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Why You Should Rethink Your Relationship with Chinos

Chinos have something of a bad rap—school uniform staple and dad pant; it’s hard to shake the notion that chinos are the nerdy counterpart to cool-guy jeans.

For those of you who wear jeans on the regular, it’s like, why would you mess with perfection? But hear us out, chinos are arguably more comfortable, more breathable, and more versatile than their weighty, denim counterparts.

Take a look at this guide to the humble chino, and you'll find these underrated pants are the wardrobe piece you can take almost anywhere.

What The Hell Are Chinos?

Chinos, like jeans, are made from cotton. The difference is, jeans are made from heavy-weight cotton twill (a real work-horse material), while chinos are a lighter-weight fabric, perfect for warmer days.

Chinos have a long history, dating back to the Spanish-American war of 1898 during US occupation of the Philippines. They’ve evolved since then, appearing in slim-cuts and traditional, with curved waistbands and straight ones. These days, the pants have come a long way from their drab origins, you can find them in all colors from bright reds and oranges to a full spectrum of blues and neutrals.

How Should They Fit?

Rugged, masculine, and preppy, chinos are colorful (if you want them to be) and easy going. So how should they fit? Most the time they should be a little shorter than their woolen-trouser counterpart. So, ideally, they would fall just below the ankle, exposing a little sock.

If you'd prefer to go sockless in warmer months, give your pants a little cuff and pair them with driving moccasins or loafers. If you like the "cuffed" look, keep in mind, that the cuff shouldn't show skin when paired with boots

Like t-shirts, work shirts, and suits, the fit of the pant can make or break an outfit, even if all the pieces are on point. Chinos should be slim-fitting, but not tight. Ideally, you should be able to pinch about a half-inch of fabric around the thighs, and the pants should gently hug your butt.

Chinos don't have as high a rise as jeans--instead, they should sit in the area between the hips and the stomach, below the belly button.

Formal v. Casual--What's the Deal Here?

Again, chinos fall in that sweet spot between the casual blue jean and the wool trouser. They’ll easily take you from day to night and work as well in the office, as they do running errands or catching a quick bite to eat.

Chinos reach a little further than your dark wash five-pockets. They’re this sort of spring-time answer to cords. And versatile as hell; pair with tees and sweaters, boots and loafers, polo shirts and crisp, white button-up.

Or, go more modern and try gray or navy chinos with sneakers or boots, and a denim jacket.

Our Brand Recs

Gap, $59.95: Gap has tons of chino options, without without something called “Gap Flex.” The brand has slipped in public perception over the past decade or so, but we’ve gotta say, they’re actually a really good resource for pants. Pants often go on sale (especially the crazier colors), and generally last for more than a year without blowing out in the crotch or falling victim to sagging knees.

Dockers, $58-80: Dockers are to chinos what Levis are to jeans, so naturally, we couldn’t leave this classic brand off the list. While you may think Dockers and imagine a pair of billowy khaki pants, they’ve got a nice selection (and we mean all the neutrals) of slim-cut pants that work for

Uniqlo, $39.90: We like the slim-fit best, but Uniqlo’s affordable offerings come in a range of versatile neutrals and three different fits. Made from a cotton-spandex blend, these are our favorite budget chinos—perfect for when you need a few pairs of pants in a pinch or something that falls outside your normal pants needs.

J. Crew, $68: The broken-in slim chinos are a good mid-range option. Made from washed cotton twill, J. Crew’s solution looks both vintage and modern.

Outlier, $267: The price point of Outlier’s 60/30 chinos is a bit of a jump from Uniqlo and Gap, but these pants come with a comfortable, durable blend of cotton, nylon, and elastane. They’re a technical pant built for movement and they claim to stay clean for “longer.” Sounds like a win.

Not convinced? It’s hard to break out of a jeans-only rut, we get it. But all jeans and no chinos—let’s just say it makes for a pretty dull wardrobe. Try some of the brands listed above—and see how it goes. If you’re not feeling the comfy, lightweight vibe, then return it.

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