Men's Chino & Khaki Pants - The Ultimate Guide
Chinos are an essential pair of pants that every man needs in his closet. However, make sure you nail the colors and the fit otherwise it can go off the rails quickly.
Are 'khakis' and 'chinos' the same thing?
In the most simple terms possible:
Khaki = a shade of light brown.
Chino = a type of pants (named after the fabric known as 'chino cloth').
Though the original khaki shade is the most popular option, chinos come in many different colors, so calling them 'khakis' is not actually correct. Also, some brands call their chino pants 'khakis', but this is just branding and not representative of reality.
Are chinos suitable for formal occasions or just casual wear?
Chinos may be versatile but they're not a formal item. They are business casual at their most dressy point and they should not be worn in place of dress pants or suit pants - ever.
Can you wear chinos all year round?
Though navy chinos can be a reliable substitute for dark-wash jeans, you should refrain from wearing them during the colder months or in cold climates.
Chino twill is a much lighter fabric and looks off when worn with heavier wool items. You're better off sticking with heavily weighted materials like denim and wool when the weather starts to cool down because they pair better with sweaters and heavier jackets.
What Are Chinos?
Chino pants are named after the cotton twill fabric they’re constructed from, often called 'chino cloth'.
The word “chino” means “toasted” and is derived from Latin American Spanish.
Another distinguishing feature of chino pants is their side-loading pockets. These are different to the traditional front or top-loading pockets traditionally found on jeans.
Chino Pants Mistakes Most Men Make
I see a boatload of guys making the following mistakes, so I want you to be aware of them:
Do not wear or own black chino pants.
You’ll look like a waiter or valet guy. Hey, take it up with the service industry, not me!
Chinos should be worn with a quarter or no break at the hem (bottom of the pant leg).
They can even be worn at ankle length in some cases, but never, ever longer than a quarter break.
Chino pants do not have extra pockets on the legs, hammer loops, stitching, etc.
Those aren’t chinos, no matter what their name says.
Don’t wear pleated chinos.
They may look okay on a model and in pictures but in person, they just don't look right.
Pressed creases on the legs are the devil’s work.
Don’t ever buy them like this or add them yourself.
The same goes for pre-cuffed hems.
Don’t wear them, please. You can roll the cuff later on but don’t buy the ones that come pre-cuffed.
Anatomy of Chinos
Here are some of the key things to look out for when shopping for your next pair of chinos:
For chinos, the waist will sit lower than suit pants but should hit exactly where the waist of your jeans should be – right in between the upper and the mid-hip-bone area.
Chino pants will also usually have side-loading pockets, which are different than the traditional front or top-loading pockets traditionally found on jeans.
The seat of your chinos should lightly hug your butt without being either too tight or too baggy.
If it feels like you’ll split your pants when you sit or bend down, the chinos are too tight. If it looks really saggy in the butt, you should probably try a different fit or brand. If that doesn’t work, you may also be able to go down a size and see if that fixes the issue. And, if that doesn’t work, you can get need get the upper thighs taken in by a tailor to compensate for the extra room in the seat.
Just like with all your pants, the thighs of your chinos shouldn’t fit too tight or too loose.
You should only be able to pinch 1-2 inches (2.5-5cm) on either side of your thigh. If you can pinch more than that, try a different style or brand or, if possible, go down a size. As a last resort, you can get a tailor to slim the legs to this size, but just like taking in the seat of your chinos, it’ll probably cost more than buying a whole new pair of pants.
You should only be able to pinch 1-2 inches (2.5-5cm) of fabric on either side of your calf and ankle.
The “break” of the pant is the fold or fabric crease that forms at the front of your pant leg while you're standing, (just above where the hem meets your shoe).
The image below shows the different types of pants breaks:
Your chinos should be hemmed to have a quarter or no break, and should not have much bunching (also called 'stacking') of fabric around the ankle. This will throw off the way your proportions look.
Want to see all the mistakes to avoid specifically for your age, height, body type, and skin tone? Check out our Essential Capsule Wardrobe App.
You should own at least one pair of chinos in the colors outlined below. These will pair easily with all the other items in your wardrobe.
I prefer this lighter brown/tan color to the darker, flatter khaki color.
Some brands will call sand-colored pants 'khaki', so just go for lighter brown colors regardless of what the brand calls them.
Navy is a super versatile chino color that can be easily swapped into your dark-wash jean outfits.
It works particularly well during the warmer months or in warmer climates.
Whatever you do, just don’t get such a dark navy that it looks black.
That’s a big no-no.
This color is great to have in your wardrobe for when you want something darker than sand, but not as dark as navy blue.
It looks particularly good during the fall months.
Traditionally, chinos are crafted from chino cloth (from which they get their name).
However, you can also find them made from more durable technical fabrics that allow for more stretch and greater protection from the elements.
Be careful, though, because tech fabrics can have a shine or sheen to them that doesn't look right in real life.
Skip the technical fabrics and go for regular chino cloth, maybe with some stretch in them unless you absolutely need the tech fabrics for a specific purpose.
Classic chinos have a more matte finish which always looks both timeless and stylish.
Want more information about what specific colors and fabrics work best for your specific age, body type, and skin tone? Check out my Essential Capsule Wardrobe App.
How Chino Pants Should Fit
They should fit your waist without the need for a belt. **
Slightly too tight on the waist is okay as they will stretch out slightly after a few hours.
The seat of your chinos should lightly hug your butt without being too tight or too baggy. **
Should only be able to pinch 1-1.5 inches (2.5-3.8cm) on either side of your thigh. *
Should only be able to pinch 1-2 inches (2.5-5cm) on either side of your calf AND ankle *
Slight or no break on the cuff. *
Chinos should not have much bunching of fabric around the ankle. It will throw off your proportions.
* Cheap & easy to tailor.
** Expensive & hard to tailor. Best to find a brand that fits better here off the rack.
Want to see how your chino pants should fit specifically for your age, height, body type, and skin tone?
When it comes to layering, the work shirt could be easily swapped out for a denim trucker or navy bomber jacket. Also, you could always go for a pair of boots or loafers if you wanted something dressier than the sneakers shown here.
Want to see more outfit ideas and find out how your clothes should fit specifically for your age, height, body type, and skin tone? Check out our Essential Capsule Wardrobe App.
Nothing elevates a casual outfit quite like a suede trucker jacket. This combo allows you to easily mix and match your choice of chinos and t-shirt and if you don't have a suede bomber, a blue denim version would also work really well here.
This outfit formula never fails to impress. If you get too hot, feel free to remove the blazer and if you want to dress it down, you could always swap out the dress shoes for a pair of shiny white low-top sneakers.