The term “essential” gets tossed around rather liberally in the menswear industry. If the high-fashion magazines’ words were to be taken at face value, everything from leather trousers to chest bags would be deserving of a place in your capsule wardrobe.

Luckily, where classic, timeless style is concerned, there’s a much more clearly defined checklist of garments: a few high-quality, plain T-shirts; a pair of slim-fit, selvedge jeans; some premium, minimal leather sneakers; a sturdy set of Goodyear-welted boots; a selection of well-made outerwear to cover every season. And, of course, some well-fitting chinos, in a number of versatile shades.

Chinos really are deserving of their status as a wardrobe staple. They’re comfortable, they look great and they can be easily dressed up or down, depending on the occasion. The key to getting them right is to know what colours to buy and how to wear them. Here’s a handy checklist for you to tick off.

Beige

Why We Like It

Beige gets a bad wrap. It’s often made out to be inherently uncool – a colour reserved for the elderly and the terminally boring. However, it’s essentially the default colour where chinos are concerned. And, as with most things in menswear, it’s how you wear it that counts.

This light, casual shade works across the whole spectrum of skin tones, making it a must-have in any style-savvy gent’s wardrobe. It’s also got versatility on its side; there are very few colours it doesn’t go with.

What To Wear With Beige Chinos

Casual

For a simple, go-to, weekend outfit, team a pair of beige chinos with an Oxford button-down, a crew-neck sweater and a pair of premium leather sneakers from the likes of Common Projects or Grenson. Stick to grey, white and navy for best results and layer with a wool coat or parka, should the weather turn.

Smart

Beige chinos worn with a navy blazer and loafers has long been one of the hallmark outfits of preppy East Coast cool. Layering the jacket over a knitted polo or a roll neck in place of a dress shirt is a great way to give the look a contemporary edge while keeping things classic and sophisticated overall.

Olive Green

Why We Like It

Nobody likes war. But it would be a lie to say that men’s fashion hasn’t benefited significantly from the influence of the military. Adding a dash of olive into an outfit is a reliable way to inject a dose of army cool without completely going commando, so to speak. And your legwear is the perfect place for it.

This is a great, earthy colour that offsets white nicely, but can be effectively paired with darker shades, too.

What To Wear With Olive Green Chinos

Casual

For warm weekends, pinroll your olive chinos to expose a bit of ankle – this colour is great for complementing a tan. Up top, wear a crisp, white T-shirt or polo and use a pair of clean, white leather sneakers to tie the whole thing together. Accessories-wise, simply throw on your favourite sunglasses and perhaps finish with a military timepiece, to subtly nod to the underlying inspiration.

Smart

On your upper half, start with a white Oxford button-down. It should be slim fitting with enough room in the collar to get the top button fastened comfortably. Next, throw on an unstructured grey blazer. You could also layer a tonal, knitted crew neck underneath if the weather isn’t on your side. For the footwear, a pair of black leather Derby boots is the way to go. Just make sure to keep them polished and conditioned to military standards.

Navy

Why We Like It

Without a shadow of a doubt, navy is one of the most important colours in menswear. It’s endlessly versatile, it’s flattering and it’s exceptionally easy to get right. Dress it up, dress it down, or even build an entire outfit from it. As far a chino colours go, this one is a veritable Swiss Army knife, and no stylish man should be without.

What To Wear With Navy Blue Chinos

Casual

For a foolproof, workwear-inspired winter look, combine navy chinos with a pair of sturdy boots in brown. A Chelsea style with a commando sole would work well. On top, opt for a heavy-gauge cable knit from a specialist brand like Inverallan and top it off with a thick, wool chore jacket. For a finishing touch, throw on a fisherman beanie to match the jacket.

Smart

To dress your navy chinos up, wear them with a pair of black Derby shoes, a fine-gauge black roll neck and a grey, double-breasted jacket. Go easy on the accessories, keeping things pared-back for best results.

White

Why We Like It

Obviously, wearing white trousers is a dangerous game. One wrong move while wielding a glass of pinot noir and it’s very much game over. However, as far as we’re concerned, the pros massively outweigh the cons and as long as you watch what you’re doing, there’s no reason you can’t be stylish and stain free.

Great news for the pale-skinned, too. White has a knack for making you look more tanned, meaning there’s no reason to fear getting those pasty ankles out when you’re wearing a pair of these.

What To Wear With White Chinos

Casual

When off duty, wear a pair of white chinos with a chambray shirt, sleeves rolled up slightly. On colder days, you can layer a shawl-collar cardigan, or a suede blouson, over the top. When it comes to footwear, try something in brown suede. A desert boot will work nicely, or even a luxe sneaker.

Smart

The whole “olive goes well with white” thing works the other way round, too. Layer a dark green jacket over a light-blue shirt. Throw your white chinos on and finish things off with a pair of dark-brown, double monk-strap shoes.

Black

Why We Like It

You’d be hard pushed to find a more versatile colour than black. That’s because there isn’t one. Black really does go with everything – even that old myth about not wearing navy with it is nonsense.

Plus, it’s famously slimming – so if you’re heavy set it can help you shed some visual pounds instantly.

What To Wear With Black Chinos

Casual

For a touch of effortless Parisian cool, cuff the legs of your black chinos and wear with a black canvas shoe – a pair of Converse Chuck Taylor 70s or Spring Courts would be a good option. On your upper half, try a classic Breton top and a statement overshirt in a vibrant block colour – red, blue or yellow would all work and reference the French/maritime heritage running throughout.

Smart

An all-black outfit will forever look sophisticated. Team your black chinos with black leather Chelsea boots, then add a black knit and blazer. If you feel it needs a pop of contrast, wear a white shirt underneath, with the top of the collar peeking out.