The Chinos That Best Your Jeans

·3-min read
Photo credit: Matches Fashion, Mr Porter
Photo credit: Matches Fashion, Mr Porter

A soldier, a Supreme collector, a Yale grad and your grandpa walk into a bar, and they’re all wearing some of the best men’s chinos. Not a joke, just a fact. Because, for as long as boys called Barnaby have been banished to boarding schools far, far away, their trousers –or, rather, their chinos – have been wildly popular.

The reason? They’re chinos, brother! A menswear piece so classic and versatile that they’ve become a byword for goes-with-absolutely-anything. And, they’re one of the few things in your wardrobe that grandpapa dearest would still heartily endorse.

The Chino: A Brief History

Men's chinos didn’t miraculously burst into life when a sweater vest collided with a legacy admission one sunny morning in 1942. In fact, the very first men’s chinos (and arguably some of the best men’s chinos) came almost five decades prior when US troops had their uniforms made from Chinese twill cotton during the Spanish-American War. The name ‘chino’ was even taken from the Spanish word for China. History is fun, right? And, like so many other new classics (field jackets, bomber jackets, white T-shirts, et al), the chino moved from the military into the wardrobes of men who were, fortunately, allowed to switch national service for the big Q1 sales Zoom.

On the East Coast is where chinos really came into their own – and where the preppy pedigree came into play. By the mid 20th Century when soldiers returned home from WWII, these simple trousers had become a very welcome, casual alternative to tailoring in northeastern American universities. Now, they've endured to become a casual staple embraced by all shades of menswearheads – us included.

How to Wear Chinos in 2021

There’s plenty to choose from. You can still get the chinos that belong on a smoky battlefield. You can still get the chinos that belong in a smoky Harvard debate chamber. But you can also cop wider, Nineties, No Doubt adjacent chinos, and classic slimline chinos, and also the in-between straight leg fit that’s been co-opted time and again by the skater trust fund fusion of prep 2.0. Which isn’t going anywhere, by the way. Neither are the chinos those guys wear.

Also, know that the chino's main strength is versatile. If you want to pair with other wardrobe basics: that's fine. Paul Newman did that a lot, and everyone likes Paul Newman. If you want to use it as an anchor for wilder, madder Cuban collar shirts up top and wavy trainers below, that's fine too. There's a reason chinos have a solid place in the streetwearsphere – and everywhere else.

Perhaps there’s too much choice, if anything. That’s why we’ve pulled together the best men’s chinos for every sort of budget, and for every sort of guy. For the soldiers, the Supreme collectors, the Yale grads and your grandpa. And yeah, you too.

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