Truthfully, most men could get by with three different pairs of pants: jeans, sweatpants and chinos. Chinos are just dressy enough to double as date attire, yet casual enough for weekend errands and days toiling away in the at-home office. They're versatile, perhaps even more so than denim.
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What Are Chinos?
Chinos have been around for nearly 200 years. That’s longer than commercial blue jeans, but not the blue cotton work pants that predate Levi's 501s, for example. Originally known as khakis, a Hindustani reference to the sand-colored cotton twill fabric, chinos as a term began to take hold during the Spanish-American War in the late 1800s. It derives 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 civilians. Today, every brand has a version of its own, from the ubiquitous and affordable to the esoteric.
When to Wear Chinos
Simply put, when we’re not wearing jeans, we’re probably wearing chinos. The understudy to the classic blue jean may even outdo the star on occasion. It’s about as versatile and certainly as classic. That means you can wear them with a broken-in chore coat or a crisp, new Oxford; a polished polo or a simple T-shirt. The options are endless.
Chinos vs. Jeans
These are probably the most popular trousers out. Ones casual, while the other is even more so. Which one is which? Well, that's up to you. While some folks love the comfort a faded pair of blue jeans offers, others prefer stiffer chinos that soften with time. Jeans are more casual, says Wooden Sleepers own Brian Davis, but chinos offer refinement. "They look great with boots," he says, or, if you're trying to remain casual, "canvas sneakers like a Sperry CVO, or loafers."
To read more about many's case for wearing chinos in place of jeans, read our dedicated breakdown of the debate.