Buyers Guide to Men’s Chinos

Chinos are a versatile wardrobe staple, bridging the gap between casual chinos and dress pants with minimal effort. This preppy American favourite has evolved beyond its almond-coloured roots to bring colour and variety to everyday dressing and help men navigate the ever-confusing smart-casual dress code.

To help you make the most of these handy trousers, our buyers guide to chinos will take you through the ins and outs of purchasing, styling and caring for your chinos.

Where did chinos originate from?

This timeless trouser style was initially made in China and worn by the US Army during the Spanish-American War in the late 1890s.

The word ‘Chinos’ is Spanish for Chinese and is also the Spanish word for ‘toasted’ like the colour, either of which could have influenced the name.

As with other military uniform items, their comfort, practicality and smart, clean styling led them to be adopted by the masses. Chino’s reputation as an item synonymous with ‘preppy’ style developed in the 1950s and 1960s, and it stays with us today.

What makes chinos so popular for men to wear?

A well-cut pair of Chinos is a comfortable, stylish and versatile investment. Chinos go with practically anything from knitwear and Chelsea boots to a t-shirt, loafers, shirt, and oxfords.  Their easy-care nature and versatility make them the ideal holiday companion.

Their simple design is ageless, so they can be worn by men at any stage of life, and the range of colour options means there’s something to suit everyone’s tastes, from bright and youthful to conservative but classic neutrals.  

What should chinos look like?

Chinos are a trouser with a simple cut, slanted concealed pockets at the front and patch pockets or jetted pockets at the back, and a slightly tapered leg.

Like jeans, they have a flat front, a zip fly and button closure, and belt loops.

What are chinos made from?

Chinos are traditionally made from a 100% steep cotton twill – this makes them light, hard-wearing, and easy to clean.  They often have a soft sheen as the fabric has been mercerised.

You will find chinos made from cotton-synthetic blends to add stretch, but we suggest staying away from these as they won’t look good for long and can be uncomfortable in hot weather.

What cotton weights are used for chinos?

Their military origins mean that chinos are generally made of robust medium-weight cotton. These days you can find chinos in a variety of weights to suit warm and cool weather.

Our version is a sturdy 11oz for strength and longevity but is light and soft.

How should chinos fit?

Two words: Not tightly.

A pair of chinos should skim your figure. They shouldn’t be skin-tight, nor should you have excess fabric flapping around your shins or underneath your buttocks – neither is a good look on anyone. You should be able to sit comfortably without the fabric straining across your thighs or pulling too tightly across the front.

Chinos should taper from the knee to the hem and give you a slight or no break over your shoes, depending on your height. 

How to wear chinos for work or play

Chinos are popular because they can be worn for work, play, and everything in between.  We suggest owning several pairs in both neutrals (beige, navy, olive, grey) and bright colours (blue, red).

Chinos are ideal when you don’t fancy wearing jeans or want something easier to smarten up. Chinos won't feature in the smart dress section of your wardrobe, but when styled correctly, they're perfect for casual business environments.

Regardless of your outfit or occasion, keep in mind that the cut and quality of clothing is crucial to making any look a success.

Casual looks for chinos

For casual wear, choose chinos with patch pockets at the back, like jeans. For a more smart-casual look, opt for welted pockets at the back.

Chinos and a T-shirt

For a very casual look, they can be worn simply with a T-shirt. However, wear high quality, slim-fit t-shirts with a crew neck to give your look quality and shape.

If the weather is cool, layer a light bomber-style jacket or denim jacket over the top for a preppy college look.

Chinos and knitwear

This is an excellent option for those weeks between seasons. Pair your chinos with a knit (preferably merino) layered over a plain t-shirt as described above for an easy weekend look. To keep the outfit balanced, match the chinos' weight with the weight of your knit; for example, a heavier cotton chino needs a chunkier knit, while a lighter chino needs a fine knit. 

For winter, add an overcoat (Our bomber jackets are perfect) and Chelsea boots.

Smart-casual look for chinos

Shirt and tie

Add a bit of personality here; otherwise, it will look like you left your dress pants at the dry cleaner. A check shirt and plain tie work well for this look.

Shirt and sports jacket

Again, add some personality with a patterned shirt and throw on a neutral sports jacket and leather lace-up shoes.

Chambray or denim shirt

A classic date night outfit, pair your chinos (beige or coloured – be brave here) with a chambray or denim shirt and leather shoes or boots for a sexy date night.

The best shoes to wear with chinos

Firstly, to cuff or not to cuff?

Cuffing chinos will instantly make your look more casual and is best left for the more fashion-forward men among us. We suggest it should only be done if you plan on wearing loafers in summer.

Casual shoes to wear with chinos

  • Smart, clean trainers in white without logos or branding
  • Loafers in summer only

Smart shoes to wear with chinos

  • Chelsea boots
  • Suede oxford or derby for a smart-casual look
  • Leather oxford or derby for a polished look

What details should I look for on chinos? 

Waistband:

Some details not traditionally associated with chinos have crept into designs in recent years. These include using side tab adjusters, placing the button on a tab that extends past the zip fly, or using a drawstring.

We suggest sticking to a simple concealed zip fly with the button directly above it to keep things clean and uncluttered.

How should chinos be altered?

If chinos need to be shortened, be sure that your tailor can finish them with a matching thread – anything else will ruin them. Just as you would for a pair of jeans, simply state that you wish for them to be finished in the same way they are now.

About Alexandra Wood Chinos 

Our beautiful chinos are super lightweight, weighing in at 0.08lb. We use a super-soft 100% cotton fabric to keep you comfortable and are ideal for wearing in all seasons.

The cut of every pair of Alexandra Wood chinos is designed to flatter your shape. We keep details to a minimum to ensure your outfit is streamlined and give you room to create a unique outfit with shirts, t-shirts, knitwear, jackets and accessories that reflect your personality.

Our range changes seasonally, so keep your eye on our online store to see which colours we have available. We’re sure you’ll want to purchase a few pairs.

How to care for your Alexandra Wood chinos

Chinos are generally quite robust, and you'll often find care instructions that recommend machine washing. 

At Alexandra Wood, we’ll advise you to dry clean your chinos to keep the glossy nature of the luxurious fabric. This might seem like a lot of trouble for casual trousers, but it will ensure you have a great looking pair of chinos for a long time. If you can’t wait for the dry cleaners, you can put them on a cool wash and hang them to dry.

Always press your chinos flat (save the creases are for dress pants) and keep them hung up in your wardrobe unless you're travelling to avoid wrinkles.

Made to measure chinos vs ready to wear?

We offer some brilliant ready-to-wear options, but if you can’t find the colour you're looking for or you struggle to find off the rack options that flatter your shape, our made-to-measure service is the way to go. Moreover, while you’re at our shop, we can help you build an entire outfit around your chinos.

Curious about putting together great outfits? You might like to read our guide to smart-casual dressing.