Menswear has moved on from the days when if you’re weren’t dressed in a suit, you weren’t dressed. Granted, choice may not be as wide as womenswear, but us menfolk gain more wiggle room with each season. Literally, judging by AW16’s step into wider legs.
Enter chinos, the epitome of flexibility. Somewhere between denim’s casualness and tailoring’s smarts (if only there were a word that described that dichotomy), chinos go up or down depending on what you pair them with. This versatility has been exploited by every generation of modern times – the US military, 1950s Hollywood, Ivy League preps and every dress down Friday since the 1990s.
That best-of-both-worlds styles comes from a best-of-both-worlds construction. Chinos are made from a twill cloth of the same name, which for trousers that were more hardwearing than wool, but without denim’s roughness. The best were originally made from 100% cotton, and still are. These days, cotton-synthetic blends are a cheaper option, but the quality is often reduced.
As with so much in your wardrobe, chinos have served their time in the ranks. When British generals eventually realised bright red uniforms didn’t exactly blend in, they sought something tough and neutral, to camouflage troops fighting in Afghanistan (it’s not just fashion that repeats). The US military followed suit, making them official uniform in 1902. As soldiers retired, they took their trousers to civvy street. What protected men on battlefields has since done for those everywhere from offices to skate parks.
“Chinos can cater to whatever look you want,” says Jenna Riddle, freelance stylist. “For a sharp but casual approach this autumn, wear with a layered top half – tees, shackets, overcoats. But if the occasion calls for smartness, opt for a slimmer fit with a tucked in tee and a structured blazer. Tonal points if the colour coordinates, but don’t be afraid to mix-and-match either.”
Especially since that keeps your style out of the golf club. “Chinos are older than your grandad and can easily fall into OAP territory. Avoid baggy fits up top and stick to casual pieces that flatter your form – no gilets, upturned collars or rugby shirts.”
The perfect pair also depends upon your build. Chino trousers should be breathable and flattering, but by no means skin tight. The originals were designed to be mobile and that spirit survives. Paired with a high cotton content and they’re guaranteed to survive a day at the office/halfpipe (delete as appropriate).
Harry Stedman Beige Japanese Twill Chinos
Sanforized cotton (fabric that has been repeatedly steamed to reduce future shrinkage) is worth its weight. As these neutral Harry Stedman slacks prove, high density cotton twill costs a few quid but will survive almost infinite wears and washes.
Available at Harry Stedman, priced £149.
Topman Stone Stretch Skinny Chinos
Beige chinos have been a staple since menswear began. And with good reason. The neutral colour complements any shade, but you can still steer your look statement if you mix them with coordinating pieces.
Available at Topman, priced £25.
Reiss Medway Twill Chinos
Lighter shades aren’t just for your two weeks in Capri. Thanks to Gieves & Hawkes and JW Anderson, neutral trousers are on-point for AW16.
Available at Reiss, priced £95.
Incotex Four Season Chinos
Nobody does chinos like Incotex. Literally – that’s all they make. So invest wisely. All black and a loose fit will ensure maximum wardrobe compatibility.
Available at Mr Porter, priced £200.
GANRYU Camel Buckle-Detail Cotton Trousers
Wardrobe staples are classic, but often dull. Unless, like Comme Des Garcons sub-brand Ganryu, you widen the leg and add a canvas buckle detail to the waistband.
Available at oki-ni, priced £250.
Levi’s 511 Slim Fit Chino
Levi’s didn’t just win the denim game – it invented it. Now you can wear those same, iconic fits in a boss-friendly fabric.
Available at Levi’s, priced £70.
The Idle Man Basic Chino Brown
Fancy a colour pop but not keen on vivid ‘rah’ red? Tobacco chinos from The Idle Man brighten the brown without going too left-field.
Available at The Idle Man, priced £20.
Religion Frequency Wide Leg Chino
Wide legs are coming, whether you like it or not. Double down on trends by tapping the military vibe, too, in one pair of Religion chinos.
Available at ASOS, priced £55.
Gap Shadow Chinos
Chinos come in every colour (as visit to Lords proves). But some shades are sharper than others. Stonemeal is often seen as preppy but all-black can be a little safe – two things that make grey a versatile in-between.
Available at Zalando, priced £41.99.
M&S Climate Control Chinos
Fancy Don Draper vibes without the three-piece (and heavy drink problem)? Channel the lothario’s favourite tone with a pair of classic brown slacks.
Available at M&S, priced £39.50.