A Comprehensive Guide on Styling Your Chinos

Posted on November 09 2015

Chinos have become a popular alternative to jeans. These pants are modernized khakis that fit like jeans. They are incredibly versatile and are easily incorporated into your outfits. Here’s a comprehensive guide on styling your chinos, covering everything from fit to outfit examples.


The Basics: Fit, Context, and Care

Chinos come in a variety of fits, but we recommend starting with slim or straight-fits. To ensure well-fitted chinos, make sure you do each of the following:

  • Pay attention to your build. Flat-front chinos work best for slim fits. Pleated chinos work better for bulkier legs.

  • Walk around in them and check out how they appear in front of a mirror. This will help determine your physical comfort and their overall aesthetic appearance.

  • Make sure there isn’t excess fabric -- these bottoms appeal the best when form fitting. When it comes to the legs, don’t be afraid of the slimmer fits.

Chinos can be worn at the office or the local bar, but not in extremely formal settings (e.g. black-tie events). Dressy chinos do exist, but it’s left up to your discretion to determine the appropriate context for a pair of chinos.

Chino fabric stains easily and will likely have to be washed more frequently than jeans. They are safe to wash with other colored clothes in cold water. Chinos might shrink in the dryer, so hang-dry them. Please note that the color of chinos made with cheap, sub-par fabric will fade quickly in the wash. In other words, do your research beforehand: make smart purchases, not easy and cheap ones.

Styling Guide: Fabrics, Colors, and Shoes

Before getting to specifics, let’s talk about general styling guidelines.

1. Pay attention to the fabric of your tops when pairing them with chinos: either create contrast or keep it similar.

Contrasting Fabrics

To achieve contrast, wear a denim button-up (shown right) or a leather jacket. When pairing similar fabrics, pair cotton, linen (shown left), or wool apparel with your chinos.

2. You can further ensure a stylish chino outfit through careful color coordination.

Color Coordination

Tan and brown are neutral colors, and therefore work with any other color. Don’t be afraid to boldly match colored chinos with neutral colors for a refined fashion-forward look.

3. Any shoe will work with chinos.


Matching sneakers with chinos create a relaxed, fashion-forward appearance. Boots, wingtips, and captoes pair well with chinos for a semi-formal look.

Outfitting Methods: Modern Business Casual, Semi-Formal, and Casual

Three Outfit Types

Mediate your outfitting options through these three categories (shown in order of mention). The first is modern business casual. Traditional business casual involves brown or tan trousers. If you want to stick to that basic format, pair up your tan chinos with a blue herringbone cotton button-up. Cotton complements chino fabric, and the addition of a subtle pattern announces a stylistic take on business casual. To complete this look, introduce a brown leather belt and a pair of grey captoes. Alternatively, be diverse and create your own take on business casual by opting for a dark green or navy blue pair of chinos. Pair either one with a red checkered button-up and make a positive first impression. You can downplay the informal nature of this outfit by introducing a brown leather belt and brown suede wingtips.

The second kind of outfit to shoot for is semi-formal -- appropriate for the workplace or a night out. Start with tan or brown chinos and pair them with a green plaid button up and an unstructured navy blue sport coat. Complete the outfit with brown chukka boots, a brown leather belt, and a nylon strap wristwatch. This outfit contains largely formal elements, but is balanced out by the plaid shirt and the nylon wrist watch. If you want a casual look, eliminate the sportcoat and trade out the tan chinos for a navy blue pair. You can also trade out the chukka boots for a sharply designed pair of sneakers in a light neutral color; maintain a sense of formality by tucking in the plaid button up and retaining the leather belt.

The last outfit we’ll cover is casual. Don’t mistake casual for sloppy: this kind of outfit is great for looking sharp in casual settings. Begin with brown chinos, then throw on a blue short sleeved button-up. Finish the outfit with a striped ribbon belt and a conservative pair of grey captoes or smartly designed sneakers. Another option is pairing a neutral-colored henley with a boldly colored pair of chinos, and finishing off the outfit with a leather belt and desert boots. Whichever way you decide to go, you’ve created an outfit that combines the best of refinement and comfort.

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