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 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, aptly named ‘The 24-Hour Trouser’. Designed to effortlessly transition from day to night, it features a comfotable stretch waistband with hidden cord fastening and is crafted from organic stretch cotton in two weights: 6oz for year-round wear and a heavyweight 9oz version when you need a little extra ballast in winter.
Available in a classic and relaxed fit, plus six versatile colourways, there’s an option for every occasion.
Swedish basics label ASKET makes only the essentials and does so to as high a standard as it can while keeping production ethical and prices competitive.
We think its signature chino perfectly sums up what the brand is all about: cut from a high-quality Italian mid-weight cotton with just a hint of stretch, it features a slim, tailored fit that looks great whether you dress it up or down.
Available in five timeless colourways, any would make a versatile addition to a minimalist wardrobe.
Italian brand Luca Faloni works closely with its country’s finest mills and makers to offer high-quality menswear at competitive prices. There’s a particular focus on fine Italian fabrics like linen, cashmere and wool, yet the label’s cotton chinos offer the best value for money.
Available in medium-weight premium cotton twill and a lightweight whipcord cotton, each is handmade by skilled artisans in Bergamo, which cut them with a mid-rise and slightly tapered fit.
Smart and sophisticated, they will slot seamlessly into any smart-casual look. At £140 a pair, they’re the definition of affordable luxury.
Based in Portugal, ISTO is focused on producing high-quality, timeless staples – the type of garments that never go out of style. There are no trend pieces or seasonal collections here. It’s the type of brand you could easily build an capsule wardrobe with, and feel good doing so: the independent label only uses sustainable materials and works with factories that adhere to strict social responsibility and work standards.
Of course, chinos slot right into this remit. To make things easy, the label only offer a single design: a tapered fit pair cut from a weighty 320gsm 100% organic cotton.
Available in six easy-to-wear colourways.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.