Chinos. Hardly the life and soul of a man’s wardrobe, but integral nonetheless. But then, isn’t it precisely the former military staple’s inherent boringness that makes them so great anyway?
Sure, a pair of slashed-knee skinny jeans may give a little more edge to your image and let everyone know in no uncertain terms that you follow the trends, but they won’t be up to much languishing on your bedroom floor when you can’t find anything other than a band tee to pair them with.
Chinos, on the other hand, are the wardrobe’s reliable all-rounder. They are menswear’s multipurpose tool, the box-to-box midfielder of bottoms, the, well, you get the picture. Chinos are the one style of trouser that is as good a fit with a T-shirt and sneakers as a shirt, blazer and brogues. Which means, if you happen on the perfectly fitting pair, you should snap up several pairs in different colours.
Which colours, you ask? We consulted three menswear insiders to reveal which hues work best for chino trews, plus how to deploy them. Consider your colour confusion clarified.
The OG. Were it not for beige chinos, most of us would still be trying to pass off blue jeans as a match for structured blazers. Not only that, but we wouldn’t have half the frankly glorious pictures of Steve McQueen to show us how style’s done, either. Nor dad style (which, if you haven’t noticed, is trending almost as hard as your old man laughs at his own jokes.)
Mylene Genty, lead personal stylist at Frank + Oak
“Beige chinos are ideal for a casual setting – like a day in the park, happy hour drinks or a garden party. Pair yours with a shirt that’s navy blue, burgundy or dark grey; these dark hues will help harmonise the look.”
Tom Courcey, editor of The Idle Man
“For a modern preppy look, team beige chinos with an Oxford shirt and sweatshirt, and [finish with] a pair of casual trainers or boat shoes for a smart-casual outfit.”
Daniel Harris, UK menswear merchandising manager at Zalando
“Team your beige chinos with one of summer’s key pieces: the floral short-sleeved shirt.”
Not just for men with anchor tattoos, navy chinos can be worn in plenty more ways than paired with a Breton shirt, cap and a bottle of Captain Morgan. Indeed, a pair of chinos in this colour is one of the smartest additions you can make to your fleet of smart-casual pieces.
“Navy chinos are the epitome of ease-of-wear and versatility. Team them with a simple white T-shirt and white trainers for the perfect understated spring/summer look.”
“Keep it casual [by pairing your navy chinos] with a light blue Oxford shirt and some sneakers.”
“To dress navy chinos up, wear them with a white dress shirt and rich-hued brown belt. The latter will highlight your waistline, as well as the colour of what you’re wearing up top, and down below. Add in a pair of chic brown loafers, too.”
An army-inspired staple, olive green chinos lend any outfit an air of authority (even if the only conflict you’ll be engaging is over the office air con). They’re also one of the easiest routes into wearing more colour, without having to tread too far from your sartorial safe zone.
“A little more tricky to work with, but [particularly] stylish, olive green chinos work perfectly with white and shades of grey. Try wearing yours with a simple white or grey T-shirt and some neutral sneakers.”
“A smarter way to wear this season’s military trend, wear your olive green chinos with pieces in khaki and camel tones.”
“To upgrade your look, layer [a shirt or T-shirt] with a cardigan, blazer or sweater and team with olive green chinos and a pair of stylish dark boots.”
If olive green chinos are standard issue for the battlefield, grey chinos are the best bet for the boardroom. Suitable for every skin tone, this colour is – and we mean this in the best way possible – boring enough to be the perfect base on which to build your workweek looks, but also plays well with your off-duty wardrobe.
“Grey chinos can be worn with a plethora of colours and styles. Because of their neutral hue, you can pretty much pair them with anything. I’m into all-grey at the moment, maybe topped off with a pair of [statement] trainers for a truly standout look.”
“Dress yours up with a black shirt, or play it casual with a light blue Oxford button-down (or T-shirt, for that matter).”
“Add some denim to your pair, in the form of a stonewash jacket.”
Like grey chinos, black pairs provide the perfect blank canvas for building a variety of looks both smart and casual. Plus, they won’t show up stains as easily, which is handy if bathroom sink-splashback has crotch-soaked its way to becoming your sworn enemy.
“For work, a sharp shirt with a deconstructed blazer will make you stand out from the crowd, and if you’re going out, put on your favourite T-shirt and denim jacket and you’re good to go.”
“Build your night-out outfit around a pair of black chinos, [combining them] with Chelsea boots and a simple grandad collar shirt.”
“The classic black and white colour combination is a foolproof way to create a sleek look by dialling up the contrast. It’s a style move that will look chic no matter what pieces it’s applied to, but opt for chinos cut as close to trousers as possible for maximum versatility.”
Pastel chinos are to a man’s legs what an affair is to his marriage: sure to liven things up, but not without its, admittedly, catastrophic consequences. The main thing with these summer staples isn’t so much to worry about the exact shade as to keep everything else you’re wearing it with as pared-back as possible.
“Try a simple white T-shirt or shirt and trainers for a smart-casual look that’s great for the office or dinner out.”
“Keep it simple with a plain tee and some sandals.”
“You’ll want to avoid light colours [up top]. The colour of your top should complement the bottom, without being too matchy. Avoid using the same shade twice, and for your shoes, a pair of simple and casual sneakers will do the trick.”