Chino pants: the not-so-basic basic
The Handbook / Style / A brief history of your everyday pant

A brief history of your everyday pant

Chino pants: the not-so-basic basic

Chino pants have been around Western fashion for about 150 years, and it can sometimes feel like it. It’s everywhere: it’s the emblem of the Preppy Aesthetic, making it unavoidable in American fashion.  Although more discreet than denim pants, they, too, have had a long history and have been re-invented throughout the years.


First, let’s clarify something.  What’s the difference between khakis and chinos? They are indeed made from the same fabric —100% cotton twill, but chinos are much lighter than khakis. Chinos are also a more formal option, thanks to concealed stitching. This gives chino pants a more proper look, whereas khakis have more of a utilitarian vibe. 





The term "chinos" can coincide with the Spanish American war of 1898. The actual word “chino” is derived from the Spanish name for China, as the cotton twill fabric was sourced from there, as a cheaper option. It became the essential fabric for the U.S. Army Field "Class C" uniform —and post World War I and II, soldiers popularized the trousers by wearing them back home. It became widespread amongst the population for a few reasons: its durability, the comfort it provided and, unconsciously, its patriotic undertones. Therein lies the identity of the chino: its subtly followed American culture throughout the 20th century. For example, that was the fabric that women started sporting as there were allowed to start wearing pants around the 50s. 


With a surplus of trousers leftover post-WWII, the chino pant began entering the market at a low cost and quickly became a huge hit with American IVY league students. Back in the 50s, Princeton University was the place where menswear trends used to emerge - that’s where the chinos started being paired with formal pieces such as the blazer. The mythological preppy aesthetic was then born.


Nowadays, chinos no longer put the wearer in a definite box like it used to. They are a staple in every men’s wardrobe, whether you have a streetwear or more classic style approach. Here’s how you can interpret this timeless classic. 



The skinny fit (Mackay)



The Mackay skinny chino pant in True Black


Chinos are famous for their uncomplicated feel. If you’re looking for an edgier look while remaining classy, a skinny fit might be for you. The fit is very slim from seat to the thigh, and the outlook is particularly neat with a simple round collar t-shirt and jacket, preferably in denim or faux-leather. 



The slim fit (Brunswick)



The Brunswick Slim Chino Short in Mahogany


With slight ease at the seat and the thigh, this one is perfect if you’re looking to break out of the classic chino feel, which tends to have a wider fit. For a more European feel, add a leather belt, pair it with a t-shirt and layer it with a long-sleeve shirt, semi-opened. 



The straight fit (Ossington) 



The Ossington Straight Chino Pant in Dark navy


As part of the traditional cut, the straight fit is fun to play with: you can shorten the hem, experiment with belts, add clever socks - the possibility are numerous, as this fit allows for more room to play with the style of the pant. 


Monthly Clothing Subscription