Chinos have been around for over 170 years. That’s longer than blue jeans. Originally known as khakis, a Hindustani reference to the sandy-colored cotton twill fabric, chinos as a term began to take hold during the Spanish-American War in the late 1800s. It’s derived from the Spanish word for ‘Chinese’ and is a shortened version of chinos pantalones or ‘Chinese pants’.
They originally featured slanted or on-seam side pockets, belt loops and a wide fit, and were introduced to militaries around the world before making their way to civilian society. Today every brand has a version of its own, from the ubiquitous and affordable to the esoteric.
When we’re not wearing jeans, we’re wearing chinos. The understudy to the classic blue jean may get more shine than actual understudies and may even outdo the star on occasion. It’s about as versatile and certainly as classic, so here are our picks for the best chinos out there right now.
J.Crew 484 Slim-Fit Pant in Stretch Chino
Just Get This
The upgrade to the 484 from the Dickies 874 is more than just numbers. J.Crew’s popular Stretch Chino goes a few steps further in quality with a lined waistband and chambray binding at the seams. Also, they come in the full spectrum of colors.
Dickies 874 Work Pant
Admittedly built and marketed as a work pant, the Dickies 874 is the brand’s quintessential pant. But don’t let its rough-and-ready connotation limit you. It’s made of tough, wrinkle-resistant poly-cotton twill in a classic straight fit and comes with a flat front and creased leg for a dressy appearance. The 874 will stand up to skating, manual labor and whatever outfit you have in mind for the day.
Runabout Goods Trail Pant
The Step Up
Runabout Goods makes some of the best chinos around, regardless of price. Each detail is ruthlessly considered and there are a lot of them. The on-seam pockets are gently curved and bound for durability. The pocket bags are also self-bound, as is the fly, which uses melamine buttons. And as though the US-made nine ounce cotton twill fabric isn't tough enough already, the pants are reinforced with bartack stitching and double-needle construction. Even at the mid-hundred-dollar price point, it's a steal for an American-pant chino.
Uniqlo Vintage Regular-Fit Chino
If you're looking for something a bit less stiff but still within the realm of very affordable, Uniqlo's vintage-inspired chinos should be the pick. They're made with 100 percent cotton twill with finer weft yarns (in this case, those are the yarns that actually touch your legs) , so they're soft to the touch. With details like a lined waistband, natural nut button and a classic fit, combined with such an approachable price point, these are some of the best pound for pound.
Stan Ray Easy Chino
Stan Ray’s been making tough goods like chore coats and fatigue pants in the U.S. since the 1970s. Its version of the chino brings the same level of quality with all-cotton twill and a tapered fit.
Gramicci NN Trouser
Who says chinos couldn’t work for mountain climbing? Gramicci’s bouldering-friendly entry features strategically placed gussets, a flexible waist with an included nylon webbing belt and velcro rear pockets.
Alex Mill Rugged Cord Pleated Pant
Alex Mill makes a solid chino. While its year-round twill version is a staple, its the seasonal corduroy version we really like. The all-cotton corduroy is substantial, with a satisfyingly fat wale. It's buttery and comes in three never-fail colors. The chinos have a single pleat for extra maneuverability, a relaxed thigh and a tasteful taper and are outfitted with corozo nut buttons, a welted rear pockets and a flap coin pocket.
Todd Snyder Slim Fit 5-Pocket Chino
Okay, if you can't muster up the strength to peel your jeans off your body for more than a day, why not get a pair of chinos that have the details of the classic blue jean you've become emotionally dependent upon? Todd Snyder's chinos are just that. They come with riveted reinforcements, scooped hand pockets, rear patch pockets and the vestigial watch pocket, but are rendered in a garment-dyed stretch twill.
Save Khaki Twill Easy Chino
If the reason you're getting out of your jeans is to get into something more comfortable, try these. They look just like regular chinos if you're not tucking in your shirt, but are as comfortable as a pair of sweats, thanks to the elasticated drawstring waist. They're all cotton, totally relaxed and made right here in the States.
Bill’s Khakis M2P Classic Fit Pleated Vintage Twill
Bill’s Khakis makes some damn fine khakis. It’s in the name after all. Designed with a double pleat for the brave/old school, 7.5-ounce cotton twill and Stateside production, Bill’s, unlike many chinos, are cut like dress trousers, meaning you can get them altered easily.
The Armoury Selvedge Twill Cotton Army Chinos
Or, you can really try and wear them in your damn self. From premier tailoring retailer, The Armoury, its in-house trousers are made in the same US factory that still produces chinos for the military. Paired with Japanese selvedge twill fabric that’s sturdy and primed for patina, bound seams, a button fly, a garment wash for the slightest head start on break-in, you’ll want to enlist these into your rotation.
Lemaire 4 Pleats Trouser
Impeccable tailoring and lowkey details make these designer chinos truly drool worthy. They're designed with four (four!!) reverse pleats, a self-fabric belt, gusseted inseams and partially lined legs for a chino that strikes the sweet spot between fashion-forward and classic.