While we—like a lot of guys—rarely challenge our loyalty to the trusty blue jean, chinos may just be the unsung hero of our wardrobes. They’re durable, practical, and comfortable, and unlike denim, they can be easily dressed up for more formal occasions.

Whether you’ve already got a few pairs and just want to up your style game, or this is your first time wading into the world of chinos, this style guide is for you. So buckle up, we’ve got some menswear minutia to delve into.

Model wearing The Foundation Pant chino with The Division Shirt in Washed Indigo

What are Chinos?

Simply put, chinos are a durable cotton pant, typically distinguished by slash front pockets, jetted or welted back pockets, a flat front, and concealed stitching. While this seems straightforward, there are more than a few misconceptions about what makes chinos “chinos”, so let’s take a moment to clear those up.

Khakis or Chinos?

“Chino” refers to the cotton twill material, while “khaki” refers to the classic brown/beige coloring. So “khakis” can refer to chinos if they are khaki-colored, but not all chinos are khakis (for instance, navy, olive, or black-colored chinos), and not all khakis are chinos (for instance, khaki-colored dress pants or hiking pants). We know this can be a little confusing, so just remember, “khaki” is a color, and “chino” is a material.

Are Chinos Dress Pants?

While chinos are easy to dress up in business casual settings, they are not the same as dress pants, and shouldn’t stand in for them in strictly formal settings. Dress pants are usually built from a fine wool or wool blend, and often have pleated fronts, whereas chinos are crafted from a heavier cotton twill.

Model wearing a t-shirt with chinos

History of The Chino Pant

Like a lot of menswear styles, chinos got their start in military applications. In the mid-1800s, during the Spanish-American War, US G.I.’s stationed in Cuba and The Phillipines received the durable khaki-colored pants from cotton mills in China. Eventually, these new pants earned the local moniker “pantalones chinos”, meaning “China pants” in Spanish.

For a deep dive into the origins of the chino, check out our dedicated Journal entry on the history of men’s chinos.

The Modern Chino Pant

Given their fighting roots, it should come as no surprise that the original chinos were built to take a beating, but over the years, many manufacturers have abandoned the traditional cotton twill construction in favor of lightweight, often flimsy synthetic blends.

So when we hit the drawing board on some chinos of our own, we decided to bring the design back to its origins, which—along with them being the bedrock of our wardrobe—is why we call them The Foundation Pant.

Built from a substantial 100% organic cotton twill and outfitted with a few nifty features that harken back to the style’s military roots (like herringbone pocketing and a four-hole button), The Foundation Pant provides versatility and comfort in a package that will outlast most other bottoms in your closet.

To ensure a proper fit for a wide range of body types, we offer The Foundation Pant in both our Slim and Democratic fits as well as two different inseam lengths.

Styling kits with The Ojai chore coat and chinos

How to Style Chinos

Part of what makes chinos such an indispensable wardrobe staple is their versatility. From a casual evening out to running errands on the weekends to most office settings, chinos are a veritable style multitool. But sometimes, being spoiled for choice can lead to paralysis through analysis, so we’ve compiled some outfit inspiration to get you started.

Casual, Everyday Wear

Be it hanging around at home or hitting a coffee shop on the weekend, you can’t go wrong with a classic tee, polo, or rugby shirt and a simple pair of sneakers. Cuffing your chinos like you would selvedge denim is another way to make them appear more casual. In the colder months, you can swap out the tee shirt for a crew neck sweatshirt for a timeless, laid-back look.

A Night Out

The easiest way to make your chinos look a little more polished is to wear a classic button-up shirt and a sturdy pair of boots or loafers. Or, if collared shirts aren’t your thing, you can elevate the aforementioned “chinos and a tee” outfit by opting for a heavyweight tee with a little more texture and layering a French chore coat or cardigan over top.

Business Casual

For a more office-appropriate look, you can’t go wrong with an Oxford cloth button-down. It’s a timeless look that transitions from work hours to happy hour without skipping a beat. If you’ve got an important meeting, just layer a sport coat or unstructured blazer over top.

Model wearing chinos with a long sleeve button up shirt Model wearing chinos with a long sleeve button up shirt

Outdoor Adventure

If you’re looking to hit the trails or head out for a camping trip, try pairing your chinos with a thick flannel and a pair of boots. For outdoor excursions in colder climates, a waxed canvas jacket is our layer of choice.

Model wearing chinos with a short sleeve shirt

Pick Up a Pair

Sharp without being stuffy, durable without being too heavy, and 100% trend-immune—chinos are a true wardrobe MVP. Whether you're snagging your first pair or adding a new color to your collection, check out our Foundation Pant and give those battered blue jeans a few days off.

Shop The Foundation Pant

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