how to wear chinos


It often seems odd quite how many men wear jeans outside the office, and no other trousers. I was sitting in a taxi with three friends a while ago, all facing each other as you are in a black cab, and it struck me that we were all wearing mid-blue jeans, in a vaguely straight cut, without any distressing or rips. They were pretty much interchangeable.

And then you go into the pub, and look around, and realise that all the other men are wearing the same thing as well. It’s a little spooky when you start noticing it.

Everyone knows why jeans are popular. They’re comfortable, hard-wearing and universally accepted. But as important, I think, is that they are a great backdrop to other colours, clothes and textures. The material and colour of blue jeans means they go with black and white, bright colours and muted colours, shirt and t-shirt.

They go with everything. And they effectively separate socks/shoes from shirt/jacket as well, so you don’t have to worry about harmonising these other items.

I find this with the unusual items I buy – the bright green jacket or spectator shoes, for example, that have featured in previous posts. When I’m considering buying an unusual item, my first thought is “it’s alright, I’ll wear it with jeans.” And they do both look great with jeans; it is that bit harder to combine them well with suits or flannels. My problem is I end up with too many unusual items and wearing nothing but jeans!

Those in the US have it slightly easier. For them chinos are almost as ubiquitous as jeans, and while the former is not quite as adaptable, it does mean the Americans are trained to matching a different material with the other items in their wardrobe. Not just jeans.

This also leads me onto my suggested solution for British men. Stay with your favoured material, cotton, but experiment with different permutations. Try cords, chinos, gabardine. Try different weights and weaves in each of those – within what you might think of as chinos, for example, is a world of materials from the very rough to the very smart, the heavy to the lightweight.

Don’t wear suit trousers, please. In London you often see men wearing worsted wool (suit) trousers with trainers and t-shirts and, while it can occasionally look funky, you never think to yourself – ‘oh yeah, that really works.’ It is unusual and that’s all.

Finally, experimenting with different cottons will help men survive the summer. As the temperature increases, you see men gradually shedding layers and shoes, until they are in thin t-shirts, flip-flops and jeans. They never lose the jeans. No matter how heavy they are, they never lose them until (deep breath) it just gets too sweaty and they plunge into shorts.

There are other options. Don’t be scared of real trousers.

Pictured: Mats Klingberg of Trunk, in Incotex chinos

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Laurence John

strange to think that when jeans first crossed over from purely workwear to everyday wear they were seen as the uniform of the rebel. now they stand for uniformity and lack of imagination.

denim lost its thrill for me long ago. the only denim item i own is a vintage work apron.

Meatbreak

I would say jeans are actually very very hard to wear correctly. I find it very difficult to find a pair that are suitably coloured with a style that fits my body shape, with a cut that sits flatteringly.

Bad jean wearing is indeed ubiquitous, but so is bad suit wearing. An estate agent wearing a cheap trouser/jacket combo just becasue they have to because it is ‘smart’ would look very untidy and poorly dressed compared to someone in a perfectly fitted pair of jeans.

The peopel who ‘don’t have to think’ when they put on a pair of jeans will be the people who look bad in them.

Jeans do not transcend style.

TY

I think a major reason that nobody’s touched on is FIT. Jeans come in great slim fits, whereas trousers (and especially more casual trousers) are very hard to find in slim fits with narrow ankles….. I’ve even had trousers made bespoke and they still look baggy compared to my jeans.

Sartorial Vancouver

A gem of a post, and all wonderful comments.

What breaks my heart is how jeans are dressed up, say with a coat in the evening, or dressed down with a t-shirt. In being used in every conceivable situation it speaks to the complacency and indifference of the wearer.

There is a place for jeans, and that would be in a wardrobe which includes all manner of men’s dress.

Horatio

In college, I got sick of the “uniform” of jeans, T-shirt, and tennis shoes, and decided to change how I dressed. It took me a few years, but I finally broke the jeans habit. I started by transitioning to colors other than indigo; black was all the rage at the time.

Once out of college, I still wore jeans occasionally, but less and less frequently. I now have none in my wardrobe, and have not had any for ages. I will buy Levi’s 501 when I decide I need them again (for camping, etc.); until then, I wear wool slacks with my sports coats & ties (when I don’t wear a suit), and cotton pants in various shades as casual wear.

I am an adult, and I like dressing like one–even if others who feel the same way are few and far between.

Mike

Simon,

Out of curiosity…which brand of trousers do you prefer? How about for dress slacks?

Designer Studio

Your blog is like an encyclopedia for those who want to know more about this. Thanks for the interesting information.

Jonathan

Simon,

Do you know the maker of the overcoat shown in the picture with the caption “A sophistication of brown, green and blue”? It’s exactly what I need for the coming winter and I don’t seem to have a clue. Love the blog, by the way.

L.Whitfield

I’ve been wearing jeans for many years but I have never considered them suitable for dress wear.Trousers are so much smarter,cavalry twill or grey flannel go with almost any jacket one cares to put on.Also after years struggling into narrow trousers I’m enjoying the comfort of having a wider legged trouser 19 ins at the ankle is now my choice although they a incredibly hard to find.

Christopher

Hi Simon,

What material and pattern is the grey jacket in the photo? I seems to have just the right shade of grey and surface texture.

Thanks,
Chris

NS

Hi Simon,

By chance do you know the brand of shoe shown at left in the above photo?

Many thanks
Ns

Anonymous

Hi Simon

Any chance you could recommend a tailor that does bespoke trousers at a reasonable price? I had considered Graham Browne. However, there appears to be quite a few disgruntled customers on the forums. Certainly, some of the customer pictures do not instill a lot of confidence. Price wise, I’d be looking at around the £300 mark for the makeup (I have my own material).

Thanks in advance.

Fingle

Simon, your website is a treasure trove of useful information for those aiming to inject some style into their lives. To that end, I recently visited Trunk, a store of which I know you are fond. A nice eclectic selection of quality goods. Chiltern Street seems to have a few such stores and I came across one called Grey Flannel. Are you familiar with it? They offered quite a selection of good quality rtw menswear including, obviously, grey flannels. Given that the latter are hard to come by in decent quality rtw I would be interested to hear of your, or anyone else’s experience of Grey Flannel, the shop.
Thanks.

Fingle

That sounds like the sort of answer my wife might give! Does the brevity of the answer omit some other, darker side to your experience? Or am I reading too much into too little?

Chancellor

Hi Simon,

Can you recommend what types of cloth to consider for durable trousers that aren’t denim? I find that my chinos wear through fairly quickly.

Would cavalry twill be the most durable? Or perhaps covert?

Thank you in advance for your advice.

Kushal

It seems Simon, that you are not a great fan of chinos and therefore i want to know what would be your preferred trouser in ‘ summer ‘?
I really love linen trousers and have a cream colour with me which i wear a lot in summer. I wanted to get a dark coloured linen trouser which i could just wear with a shirt sans jacket but because i cannot wear green as it is forbidden in our religion to wear anything of that colour and with dark brown trousers the main problem is that it is very difficult to match shoes with it, therefore i did not have it made. Would you suggest going with dark grey linen for my trousers which i could just wear with a casual cotton shirt and would it look better than my navy or any other colour chino?

Ayush

Hi Simon!
In pubs we can also see a lot of people wearing untucked shirts with jeans or chinos. I was having a discussion with a friend of mine who usually wear untucked shirts outside of office and he said that shirts tucked in when you are not wearing a jacket looks kind of stuffy and deliberate.
What is your opinion on his point of view and do you like the kind of shirts which have been made to remain untucked all day and would it be appropriate for such anenvironment?