Chinos from tailors never feel like chinos. Why is this? 

I used to think I knew the answer: the fabrics they used were too fine – dress cottons, made with fine fibres, finished for a sleek look and good drape. 

Chinos, even luxury ones, are usually made from tougher fabrics. They’re coarser, denser, and more casual as a result. 

Of course, often chinos are garment washed too, making them feel softer and look worn in. 

But that wasn’t the central issue, because a lot of top-end chinos, often from Japanese makers, are not garment washed. They start raw, just like jeans, and the customer does the work through wash and wear. 

 

 

I’ve since learned that it’s a bit more complicated than just materials. 

And the result of getting to the bottom of it is an end product: real bespoke chinos, made by Whitcomb & Shaftesbury, shown above. 

I know most people will be happy with ready-made chinos. For others, having them made by a bespoke tailor will seem ridiculously extravagant. The chinos will also, like most bespoke, be too expensive for the vast majority. These ones cost £528 (inc. VAT). 

But I also know there are men that have trousers made bespoke already, and get frustrated at trying to find chinos. They may also only want one or two pairs ever, because it’s not what they normally wear. 

For those guys, this could be a good option. 

 

 

So, the first issue with bespoke chinos is that you can’t wash them. 

With the high-end Japanese chinos mentioned above, it’s always assumed that a lot of their character will come with washing and wearing over time. It’s certainly what has happened with my favourites, such as these Armoury ones

But bespoke clothes are not made to be washed in a washing machine. It’s normally an issue with inner materials rather than outer ones: canvas becomes distorted or bent out of place, and linings on the inside of the jacket or waistband don’t cope well either. 

These bespoke chinos had to be washable, therefore. Whitcomb had done this occasionally in the past, so it wasn’t that difficult.

They removed the canvas from the structure of the waistband, used a simple cotton one on the inside of it, and reduced the amount of handwork (so these would be less likely to come undone in a machine).

 

 

The second point was less obvious, but more important: cut the chinos like jeans, not trousers. 

Jeans and chinos have a very particular cut. Basically, the outside seam of the trouser is a straight line, and only the inside seam is shaped to the style and the wearer. 

This is why jeans can show selvedge down the outside: it’s a straight line, not a curve. 

The pattern for tailored trousers works from the middle of the trousers rather that the outer edge (the line of the crease). This is kept straight, with both the inside and the outside seams being shaped to the wearer. 

Another way to think about it is that jeans are cut as if the wearer is riding a horse, with their legs unnaturally far part. Trousers are cut as if the wearer is standing naturally, with feet closer to shoulder width. 

 

 

Tailors generally dislike the way jeans are cut because it creates a lot of fullness around the inside of the leg and the crotch. This can look baggy (although on a coarse material like denim you don’t really notice).

There is one advantage to this cut, though, which is that the material sits flush on the outside of the hips. If you put on a pair of jeans and a pair of tailored trousers and look in the mirror, it’s here that you’ll probably notice the difference. 

With Whitcomb, we actually used some scrap material to make up trousers in both cuts – one tailored, one jeans/chinos – and I saw the difference immediately. The ones cut like chinos immediately felt like chinos. 

(It’s annoyingly hard to get across in photos, unfortunately – we did try.)

 

 

So chinos cut like chinos, in a washable make so they would age/fade.

Next was sourcing some actual chino material – rather than what the normal mills offer, which is that fine/tailored/sleek/drape look. 

The material you can see here is cotton canvas from Mikutex in Japan, the same one used by Blackhorse Lane for their chinos. (Annoyingly, Mikutex have since discontinued this particular line, but Whitcomb are in the process of testing the replacement.)

The final element was design. I brought in a range of chinos to Whitcomb, including new and vintage ones, so we could decide on which elements to choose. Like the cut, these make a huge difference. 

The most important element was the double-stitched seams, which usually run down the inside or outside of the leg, or through the seat, on chinos. We went for the most common option, which was double stitching on the inside leg and seat. 

Next was the lack of waistband. Most original chinos don’t have one, with the material running straight from the legs to the top, and only being visually separated by a seam (see above). 

There’s also more visible stitching elsewhere, such as that attaching the turn-up inside, and on the outside of the pockets. Of course, these all become particularly prominent over time, as the chinos are washed and these points fade first (see below – these have had one wash). 

The only design element we missed, in retrospect, was the height of the hip pockets. For some reason on chinos these are about an inch higher than on tailored trousers. Perhaps because they used to all be high waisted. When Whitcomb makes these for customers in the future, those pockets will be higher too. 

 

 

The result is the best fitting and best made pair of chinos I have. 

I don’t care so much about the finer making points, like the fact the buttonholes on the waistband and fly are sewn by hand. 

More important is the fact the fit is as good as my bespoke trousers (the Blackhorse Lane MTM was great too, but it’s MTM rather than bespoke, and best thought of that way) and that I can now make chinos in any shape and design I want.

The only issues with getting all chinos made bespoke in the future will be cost (it is a lot for casual trousers, there’s no escaping that) and the available materials. 

It will be good to see the new Mikutex cottons made up before I use them. And even then, this material isn’t my absolute favourite among chinos – I marginally prefer the right-hand twill of my Armoury ones or Real McCoys ones, but I don’t have a source for that yet. 

Still, all of these materials are a world away from the cottons normally used by tailors. This is the only pair of trousers I’ve seen that deserves to be called bespoke chinos. 

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

 

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George

Amazing. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE post if you / W&S manage to find a right hand twill cloth that works – that is what would push me over the line and get a pair.

An interesting though – what has W&S learnt from you? You guys have done a lot of more experimental stuff together, they must have had their boundaries as a tailor really pushed and this relationship must be very mutually beneficial. Could be a really interesting post

Jeffrey Landis

Holland & Sherry have some fantastic 11 & 14 ounce cotton twills

Rafael

Very interesting commission Simon, I’ve been wanting to try something like this for some time. It will be very good to see how these chinos age and whether their longevity after several washes is comparable to that of RTW -my biggest fear with something as expensive as this, which you have already addressed-

Karl

Thank you for that. They do look nice.
On a slightly parallel topic, if you don’t mind me asking…
I understand you have young children and have, I think, a child under two? How does the chance of getting messy influence the way you dress around them?
I have a nice selection of clothes curated over the last five years that I tend to wear at work and on the rare occasion that I am socialising away from my toddler. I have a collection of fairly shoddy “high street” clothes that I wear when I’m playing with him, both in the house and out. I always regret looking scruffy when outside the house with him but just cannot take the risk of getting my higher end clothes mucky. Do you have a separate, lower quality wardrobe for wearing “with the kids” or do you take the view that “clothes are made to be worn” and just wear your high end stuff around them?

Zo

I find the tricky part is when you have to go to events with the family. Recently had to attend a wedding and I made a horrible decision of wearing a cream linen/cotton jacket…*face palm*

Ben

I guess I haven’t paid attention to how the outer side seam looks on my trousers, but theoretically you can have a nice, straight crease and a straight seam, no? It’s just easier to do one without having to achieve the other?

I see examples of trousers on older posts here that feature both attributes.

Ben

What about these, for example? Not perfectly straight but visually not too different from the chinos here. I guess perhaps pictures don’t quite capture it?
Still not quite clear about the “slight angle.” You mean the tailored trousers would be cut slimmer than the chinos?

Oggi

I may not purchase any more chinos because living outside London it is difficult to find ones that I like.I will probably just wear the ecru E5 model from BHL,nice fit and style.

Nick Hand

Hello Simon, I’ve been a PS reader since day one, and I think this is the most useful article (for me) in recent memory. Chinos off the rack just don’t work for me for one reason or another, and while I have many pairs of ‘casual’ trousers from my bespoke tailor, they all look – as you say – like tailored trousers! Though I love and wear them regularly (especially in the last 18 months), try as I might, I’ve just not been able to explain adequately to them what’s different about chinos, and how I’d like them made. You may have given me the blueprint to try again! A few questions though if I may; did you change any of the basic dimensions of your existing W&S pattern (i.e. hip, knee, and bottoms)? And do you know if the Mikutex cloth is available to purchase by the length? Lastly, did W&S make any allowances for laundry shrinkage? Would be good to have a follow-up article about performance after a few wears and washes.

RSH

Impressive Simon. Bravo. I do find chinos fascinating in their breadth and the canvas waist band is an easy to forget driver of both formality and versatility.

Have you considered a “sliding scale” of chinos from workwear to cotton twill trousers? It would be interesting to isolate the contribution of each critical variable (eg design, twill, wash, canvas waist band, colour??)

I have a few MTM chinos where I matched these variables poorly and the final product are stranded in no mans land. For example too smart a fabric but without a waistband or taper (washable stoffa in sand) and very casual twill but with a canvas waistband and very tapered (anglo-italian).

hans

In the PS shop 2022, cheers 🍻

Felix

Beautiful pants and an extremely strong outfit. Add a merino sweater for colder days and it perfectly covers 90% of days in non-suit offices.

For me these are too expensive, but then again luckily there are dozens of good RTW makers and with a decent alterations tailor I feel like I can get pretty close nonetheless. Who makes the belt? It’s very nice as well.

Peter Hall

They have the slight forward curve, and fullness, to the leg, that the original US military ‘pinks’ had.

It’s impossible to source this style of chino at retailers. It makes sense to end the frustration and go bespoke.

Michael

Have you tried Orslow chinos? Fairly accurate repro – might be just what you’re looking for.

Peter Hall

Thank you. I will look

Rupesh Bhindi

Hi Simon,
An intriguing idea for a casual pair of trousers and relevant for those who cannot find the perfect fit that they feel comfortable with (this includes myself). What colour would you describe your chinos, from the images it seems like a beautiful olive towards the darker side of the spectrum making them versatile.

Rupesh Bhindi

Did Blackhorse lane and W&S source the same fabric? Your chinos from Black horse lane and W&S are basically made from the same cloth?

Jim

Hi Simon, expensive chinos indeed although i see the benefits. I dont know that i have ever found the perfect RTW chinos although some are close there are always small points one would like to change.
With regards to cloth i would suggest that soucing your own to take to the tailors is not a bad option. There are some very good fabric suppliers in London especially who would sell a variety of suitable cotton. They may not be from the finest mills in the world but could certainly provide some good quality robust chino fabric.

Jim

Joel and Sons (Edgeware) Cloth House (soho) the Cloth shop (Portabello road)

Jim

To a certain degree, yes. Although i think one can make a judgement based on seeing the cloth first hand and as many hapy accidents could be expected as there would be failures. The cloth in these places is realtivly cheap and can be bought by the half meter so its easy enough to sample and wash at home. Perhaps thats more effort than sum would be interested in having to put in but these places do have fabric options that wouldnt be available through a tailor who only stocks bunches from the big luxury suppliers. Joel and sons stock cloth from more well known mills so they may be a better option.

Morgan

Hi Simon,
That fabric is perfect, such a shame it’s been discontinued 🙁
Forgive the homage but I’ve been a long time reader (over a decade) and this is my first comment. Your site is the best of it’s kind. Great menswear could not have a better ambassador – discerning, conscientious and most importantly stylish!
I have wanted to thank you for years; your writing has sustained and supplemented my life-long joy and curiosity in relation to clothes and I have learned so very much.
I considered emailing but I want people to see and know!
From deepest darkest Wales – Morgan

Chancellor

I love chinos as my go-to casual or weekend trousers. They feel much smarter than jeans, are far more comfortable, and one can be care-free and just throw them in the wash. I’ve alway struggled though to find ones that fit, and particularly be high rise (which I find much more comfortable).

It’s just too bad W&S doesn’t travel to Canada.

Phillip Wong

I’m sure there are a lot of excellent tailoring involved, but the cut seems very “American Department store”. It looks very loose and too straight on your legs and the waist dips down at the front. It made you look like you have a belly and the belly is pushing down the front of the trousers.

DB

I wonder if it’s just a function of how you’re standing (and perhaps the shadows) in the fourth photo, which seems to offer the best view of the leg line. The upper part of the leg does look a bit full in that photo — comparing to what we’ve seen from BLA, Real McCoy’s, Armoury, etc.

This really is a lovely fabric. Do you happen to know the weight?

Phillip Wong

Thanks Simon, that’s definitely not my taste, I appreciate this could be a cut which were used back in the day, but for me is very unflattering. It makes you look shorter and bigger on the waist than it should. I can appreciate if someone who has very big legs would have this cut as is very functional as I can imagine this cut was adopted more as a casual work wear allowing the wearer with more movement but it just looks unflattering on your body. I can imagine some purest out there would say this is “the cut”, but for me part of wearing nice clothes and bespoke tailoring is to hide some unflattering features of the wearer and accentuate the good parts to make the wearer “look good”. For me these trousers is the reverse for me.

brett zweiback

simon
not directly related to chino but very cool cuff bracelet (pic 1), mind I ask were you purchased?

Tom

Hi Simon. Very interesting article, as always. Would be interested in any thoughts you have on these vs the BHL made to measure, which are a comparible price. What might make one purchase one over the other?

Winot

This is interesting. A broader point is that ime any casual trouser made bespoke looks like a formal trouser made with a casual fabric. Do you think W&S could make trousers to this cut with any casual fabric e.g. corduroy?

The price is comparable to Andersen & Sheppard Haberdashery so I am thinking why not go bespoke.

Morten

Interesting project, Simon. Always great reading your articles. Out of curiosity: what are the measurements of these chinos? I’m especially interested in leg opening and thigh width for research into possible online purchases of rtw chinos. Being shorter I think I would ideally go for a slightly narrower leg opening in an everyday chino.

Justin

I often have issues finding chinos that fit, so much that I really don’t wear them much (mostly too low of a rise, the same issue I had with jeans prior to Levis Lot 1). These look great.
I’m also a W&S customer, though I live in Los Angeles. Do you know if W&S is planning to offer this as a regular service, taking advantage of the styling and technical details you worked out above? Thanks for doing the leg work for us, Simon!

Feurich

I love cotton trousers and have had many made by my tailor in ‘stylo jeans’ as they say in Naples. The problem, as you allude, is the sourcing of fabrics. The fine, color saturated cottons that I got from Zegna and Dugdale proved to be very prone to fading from the sun, mostly on the upper front leg. I tend to enjoy sitting in the sun. This meant that after one year the trousers had become almost only good for gardening. I then tried using blends, wool and cotton and wool and linen, but they did not have the same casual feel nor were they as comfortable in the summer as pure cotton. It would be great if more chino type fabrics, maybe even garment washed, could be offered to tailors. I think the fading from garment washing reduces somewhat the sun fading risk. I have also tried to buy off the rack cotton trousers and chinos, but nothing fits or is as comfortable as what a tailor, who knows yours fit, can produce.

Dan

I actually think bespoke (or even MTM) chino trousers are one of the best investments most guys can make to their wardrobe. Certainly as work is much more casual now in many industries, you’ll get the most wear from a pant like this, and I find shirts are easier to buy off the rack than pants. In addition, the look of a bespoke chino has a much more ‘put together’, tailored look, allowing the reader to indulge in tailored design but ‘fit in’ with the crowd in the office, so to say. I work in finance and see khakis all the time, but a tailored version quietly elevates the look in an easy way. I’d argue this is the wave of the future.

Tommy Mack

“Another way to think about it is that jeans are cut as if the wearer is riding a horse, with their legs unnaturally far part” – is that because jeans were originally worn by cowboys?

Lovely pair of chinos. I’ve generally been able to find RTW chinos that fit me but certainly something I’d consider in future. I’d (sadly) certainly get more use out of them than anything dressier.

You mention the Mikutex cotton canvas has been discontinued. Is there any stock remaining anywhere or are we going to have to wait for the replacement or find an alternative?

Georgios

I really like the idea of chinos but if i ever make a pair id make them like the cos chinos i wear now, like a little bit more on the trousers side but also roomier on the upper leg. But then they wouldnt look like bespoke ones.. Anyways really interesting post that ill surelly read after 2-3 weeks again like i did with the bag post. By the way, i am thinking that something i miss a lot is a really small “bag” that is capable of carrying my iphone, my card-wallet my car and home keys. I dont carry more things than that but i find it really annoying to overstuff all my pockets or to scratch my wallet or my handy. Id like something that looks manly, is small and classy and can possibly fit at winter in a coat pocket. Do you have any idea of anything ?

Marvin

The belt you wear in the pictures is from? I’m on the lookout for a suede number. Thanks

Joel

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

George

Will W&S be using this as an offering going forward?

Chris

Surely the menswear holy grail? Credit to W&S for finally working it out where everyone else failed! They look brilliant
Its funny, to me (and my income is lower than most here), the cost is ok. Tailored trousers that I’d wear far less often feel far more ‘expensive’ to me, than chinos which I’d wear maybe several times a week. A great fitting pair is well worth the investment in my opinion.
My only request here Simon is that there are multiple follow ups with how these age. That will be fascinating.

NVG

Simon

Have you looked at Hewitt Heritage Fabrics https://heritagefabrics.co.uk/product-range/?

NVG

Unfortunately I haven’t but like you I think they look promising. Looking at their chino twill it appears to run left to right. We all await your road testing and report.

I should say I have nothing to do with the company and do not know them at all I am just intrigued if Britain is producing a fabric to take on the best of Japanese high end denim and chino twill.

Further with the vast breadth of “chino” trousers would you categorise the more workwear style that you have created here as “khakis”?

Chancellor

Would W&S be able to do smart chinos akin to Rubato’s?

Zo

I have to agree with Phillip above. Not the most flattering IMO. I am all for looser cuts and straight legs, but personally I would have added an inch to the rise.

I am keen on understanding this jeans pattern vs tailored trouser pattern – the straight line vs curved line. Perhaps you can explain with the help of a diagram?

David

Out of curiosity, how high is the front rise on this pair?

Matt S

This is a fascinating article. I had no idea that chinos have a straight side seam, but that explains why they can’t be pressed effectively with a centre crease. Do pleated chinos also have the straight side seam? I think this article also has also convinced me that bespoke chinos aren’t worth it for me as long as I can find ready-to-wear chinos that fit me decently, but it has convinced me that dress cotton gabardine trousers are different enough from chinos that they are worth getting MTM.

Jason

Sorry to be the dissenting voice here but these aren’t chinos, they are well cut cotton trousers.
Isn’t the whole point with chinos that they look rugged and slightly louche to offer a real alternative to jeans ?
I’ve long been an advocate of Officine Generale Fisherman’s Chino.
The cut, quality and character are off the Richter scale and at €185 a pop, you can’t go wrong.

Kristian Georgiev

What are the best classic tan RTW chinos available to buy now? I keep waiting for a restock of The Armoury chinos in the classic tan color, but it seems to not be a priority for them. Thanks!

George J

What are the socks you are wearing under the chinos? I would find this colour very useful with several pairs of trousers.

Hannes

Thank you for the article.

Andrew

Hello Simon,

Thank you. Very informative.

As someone who is required by necessity to wear less formal and more hard wearing trousers daily, I, too, have tried chinos from the tailors with similar results to those you describe.

On the basis of your article on The Real McCoy’s chinos, I purchased a pair, and have just received a second, which is testament to both your article and the product. I am also enjoying the adaptive process of wearing them in and see a long future together.

I was wondering, therefore, if you had found significant differences between the two makes, other than, one would assume, a better fit and the availability of a greater range of colours?

Andrew Watt

Thank you Simon.

I would be keen to try.

Do you envisage a long wait before W & S source a suitable alternative material?

Anonymous

Simon do you feel with chinos – either flat fronted or pleated and indeed cotton trousers that it is generally best to avoid ironing/pressing a centre crease and simply iron them flat as you would jeans? Which option looks best/most elegant do you feel?

KT

Interesting article. Thank you. What are your thoughts on using one of the Ventile cloths for casual chinos like these (perhaps a lighter weight version than is used in coats)?

I’m thinking pitch-side Dad who wants to be able to deal with all (winter) weather (wind, rain, cold, snow) without cracking out the plastic trousers when it’s chucking it down or blowing a gale – a common occurrence in the micro-climates of the pitch-sides I frequent – but also wants to appear well put together without looking like he’s trying too hard and out of place.

I have a pair of Ventile trousers (from Klaetermusen) that work well for windy, damp and snowy days, but are far too outdoorsy in styling, so relegated to skiing and cycle touring. Just finding any RTW chino options in Ventile seems impossible, let alone one that fits well. So, bespoke seems like the only route – or is Ventile not suitable as a smart casual chino fabric? If not, what would fit the bill?

Anonymous

We’re these made in London or via WS offshore bespoke? Does WS offer both options for bespoke chinos, and if so what is the price difference?

John

Hi Simon, this is an interesting project and it’s quite remarkable that you achieved something that you are so happy with. The price is also very appealing for a bespoke pair, especially in comparison to the BHL MTM pair.

In that regards, how much of the excellent fit of this pair do you attribute to W&S already having a very accurate trouser pattern for you, as well as the extra attention you likely receive from them? I am considering whether to go with BHL or W&S, and my gut feeling is that it is less risky to go with BHL for a one-off pair as it is based on existing trousers you can try on.

Mirko Rongione

Thank you Simon, this is really interesting. So to cut a real chino you need more fabric then a normal pair of trousers in order to lay on the salvage both sides? Basically wasting half of the fabric. is that correct.

take care

mirko

Randall

You had me too until I saw the flap pocket… no thanks!