Khaki Cornerstones: The Chino Brands That Deserve A Place In Your Wardrobe

It’s a common misconception that a pair of jeans is the most versatile garment in a man’s legwear arsenal. In actual fact, that title belongs to chinos.

They can go from battlefield to first date, from night out to family meal and from weekend to work. Name another pair of trousers that can be adapted to all of these occasions without raising eyebrows. It simply can’t be done.

With their roots in the military, chinos have come a long way from their mid-19th-century beginnings. What was once uniform for British and French armies is today an integral part of the modern man’s wardrobe. Something no style-conscious gent should be without.

Here we take a look at the best brands to shop for this smart casual staple. From the luxurious, upscale styling of Slowear’s Incotex to the workwear-infused wares of Dickies and Carhartt WiP.

L’Estrange London

L’Estrange is on a mission to simplify how modern men dress. The London-based brand only produce what they deem essentials – the pieces that should form the foundation of any stylish wardrobe – and nothing else, with chinos a core part of its legwear offering.

True to its ethos, L’Estrange produce a solitary chino style, named ‘The 24-Hour Trouser’. Designed to effortlessly transition from day to night, it features a stretch waistband with hidden cord fastening and is crafted from organic Italian stretch cotton for all-day comfort. Available in six versatile colourways to suit every occasion.

Buy now at L’Estrange London

A.P.C.

A.P.C. stands for “Atelier de Production et de Creation”. Yet it might as well be an acronym for “Accessible Parisian Cool” given that’s what the brand does best.

The revered French label is known for doing simple things well. It’s a champion of that effortless, stripped-back, Parisian aesthetic and its garments are exceptionally well made without breaking the bank. In terms of its chino offering, expect straight cuts, slim to relaxed fits and classic minimal styling across the board.

Buy now at SSENSE

Norse Projects

Exporting Copenhagen cool to a global audience, Norse Projects is famed for its masterful mix of workwear, streetwear and Scandinavian minimalism.

The brand has a few signature pieces that crop up in all of its seasonal collections and one of them is thick, cotton twill chinos. Rugged yet refined, Norse’s multipurpose legwear is available in either a classic straight fit or a more form-fitting slim. Both cuts are finished with a subtle branded patch to the back.

Buy now at Norse Projects

J.Crew

Chinos are a cornerstone of preppy style – and preppy just happens to be something American retailer J.Crew does better than almost anyone else.

When shopping for your khakis at J.Crew, you won’t find any fashion-forward styling, edgy details or quirky design motifs. What you will find are basic, well-executed garments that don’t need to scream and shout to be heard.

Buy now at J.Crew

Incotex

Those Italians certainly know their way around menswear. From fine handmade leather footwear to surgically tailored suiting – there’s nothing they don’t excel at. So it should come as no surprise that chinos are no exception.

One of the brands under the respected Slowear umbrella, Incotex makes arguably the best chinos in the world today. Think luxurious, premium fabrics, razor-sharp cuts and a fit that is second to none.

Buy now at FarFetch

Dickies

One of the quintessential workwear brands, Dickies has been kitting hard-working men out in hard-wearing gear for almost a century. These days, however, you’re more likely to see its chinos being worn by the urban style set than weather-beaten, Texan railroad labourers.

Thanks to the rise in popularity of looser cuts and wide legs, Dickies’ relaxed, utilitarian “work pants” have become the go-to legwear for the fashion savvy. They’re tough, nice to look at, highly versatile and outrageously good value for money.

Buy now at Dickies

Polo Ralph Lauren

New York City’s Ralph Lauren is the undisputed king of preppy, East Coast style. A go-to brand for Ivy League staples such as polo shirts, OCBDs, knitwear and sports jackets, Polo Ralph Lauren is also a dab hand at crafting some sophisticated chinos.

This is legwear you can purchase in full confidence. It’s going to look good, it’s going to be well made and it’s going to fit like a glove. With a label this reputable, you don’t even have to ask.

Buy now at MATCHESFASHION

Carhartt WiP

American workwear brand Carhartt’s heritage dates back well over 100 years. More recently, its streetwear-leaning line, Carhartt WiP, has taken the menswear world by storm, delivering that same trademark robust build quality but via contemporary silhouettes and casual staples.

Naturally, chinos are amongst the label’s output. Cuts range from wide-legged and baggy to slim and streamlined. The common theme being quality construction and subtle patch branding.

Buy now at SSENSE

AMI

Founded in 2011 by French designer Alexandre Mattiussi, AMI perfectly encapsulates that trademark Parisian aesthetic that is both effortless, nonchalant and finely polished all at once.

Known for its clean-cut basics and punchy yet tasteful branding, AMI is an excellent first port of call for a pair of mid- to upper-range chinos. Sleek, stylish and the perfect accompaniment to a pair of crisp white leather sneakers.

Buy now at FarFetch

Mr P.

If you’ve spent any amount of time browsing the selection over at Mr Porter, you can probably make a pretty reliable guess at what its in-house label might feel like.

Mr P. (featured image, top) consists of classic, understated wardrobe essentials. These are the sort of clothes that don’t need to rely on heavy prints or big logos – they’re simply well made, nicely fitting and designed with timelessness at the fore. For a pair of well-cut chinos that are built to stand the test of time, look no further.

Buy now at MR PORTER

Paddy Maddison

Paddy Maddison is Ape's Style Editor. His work has been published in Esquire, Men’s Health, ShortList, The Independent and more. An outerwear and sneaker fanatic, his finger is firmly on the pulse for the latest trends, while always maintaining an interest in classic style.