Blackhorse Lane chinos: Review

Monday, July 19th 2021
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This review of Blackhorse Lane Ateliers (BLA) chinos might serve two purposes. 

First, it covers the London maker as part of our ongoing series on chinos - which you can see all chapters of here

And second, it reviews Blackhorse Lane's made-to-measure service, which they only properly introduced a couple of months ago. 

Because while I like the leg line and general style of the BLA chinos, the rise is too low for me and the seat a little too tight in relation to the waist. 

The RTW chino is made in what's called the W11 model whereas I prefer their NW1 style, which is much higher in the rise. (Front rise of 30cm rather than 24cm.)

Even then, when I've had NW1 jeans from BLA I've asked them to take the waist in a little. Although I guess for some people that's something they might just cinch with a belt. 

These chinos are made from a Japanese left-hand twill cotton. 

As discussed previously in our article reviewing The Real McCoys, the left-hand twill means they are more immediately soft than a right-hand twill, and more similar to most mainstream chinos in that regard. The downside is they don't hold as good a line. 

The cotton is heavy compared to anything mainstream though, even if not quite as much as the Real McCoys pair or similar repro brands. It's more on a par with Rubato (covered here) in that regard. 

Blackhorse Lane like to improve parts of the product where they can. It's their USP when it comes to jeans - as we've covered in detail here

In most areas I welcome this, but not all. For example I find their pocket bags rather heavy on the chinos and lighter weight denims. 

The material lasts longer that way, but it isn't as nice to use and sometimes feels quite bulky. Plus pocket bags are pretty easy to replace when they do wear through. 

That's something I requested to change on my MTM pair, and I know they're looking at it for future iterations of the chinos too. 

I also asked to swap the buttons on the chinos for rivets, which was a mistake. 

My beloved old Armoury chinos have a riveted fly, like jeans, so I thought I'd try that on this pair. It seemed sensible to do the same with buttons on the back pockets as well. 

I wish I hadn't, because the brass rivets don't go that well with the grey/green cotton - to my eye - and stand out too much. Even a silver metal would have been a mistake I think, and I noticed afterwards that my Armoury pair just had jetted pockets. 

Otherwise, though, the MTM changes I requested were perfect: the rise of the NW1, plus an inch taken out of the waist.

In terms of fit, these were a vindication of the Blackhorse MTM service

In terms of make, there are small points where you would say the finishing isn't as precise as Rubato or Real McCoy's. 

This isn't as important as with smart clothes, but it is noticeable here and there. 

I'm also not much of a fan of the diagonal buttonhole BLA uses at the top of the fly. It's meant to be easier to fasten, but I find it harder. That might be a little subjective though. 

I'd make one point on fit here, given a couple of readers were asking recently about the fit of RTW clothes. 

It's generally worth having the waistband of trousers as tight as is comfortable. The tighter they are, the less likely the trouser is to slip up or down, and the more likely a shirt is to stay in place. Both things are annoying and feel like poor fit, functionally. 

You can often have the waistband tighter than you realise. Try it with side adjustors on tailored trousers: cinch them in and see whether you stop noticing the tightness after a few minutes. 

I find men often have trousers too loose at the waist, and then complain about them slipping down or shirts coming untucked.

The exceptions are belts, which are harder and bulkier than trouser material and so more likely to become uncomfortable. And real high-rise trousers, which can be less comfortable when tight because they're gripping onto your stomach rather than your hips. 

The dark green colour of these chinos is unusual, but I've found it surprisingly versatile. 

Greys often look a little strange in casual materials like cotton (corduroy is an exception), yet we all know how useful the colour can be in trousers. 

This dark green almost works as well. It's good with white or blue shirts, light grey knitwear or navy. And black, brown or white shoes. 

It fits very well into a cold-colour capsule too, and I find myself wearing it often with black knitwear, as shown above. 

Overall, the BLA chinos are a great, solid option, and have the advantage of an effective MTM route.  

They're not cheap, at £280 for ready-made and £450 for the MTM. But they are made in London, if that's something you like to support. 

I don't tend to iron my chinos, by the way, except after washing, but if you prefer a cleaner look than that shown here, you can do so every few wears. 

That will also lead to more fading around the edges and seams, which you may or may not like. If you want to minimise fading on cotton, you can always dry clean instead. 

I would also never iron a crease into chinos like this, because they're not intended to be that smart.

The only style I would do that with would be smarter chinos like those from Rubato. But even there I tend not to. The look veers between old man and hipster, for me, and I usually prefer to be someone more average. 

You can see the rest of the top half of this outfit in this article, covering the Begg & Co cardigan and RRL denim shirt. 

The desert boots from Anglo-Italian are covered here. The webbing belt is from Anderson & Sheppard. 

https://blackhorselane.com/collections/chinos-trousers

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

*Update: I've just been told that Blackhorse Lane are switching supplier for the cotton, as the Japanese mill has discontinued that line. All current chinos are still from that Japanese twill though, and any new material used in future batches will stay as close as possible to the current one* 

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George

Hi Simon,
The rear pocket looks rather low. Is this the case or is it just misrepresented in the picture? I also hope you don’t mind me saying that the photo of you indoors in an overcoat and hat looks rather odd. Were you not inclined to remove these once indoors?

Paul

Hi Simon,since you have tried a few high end chinos lately do you still like Incotex as a maker?

Ajbjasus

Rise aside, Incotex are very fabric dependent, ranging from bomb-proof to very flimsy. It’s very hard to tell unless you handle them in person before buying

Triskel

Hi Simon, I know there’s a lot of discussion about value, and that quite a lot is subjective. Nevertheless, I really do question whether something that is going to last 2 or 3 years in still- presentable condition (after all, they are worn in summer so will need a lot more washing or cleaning than something worn just in winter) is good value at, as RTW, 2 or 3 times the price of a comparable mainstream item.

JSB

A much appreciated review. Been looking at these chinos for a while now but BLA never seem to have my size so haven’t been able to pull the trigger.

On a side note, I notice that the images on the website can now be zoomed in to (not just clicked on and enlarged)…is that a relatively recent feature. Either way, it’s a nice touch on the website, allowing closer look at detail, like the button holes on the chino covered in this article.

JSB

Will do if I spot anything else worth mentioning. I personally think all those changes you’ve listed for the photos do help the website generally (well they do for me).

Charles

I’m completely sold when it comes to the “wow, that’s worth it” factor with your shoe reviews and suits, but I’m just not convinced any chino is worth north of £200. Mine get destroyed, often quicker than jeans, through a combination of wear at the knees, at the hem, and maybe a pen mark or two. I think this price point, along with the £100+ t-shirts you write about, are just a step too far. They are more of a disposable utilitarian purchase than a luxury one.

Come

Interesting that you had too many shoes back in 2012! How is the show count now? Have you managed a disciplined prune?

Aaron

Admittedly it’s partly because I’m in the process of losing weight, but I always seem to find with jeans and chinos I can buy them so I’m only *just* able to do them up but after a few wears they become too loose in the waist. Is there anything to be done about that bar washing frequently or wearing a belt/getting side adjustors?

It probably doesn’t help that my beer belly prevents me from wearing mid rise trousers properly also.

Jonathan

Hi Simon,
Thanks for the review. When it comes to suppliers of good ‘chino’ cottons like this Japanese one, I am pretty clueless, having bought mostly RTW trousers and been blissfully unaware about the origins of the cloth.
Which mills would you suggest, please? For casual trousers, I have come to prefer the meatier, matte stuff with some texture in the weave, trusting that it will age well. I am also reminded of (and completely agree with) your advice elsewhere about lighter cloths and the ‘old man’ issue.
Jonathan

Andras

Hello Simon, nice article, but in the end of the day what is your favourite chinos from what you tasted here? Thanks

Andras

Thanks Simon, good point

Adam

By coincidence I just bought my first pair of serious chinos this weekend, made with a fabric described as white selvedge (actually stone coloured) from the Kuroki mill. BLA uses the same mill for other products so quite possibly the same one here.

Stephen

Hi,
Whilst MTM is not a route I would go down for chinos which I see as a utilitarian type of clothing where imperfections add something to the overall effect – in my view.
On a non related point joined-up only by the western denim shirt. I was looking for something on ways to wear western denim shirts or straightforward denim shirts and if / how they can be worn with jeans without looking OTT. Can you please post any relevant links.
Once again thanks for the articles.

Mike

45rpm makes a pretty good chino. I bought a pair a few months ago. They have a pretty high rise and the construction and fabric is really good.

Mike

https://www.45r.uk/okome-chino-908-pants-0421.html
They seem to be out of most sizes though.

John

Hi Simon, thanks for this review. A couple of pieces of information that I learnt from BHL a few weeks ago:

1) khaki colored chinos will not be available for a few months, as they have changed the mill they get the fabric from.
2) they can finish them to a 34 inch inseam, but has to requested from them.

Can I ask what you think of these chino in their RTW form? In particular, are the front/rear rise well off the mark for you? Or rather, would you wear the RTW ones? Thanks

John

Thanks Simon.

I do agree that 450 GBP for this MTM is probably worth it, and I don’t understand some people’s concern with spending this on chinos, when many of us would happily spend 800 GBP for a pair of bespoke flannels from W&S (and call it good value). A solid pair of chinos like this is abundantly useful, especially when they fit well.

Just one additional question: were the chinos in good shape during the first fitting, and you just finalized the length? I will hopefully visit the UK next year and am trying to see how realistic it is to have an MTM pair made. Cheers.

Oggi

I suspect that I am a little like you Simon,in that I would’nt dream of buying a pair of RTW trousers or jacket/suit and yet I persist in this idea that I can purchase RTW chinos or corduroys.My chinos and corduroys have all been altered to fit my taste and sometimes I think sod it,I’m just going to go bespoke or MTM now for chinos , linen trousers or cords because I am tired of the vagaries of RTW.

Panagiotis Papakanellos

Another informative and comprehensive review Simon!! As regards this green, it is indeed versatile and nice. Shades of grey rarely work well on cotton, perhaps except for light and stone greys for summery chinos, don’t you think?

shem

Hi simon, I think it would help if you have more shots of the product you are reviewing. E.g. full body shots, side profile shots etc. which can help establish the silhouette of the trouser in addition to your close ups.

DB

Hi Simon — In the past, you’ve commented that made-to-measure chinos are difficult because you don’t get the garment-washing that one tends to associate with a ready-to-wear chino. Did that present an issue here? Or no, because this style is meant to be sold raw anyway?

Chris K

Great review Simon, was looking forward to this one.

I’ve purchased two pairs now of the rtw W11 pattern chinos (green and navy). The price is high, very high for me but the reason I felt justified is that this is the only chino purchase I’ll be making this decade, longer probably given how much wear they’ll get. Frankly, I just don’t wear chinos all that much, but I do like to have them as an alternative to the default: denim. I am tempted to go down the MTM route with BLA for denim next year with a few tweaks to their NW1, given it’s part of the default daily uniform, I can justify the price. Just about.

At first, I thought the rises were just shy of the mark, a little too low. But I’ve come to realise that perfection doesn’t really exist, and contrasted to most off the shelf chinos available these days, relatively speaking, I’d say these are bang on the mark of a mid rise. So I pulled the trigger – and I’m glad I did. All the positives and negatives you’ve pointed out.

You make a very important point regards waistbands Simon. Part of why the BLA rtw chinos work for me, I think, is that I don’t need to wear a belt. The waistband off the shelf is absolutely perfect, which is surprising because their denim isn’t, needs an inch out. With a belt, they felt a bit rough on the hips, because they do sit lower than I’m used to. without it, after a few wears, perfect. Stay in the same place.

Ck

Malcolm

“Needs an inch out”? Does that mean an inch more or an inch less?

Alexander

Dear Simon! Have you tried the RTW chinos from RRL? Thanks!

Preston Stickles

Hey Simon!

I had a question concerning the tightness of a trousers waistband. I typically enjoy my trousers’ waistband to be on the tighter side, but I find that usually it ends up affecting the fit of my shirt, making a shirt almost “poof” near the waistband. Have you had the same problem, or do you think this would be more of an issue with the fit of my shirts? I typically wear my shirts on the slimmer side.

Thanks as always,
Preston

Chris

Hey Simon,
Great to see this review as been seriously thinking about a pair of BHL chinos… for some reason i find there is no harder item to buy than good RTW chinos.
I had a fit question for you though – i find the fit you seem to go for to be straighter and less tapered in the leg than i choose myself. Its something i’ve noticed before in other articles – for example, you got on well with the BHL NW1 fit, but did not get on with the anglo italian jeans fit. This has been the exact opposite to my experiences on fit in these two models.
I am a bit shorter than you (5″9) and overall a bit squarer, with wider hips, but am i curious – do you think it is just taste that guides how differently we view the leg of a trouser, or is it our differing physiology?

CMW

Hi Simon. Hope all is well. Is the NW1 fit wide, but not too wide? I have a couple of jeans in the E5 style, which is a little more tapered. I am curious to try the NW1 as well. But from the description and pics on the website I thought maybe it might be too wide or baggy for me, with a large leg opening. But maybe I am wrong on that and it still fits in that description of moderation you mentioned above.

Ben

These still looks too tight. I’d be embarrassed to wear trousers with those deep creases in the middle of the seat. They make it look like you’re… clenching.

Joel

Hey Simon, what’s the leg opening on those?

Peter Hall

It’s always surprised me who difficult it is to buy the classic chino-high rise, heavy cotton canvas, loose fitting but slim at the ankle. My wife has several pairs, all recently purchased, which fit the above criteria . Most rtw manufacturers don’t seem to realise they are different to cotton trousers in a Jean cut.

Nico

Hi Simon, thank you for this article. Please, let me ask you a couple of questions.
I. Which are the main characteristics a chino should have to be considered as such? How to distinguish from cotton trousers in general?
II. Regarding ironing the crease, would you do it in a pair from Incotex (e.g.)? And in case you don’t iron the crease on pair of chinos, can yyou wear it with a jacket? (unstructured with less formal fabrics like tweed or linen).

Thank you and best regards,

Craig

Re: the color… I agree that grey, for some reason, often doesn’t look “right” in chinos. Maybe it’s the association with more formal clothing. Mixing another color in, as you do with green here, works well. I usually go for brown to get the same effect. A nice, dark, cold brown, with a touch of grey, is one of my favorite colors for trousers. Rota has a good example of it in their MTM fall/winter cotton fabrics.

James

Love the colour and fabric on these. If anyone knows where I can get something similar in North America (I’m in Canada) please do chime in. Looks like the rtw version won’t be a good fit for me, either

Matty

Good read – very much enjoying this series on chinos.

Simon, would you include army trousers/chinos such as the ones you bought at Le Vif in the same category as these and if not do you plan to extend the series to that type of trouser and also to some of the trousers by brands such as Pherrows, Jelado, Warehouse, Toys McCoy, to name a few?

Asking since chinos form a major part of my uniform/wardrobe and would be very interested to hear your thoughts on them.

Admittedly some of the styles such brands produce lean towards the combat/utility end of the scale with extra pockets here and there but a few I’ve seen lately here in Hong Kong have sat neatly between the two styles, that is to say, a wider leg and higher waist, heavier but without the thigh pockets.

Thanks,
Matty

Gohar Raja

Hello Simon

Have a look at Kiton and Loro Piana.
Both make very good chinos, although they are both expensive.
Then again as the old saying goes, “you pay for what you get.”
Regards
Gohar