THE ESSENTIALS is an ongoing series where I show you pieces that belong in every guy’s closet. By building a closet with these core essentials, you make it nearly impossible to ever put together a bad outfit.
The last 20 years has solidified the chino firmly as the pant of choice for the working man. For good reason. First, they’re comfortable, always important when it comes to clothing. They’re also extremely versatile, particularly for the man who rarely finds himself in a suit.
The chino gets it’s name from the cloth it’s made of – a lightweight cotton twill fabric, originally designed for British and French military uniforms. It made its way into the wardrobes of the working civilian at the turn of the 20th Century, becoming a favorite with male style icons, like Steve McQueen
For a piece of clothing to make The Essentials list is quite a big deal, but the chino has earned its place. I would be so bold to say that if you want a truly versatile wardrobe and could only pick one type of pant, the chino would be it.
WHY THE CHINO IS THE MOST VERSATILE PANT IN THE WORLD
On the scale of casual and formal, the chino hits that sweet spot right in the middle.
Being one notch removed from casual and formal makes it easy to dress up and down, depending on the situation you find yourself in. One can easily make it casual with a pair of sneakers, t-shirt, and a leather jacket. Or dress it up with an unstructured sports coat, button-up and loafers, a favorite look of the Italians.
HOW TO WEAR THE CLASSIC KHAKI CHINO (AND BEYOND)
Chances are, you already have a pair of khaki colored chinos in your closet. But how do you go beyond that and incorporate navy, green or even grey into your look? I’ll show you some foolproof ways to think about colored chinos below. Before we get into that, let’s cover the original: the khaki chino.
THE CLASSIC COMBO:
THE KHAKI CHINO + WHITE
What is it about khaki and white? It’s a color combination that’s nearly impossible to mess up. Maybe it’s the callback to preppy Americana that makes it so timeless. While this look definitely signals a shift to warmer weather, it’s not impossible to wear in the colder seasons. In this case, I recommend a beautiful indigo blue jacket (another classic pairing with khaki.) No show socks can often come off as trying too hard, so let’s remedy this by adding some much needed pattern to this clean look.
THE MILITARY HERITAGE:
THE ARMY GREEN CHINO + BROWN
An army green chino begs to be paired with a beautiful brown boot. Sure, not every man is cut out for the military, but military looks work on almost any guy. Paying homage to the origins of the chino are a nice touch. While we’re at it, let’s throw in a vintage grey sweatshirt – like this model from Levis that’s actually an original design from the 1950s. A deep brown leather jacket would be an amazing addition to this look, but it’s hard to go wrong with a beat up denim jacket.
THE DENIM JEAN ALTERNATIVE:
THE GREY CHINO
Grey chinos will fool you. The twill weave, similar to denim, along that certain shade of grey gives off heavy denim vibes from afar. (As evident in the photo of Mr. Law above) The Monet effect is perfect when you’re looking for something a little more comfortable than that pair of raw denim. Wear it in any situation that might make you reach for your jeans. In this case, that means a black leather jacket, clean henley and a trusty pair of red Chucks.
THE OTHER DRESS PANT:
THE DARK NAVY CHINO
For those that find themselves in suits often (or just prefer it that way), the dark navy chino will be your best friend. Sure, you’ll often find men sporting the khaki chino and navy blazer combo come Spring. But if you want to give off a serious vibe over a relaxed one, flip it. This is a good opportunity to mix colors. If you’re going to pick a navy blazer, you might as well just wear a full navy suit. Considering the chino is a bit on the casual side, choosing a sports coat with patch pocket keeps with the theme. Double monks are, excuse my language, badass and a breathe of fresh air in comparison to classic oxfords everyone wears. A fine striped pale blue oxford shirt keeps it business appropriate. Whether you decide to wear a tie is up to you. Personally, I’d just go with an interesting pocket square and call it a day.