What are Chinos?

Written By Bakes

Avid writer on Men's Hair, Grooming, and Lifestyle!

For those of you posing the question, what are chinos? Simply put Chinos are lightweight trousers made from cotton that are tapered across the thigh width & inseam leg all the way towards the ending of the pants.

Chinos are a great alternative to jeans as they are more presentable for formal occasions while still maintaining a great casual element.  

With a rich military heritage which we will look at in detail below, the chinos were first Introduced in its signature colors (Shades of brown, sand & beige). Today the chinos come in many different variations and a variety of colors from light pink to navy blue.


History of the Chinos

chino worn during the war

The history of chinos dates back to the mid-19th Century as the pants were originally made for British and American military workers.

This particular cotton fabric used to create chinos was sourced from China and was then made uniform for US military workers during this period.

Before it was a favorite for the modern man it was used across sights in both world wars!



Chinos and khakis are often mistaken for being the same garment which is far from the truth. This misconception should now be clear in our Chinos vs Khakis write up.

Ultimately what separates Chinos from Khakis is the fit, construction and material used on each. Chinos have light cotton fabric, tapered legs and more formal. Khakis are more casual, have a wider leg opening & tends to have pleated fronts.


Different Types of Chinos

Now that we have answered your what are chinos question it’s time to examine the different type of chinos sold by retailers today. All the different variations of chinos below serve a different purpose thus giving you a different look.


Workwear Chinos

workwear chinos

The workwear chinos as the name suggests are chinos made for those who prefer to wear the trousers while involved in some form of manual working labor. For this reason, the chinos are made from thicker fabrics and a comparison could be made to denim jeans in terms of thickness.

While most chinos are tapered throughout the leg creating a slim fit look the workwear chinos are more relaxed in fit and have a rougher looking aesthetic to them.


Casual Chinos

casual chinos

The casual chinos are the most popular of the 3 as they are sold across multiple retailers on the Highstreet.

Cut in a neat, slim taper, the casual chinos are crafted from mid-weight cotton-blend twill and practical for formal or casual wear.

The fabric that tends to be used on the casual chinos is of a lower quality which is reflected in the price point. The lower pricing of these particular chinos means you will be able to hold onto the pair for a few months before noticeable wear and tear.


Smart Chinos

smart chinos

The smart chinos are the most formal from the list and have certain details which makes them cut above the rest. These chinos are created from high quality cotton and tend to feature hidden stitching for a more professional look. Often times the smart chinos are mistaken for trousers as they look very similar in style

Due to the high-quality fabrics being used to create smart chinos these are normally priced higher than casual and workwear chinos.




How to wear Workwear Chinos




As these chinos were designed for manual labor in mind they should not be paired with a button up shirt or blazer as the work-wear chinos have a rougher look and wider leg.

Pair your work-wear chinos with a pair of boots, plain t shirt or regular polo, bomber jacket and accessories of choice.

This will permit you to use the chinos for its intended use around the house doing DYI tasks or to quickly run to the supermarket. The idea is that the work-wear chinos should not be used for anything outside of its purpose, there are much more suitable options for social settings.

How to wear Casual Chinos



While blazers work great with casual chinos we are going to reserve this look for the smart chinos.

For casual chinos pair them with a plain t shirt, denim jacket and white plain sneakers for example Adidas Stan Smith or white converses. Most people associate chinos with smart casual outfits, however, casual chinos work great as a part of a casual outfit too.

For this look the option to cuff or roll your chinos is available, this will always compliment the sneaker and overall look. Remember no socks for this look works best.


How to wear Smart Chinos

smart chino

Lastly, the smart chinos as the name suggest should be paired with formal & smart attire.

Pair your smart chinos with a blazer, t shirt or shirt, boots or shoes and accessories to complete this look.

Remember, chinos come in many different variations so to ensure the chinos complements the smart casual look they should be tapered at the leg and have a high rise (meaning to be worn around the waist)


Shoes to wear with Chinos

Shoes to wear with Chinos will be dependent on the style of chino, however, here are our quick guidelines.

Smart Chinos – Boots and Smart shoes only

Workwear Chinos – Boots and Sneakers

Casual Chinos – Sneakers, shoes or boots.

For more information check our shoes to wear with chinos article.


Final Word

Chinos are a great investment as you will come across many occasions which are well suited for them. Formal enough to pair with your blazer and boots attire while casual enough to give you a relaxed look.

As most casual chinos are affordable your best bet will be to buy 3 or 4 pairs in different colors and rotate them. Our advice is to buy 2 dark chinos and 2 light chinos for example, Black, Navy, Light grey & light brown.

Now that we have covered what are chinos in detail feel free to share this with others to educate them on

  • The history of chinos
  • The difference between chinos and khakis
  • All variations of chinos
  • How to wear the different chinos

Esquire have curated a list of the 10 best chinos for men

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