Style & Feature

Making life simple for the modern man.

Whether you wear yours at the weekend, or have the freedom to wear them at work, chinos are the staple of any good outfit. You may be the owner of a pair (or two…) but have you ever wondered what makes chinos… well, chinos? Discover the history of chinos and our guide on how to wear them in style…

What are chinos?

History of Chinos - Green Chinos

If you’re looking for a smart-casual trouser, chinos are it. Falling nicely between the ease of denim and formalness of suit trousers, a pair of chinos is a must for any man’s day-to-night wardrobe. With a military heritage, the chino trouser is iconic for its khaki colour and durable cotton twill fabric. However. nowadays chinos can also be found in all different types of styles, cuts and colours. From dark blue to light pink, discover chinos in every shade of the rainbow.

How should chinos fit?

Chinos have a flattering mid-rise waist, which is lower than formal trousers and more akin to a pair of jeans. Traditionally cut in a slim-fit shape, modern chinos can also be found in skinny, straight and even tapered fits as well. When it comes to the right length, it’s dependent on what you want to wear with them. Generally they fall at the ankles, you can however also roll up the bottoms to create a longer break between the trouser and shoe. This works particularly well when going sockless, or if you want to show off statement footwear like hi-top trainers.

When were chinos first worn?

Before chinos, there were khakis. In the 19th century, British Lieutenant Sir Harry Lumsden sought local dying methods to transform his troops’ garish bright white trousers into a duller yellowish-brown. Calling the colour “khaki”, it is reported that it took its name from the Hindi for ‘dust’, which was used to help dye the trousers. These ‘khakis’ were quick to be adopted across battle-lines, as armies realised the benefits of the practical camouflage appearance.

Why are chinos called chinos?

The khaki-coloured military trousers began to be referred to as ‘chinos’ during the Spanish American war of 1898. The actual word “chino” is derived from the Spanish name for China, as the cotton twill fabric used for the trousers was sourced from, you guessed it, China. It was officially picked up as part of the US Army uniform in the early 20th century and chino trousers became a familiar sight across both World Wars.

Who wore chinos?

History of Chinos - Blue Chinos

With long-lasting properties, it’s no surprise that soldiers would wear their chinos after WW2 when resuming jobs and studies. Known for their Ivy League association, the chino trouser became a symbol of the new-found ‘Preppy’ look adopted by American college students in the 1950s. Chinos at the time were commonly worn with a sports jacket, white shirt and boat shoes.

They were also worn religiously by Old Hollywood stars like rivals James Dean and Steve McQueen. Fast-forward to the present day and chinos are still present on the celebrity style circuit. Just look to the likes of the dapper Chris Hardy and Ibris Elba. Always on trend, these military trousers have certainly stood the test of time for men across the globe.

How to wear chinos for work?

If you’re lucky enough not to have a strict dress code, a pair of chinos should be on your workwear rotation. Whether you choose an Oxford shirt with your chinos, or can even get away with a t-shirt, a fitted jacket on top will seamlessly make it work-appropriate.

Shoes are also fundamental to keep your outfit professional. Forget about trainers (until the weekend at least), but accompany chinos instead with brogues or leather shoes. A darker palette is ideal for a more formal look – a pair of navy chino trousers will be your best bet during the 9-5.

How to wear chinos for smart casual?

History of Chinos - Green Chinos

Chinos are the ultimate definition of smart-casual. They offer up enough formality thanks to a tailored shape, but with the added comfort level of your favourite jeans. Suitable for dates, after-work dinners, birthday drinks, garden parties et al… The amount of occasions where you can wear chinos are endless.

A buttoned shirt and chino trousers is a tried-and-tested combination. Give it a modern spin with the relaxed look of a grandad collar or plain white t-shirt, then dress it up with formal footwear like loafers. Temperature dropping? No problem, as knitwear works wonderfully when styled with chinos. Throw on a merino jumper for an outfit that’s equal parts sharp and comfortable.

Unexpectedly heading out to a smarter affair? The quick addition of a tie will nicely emphasise the ‘smart’ over the ‘casual’.

How to wear chinos on the weekend?

History of Chinos - Neutral Chinos

It may often be dubbed as a smarter version of jeans, but a pair of chinos can still appear ever-so-casual. Make for a suitably relaxed appearance with your favourite bomber or lightweight technical jacket, alongside cotton canvas trainers.

And, don’t be afraid of throwing denim into the equation. Team your chino trousers with a denim jacket for an instant weekend-ready outfit. You could even style the jacket with matching blue chinos for a hint towards double denim. A tonal look (or top-to-toe colour) is effortless, after all.

How to wear chinos in the summer?

Want to look cool, but most importantly feel cool? Then, it’s time to ditch the jeans and bring out the chinos. During summer (aka the two weeks of British sunshine) jeans can be an impractical choice. It's now that chinos can swoop in and save you from those hot-weather wardrobe woes. Easier than you think to wear, get summer styling sorted with neutral chino trousers and a polo.

Crisp and clean, a pair of white chinos is also an obvious option for summer. A white trouser can often be tricky to pull off, but keep the look simple against a complementary blue linen shirt.

Feeling more adventurous? Well, summer is a great time to try out more colourful clothing. Opt for this season's must-have trend and introduce pink into your chino collection. Pink will add interest to any outfit and make it an easy way to update your SS18 wardrobe. Don’t feel afraid by the vibrant shade, as you can balance it out easily with quieter hues on top.

How to find your perfect pair of chinos?

Timeless. Flattering. Practical. With an interesting history to boot. It’s a fact, you can never have too many chinos. Need a little bit of help with choosing your next pair? You’re in luck. Take a look at our chino guide at Burton and discover an array of fashionable trouser styles. From neutral to blue and tapered to skinny, you'll find the perfect chinos with us...

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