This is the latest in a series of articles we are doing on well-made chinos. You can see the previous articles on a contents page here, and listed on the right of this article (on a desktop).
Rather than look at one pair that I own, today’s piece rounds up all several Japanese options in one shop.
This has the disadvantage that I can’t report on wearing and washing a pair myself. But it does mean I can cover a wider range, which might appeal to more readers. We can do the same with other shops in the future if it proves popular.
As I’ve talked about before, Clutch has a dizzying array of brands and models, and chinos are no exception. I counted nine brands, often with more than one model each. They vary from fairly slim, modern styles to very wide, high-waisted repros.
I’ll summarise all of them below, but focus on two in particular – from Soundman and Pherrows – because they fit my personal criteria for a good chino. This has also driven the other inclusions in this series.
Those criteria are:
- Mid-rise (not low on the hips, like most modern trousers; nor real high rise, on the natural waist)
- A moderate straight leg (not skinny, which is often why brands include elastane; nor super-wide, like those US Army reproductions)
The quality of Soundman is always very good, but the designs can be a little quirky. With these Clarke chinos, the quirks are kept to a minimum but the quality and fit remains very good.
The rise is fairly high on me – as the pictures illustrate – without going right above the hip bones onto my natural waist. (The kind of rise where, when you sit down, the waistband digs into your stomach – more on defining rises here.)
There’s also a gentle slope between back and front, which works particularly well on my body shape, and while the leg is fairly wide (all measurements on the Clutch site) it has a nice taper.
This last point is what saves them from becoming too vintage, too repro. Other brands at Clutch have lovely chinos in many ways – Cushman and Belafonte for example – but they are wide and straight. It’s much more of a look.
The only thing I dislike about the Soundman chinos is the double forward-facing pleats, though I know some readers will like those.
The waistband is a touch broader than normal, and has a wide hook fastening at the front. But I don’t mind either of these things, and the wider, bias-cut waistband aids with the great fit.
The material is a right-hand twill, which as we covered on the Real McCoy’s review, means the cotton is denser and wears better. It’s also more expensive, which is why you tend to find it on the more expensive lines at Clutch and elsewhere.
That extends to the design details as well, such as the lovely corozo buttons. Other quality things to watch out for are the precision of stitching on the buttonholes, which was something that was surprisingly lacking on a pair I recently tried from 3Sixteen for example.
Also available in navy, and there are various other styles such as gurkha-tops and shorts.
The Pherrow’s P41M chino is a good example of the lower end of this specialist Japanese market. Still high quality, but more affordable than the Soundman and most other brands.
It’s also a very accessible style. Flat front, slim leg (by Clutch standards), and quite straight. There are no extraneous design details, and it will both fit most guys and be firmly within their comfort zone.
For the rather lower price you sacrifice the right-hand twill, but it’s still a nice and hard-wearing cotton. You also lose the corozo buttons in favour of a button fly, and those buttons feel a tiny bit cheap to me.
But the finishing is still good, and aspects like strong pocket bags that high-street brands usually forego but quality makers have are all there.
It’s a good introductory chino, and the kind of thing I’d point readers towards if they’re trading up from Gap or something similar. They’re also available in navy and olive.
In fact, I should have mentioned at the start that with the chino selections in this series, I’m also interested in finding pale colours that are the most versatile and easy to wear. Not a strong khaki or a really yellow beige, but something pale and muted.
I’ve done quite a few consultation sessions with readers recently, and this comes up time and again – they want one pair of really easy, classic but high-quality chinos in this shade. More than navy, olive or anything else.
Jelado, Warehouse, Burgos, Cushman
Among the repro style of chinos (as in, more like a straight reproduction of US Army models), the Jelado ‘41 was probably my favourite. A true high rise and wide leg, but with lovely details and a great slubby cotton that’s intended to look like a vintage style.
The Warehouse 1216 chino is based off the same US Army officer model as the Jelado, but uses a more conventional cotton in a nice right-hand twill (often called a Westpoint cloth). Aside from the wide leg, the only downside to these is they shrink a lot (1.5 inches on the length) so are hard to fit.
The Burgus Plus 401Z-60 is nice but has a very slim leg. Too slim for me. Perhaps worth a look if you want quality like this but really have a fondness for a close leg line.
And finally Cushman – which along with Warehouse is another brand to look at for slightly more affordable Japanese makes – does a great ‘41 model, just with that traditional high waist and wide leg.
All these chinos could be good options for different readers, depending on what style they like, as well as their budget. But for those that have the same priorities as me, I’d recommend looking at Soundman and Pherrow’s first.
In the images I am wearing a size 34 from Pherrow’s and a size 42 from Soundman. In both cases I sized up a little to get a nice fit on me in the seat and things, and would then alter the waist or use a belt.
Clothes pictured: Alden full-strap loafers on Aberdeen last, and Bryceland’s Sawtooth, size 40.