe.

Whether you go bold with rich colours or play it comparatively safe with neutral blues, black and grey, chinos inject a sense of formality that is associated with traditional tailoring but without any of the fustiness.

So, what colours will you be rocking this summer? And how do you like to style yours through the warmer months?

Let us know in the comments section.