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How to Wear Chinos Like a Boss (With Outfit Examples)

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David has been covering men's style and grooming topics for The Adult Man as a writer and photographer since 2020. We asked David to sum himself up in four sentences, and here it is. Serial learner. Aspiring wordsmith. Bourbon enthusiast. Jack of some trades. Read full bio.

Last Updated: Feb 23, 2024
26 min read
How to Wear Chinos Model Wearing Asket Outfit
Key Takeaways

You can style chinos with casual, everyday outfits through to formal outfits appropriate for a nice wedding. To style chinos casually, pair them with white dress sneakers and a premium, basic t-shirt or a button-down. For a formal look, wear neutral-colored chinos with leather dress shoes, a white button-down shirt, and a blazer.

I’ve experienced a strange phenomenon in the last year where all my pants are slowly being replaced by chinos.

This phenomenon isn’t actually a phenomenon at all, just a subconscious pull to buy more chinos whenever I come across them. 

Can you blame me? It’s hard to get away from a pair of pants that can just as easily be worn with sneakers and a t-shirt as they can a dress shirt and blazer. 

Chinos have also become a staple of office menswear, where offices have shifted to be less formal than dressy business outfits and chino-based outfits are king. 

Long story short, there are a million ways to wear chinos and that can be daunting when picking up your first pair. 

So, in this article I’ll walk you through what makes a chino a chino, what shoes, shirts, and other clothing items go best with them, and show you how to wear them with a boatload of examples.

What Are Chinos?

Best Chinos for Men Model Wearing Olive Asket Chinos Walking Down Stairs in White Sneakers

Chinos are lightweight, cotton pants made from a twill weave that feature a variety of colorways. A twill weave describes a type of textile manufacturing that has a pattern of diagonal, parallel ribs, and these fabrics generally drape well, which makes them ideal pant construction material.

Chinos typically have a tailored fit and will taper slightly below the knee, which gives them a slimmer profile than most dress pants and khakis. 

L Estrange chinos with boots

Like many of today’s men’s clothing staples, chinos trace their history back to wartime efficiency. These pants first hit the scene in 1898, when American forces were stationed in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. 

Being fairly close to China while there, the Americans began sourcing their uniforms from Chinese twill cotton. Thus, the term “chino” was derived from the colloquial Spanish name for “China.”

After World War II, chinos entered mainstream popularity in America as returning soldiers continued to wear them and the style caught on among college students. Hollywood soon followed suit, and at that point the flat-fronted pants were here to stay.

model walking out of house with pink madras shirt and performance chinos from J.Crew

Besides a slimmer profile, it may not be immediately clear how chinos differ from khakis and dress pants. I’ve used the terms interchangeably in the past, but there’s enough difference between the pant styles to warrant a full explanation.

My Favorite Chinos
Vuori Cascade Tech Chino

My go-to tech chinos, and honestly, my go-to chinos for smart casual styles, are these bad boys. They're made from a blend of polyester and nylon, stretch like workout pants, but look sleek and formal like normal cotton chinos.

Check Price

Chinos vs Khakis

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Chinos and khakis are actually made from the same twill weave, which makes many people assume they’re the same thing. That said, the similarities stop there. 

Khakis, unlike chinos, are only ever that light tan, beige color we know so well. 

As the story goes, Sir Harry Lumsden, a British commander stationed in India in 1848, dyed the white trousers of his regiment with a blend of coffee, curry powder, and mulberry juice to have them better blend with their surroundings.

The Indian natives called the color ‘khaki’, which means ‘dust’ in Hindi.

Khakis are usually made from a heavier twill weave fabric, are pleated, and are cut to have a looser, boxier style than chinos. 

Contrary to what I believed and wore growing up, khakis actually lean more towards the heavy-duty work wear side of things, while chinos are lighter and more dressy. 

Some of the differences here can be explained by the prevailing fashion of the time. Modern, formal styles emphasize sleek, slim outfits with fitted pieces. A few decades ago, though, boxy khakis with several pleats were trendy and better suited for formal events.

Chinos vs Jeans

Mugsy Jeans Review Model Wearing Fulton Jeans Outside
The Mugsy Fulton jeans

This may seem obvious, but the biggest difference between chinos and jeans is the material used to make them. 

Chinos are made from cotton twill fabric, but jeans are made from denim. While both fabrics are a cotton material, jeans have a much heavier weight and rugged feel. 

Jeans date back to the late 1700s, where they found most of their use in labor-intensive work. The pants hadn’t caught on through the 1800s, until the end of the century when Levi Strauss and Jacob David partnered to add copper rivets to the pant’s stress points. 

Buck Mason tee shirt and jeans outfit

This upgrade made jeans the go-to choice for work pants, which solidified the different use cases for jeans and chinos. Chinos are great for dressy casual and business casual events, and jeans are great for casual settings. 

Sometimes premium dark-wash jeans are used in smart casual outfits, which can be appropriate for dressier settings. If you’d like to learn more about smart casual style, we’ve got the ultimate guide right here

Chinos vs Dress Pants/Slacks

State and Liberty 11
Rocking the State & Liberty Athletic Fit Stretch Suit Pants

The main differences here are in the use cases and materials used during construction.

Slacks and dress pants can be made from a variety of materials, but more often than not it’s wool or some sort of wool blend. 

Wool gives a smooth finish to dress pants and slacks and keeps them lighter and softer than the heavier cotton twill fabric that’s used to construct chinos. 

State and Liberty 9

While chinos can be appropriate for some formal settings, they’ll always be a more casual style than dress pants. You can wear your chinos to work, happy hours, date nights, and some business casual events, but when it comes to most weddings, galas, the symphony, and other formal events it’s best to stick with dress pants and slacks. 

Due to their formal nature, dress pants are almost always a muted shade of grey, blue, black, or tan. Chinos, on the other hand, get more adventurous with colors like salmon, cobalt blue, and red.

Chinos vs Twill Pants

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As if there weren’t already enough styles of pants to keep straight in your head, there’s a difference between twill pants and chinos as well. At least some of the time. 

The term “twill pants” is a broad phrase that describes any pants made with twill fabric. Twill, as you’ll recall, is a fabric with a diagonal weave and parallel ribs. 

Thus, chinos are technically twill pants since they’re made with cotton twill. So, all chinos are twill pants, but not all twill pants are chinos.


Let me explain. Apart from chinos, the most common twill pants look more like jeans than chinos. These twill pants will often feature a 5-pocket construction, like jeans, and the pockets will be curved in the front, with a small ticket pocket, and path-style pockets on the back. 

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In fact, jeans are technically twill pants since they’re made with denim twill.

Chinos, on the other hand, almost always have slanted front pockets and slit-style back pockets that hide the seams. These pants are usually slimmer than regular twill pants and have a smoother fabric

With looser cuts and rougher, heavier fabric, non-chino twill pants are more casual than chinos, and are great for every-day casual use, hanging with friends, and running errands.

Vuori Collins Chino

Vuori's signature chino, the Collins is one of our go-tos for travel with its zip pocket, 2-way stretch cotton twill and secure back. It has held up well and feels oh-so-soft with a suede-like vibe to the material.

Check Price

Chinos and Dress Codes

Now that you have a thorough understanding of what makes chinos different from other, similar pants styles, let’s talk through the appropriate formalities for chinos and how you might wear them.

Chinos Business Casual

model wearing black tucked in oxford shirt and grey chinos

Business casual is what you wear in formal office environments, presentations, and meetings. These outfits often start with dress shoes, slacks, and a button-down shirt, but you can easily swap in chinos for the slacks and be appropriate for the occasion. 

Since business casual is fairly formal, steer away from the more colorful chinos here and stick with tan, black, grey, or dark blue. 

Pair these with a nice button-down or polo, a leather belt and dress shoes, Chelsea boots, or loafers and you’ve got yourself a quick and easy business casual outfit with chinos. 

Chinos Smart Casual

Model with chinos sweater and button down

Smart casual is a dress code that’s hard to pin down as succinctly as business casual. This growingly popular dress code prioritizes thoughtful details and some intermixing of formalities, and when it’s done right it will keep you comfortable and stylish all day long. 

The easiest way to give an example of a smart casual outfit is to take a casual outfit and swap out one or more elements for more formal items. 

Take, for example, an outfit with a t-shirt, jeans, and white, minimal sneakers. It’s casual.

If you swap the jeans out for chinos, keep the white sneakers, and tuck in the t-shirt, you’ve got a basic, smart casual outfit. 

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You can add in a bomber jacket for colder weather, a sweater, or even layer on a blazer to the t-shirt for a European look. 

If you keep the chinos from the last outfit and swap in a pair of leather tassel loafers and a cardigan to go over the tucked-in tee, you’ll have another go-to smart casual outfit. This last outfit is great for more casual office environments, happy hours, dates, and even running errands in style.

Since smart casual is less formal, this is a good place to wear your more adventurous chino colors. 

It’s also a great place to wear your nontraditional chinos, like those that fit the category of “tech chinos” and are made from synthetic materials like polyester and nylon. 

My go-to tech chinos, and honestly, my go-to chinos for smart casual styles, are Vuori’s Cascade Chinos, which are made from a blend of polyester and nylon, stretch like workout pants, but look sleek and formal like normal cotton chinos.

Vuori Cascade Tech Chino

My go-to tech chinos, and honestly, my go-to chinos for smart casual styles, are these bad boys. They're made from a blend of polyester and nylon, stretch like workout pants, but look sleek and formal like normal cotton chinos.

Check Price

Chinos Formal

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When it comes to formal dress codes, chinos can be worn with blazers and button-down shirts. Since this is a formal setting, stick to the neutral, classy chino colors here. 

Chinos are less formal than dress pants and slacks, so you can dress up a formal, chino outfit with additional details. Add a tie to the button-down shirt, throw in a pocket square on the blazer, and get yourself a classy metal or leather watch. 

If it’s the winter, throw a light sweater over the button-down and tie, and finish the top with a blazer for an extra warm, classic look.

For shoes, stick with classic dress shoe styles here, like wingtips, oxfords, and brogues. You can also rock a pair of leather loafers, especially in the summer months. 

How Should Chinos Fit?

model standing in alley with asket minimalist outfit

Chinos are designed to fit slimmer than khakis and more dress pants. I like my chinos to fit snug through the seat, have a little room around the thighs, and then taper gently below the knee. 

Lucky for me (and you, if that’s how you like your pants to fit), most chinos fit like that right off the shelf, no tailoring needed. 

I would usually describe chinos as having a slim fit, but that depends on how thick your legs are and who’s making the pants. Some pants are labeled “slim”, yet fit tighter than any skinny jeans I thought I looked cool wearing in highschool. 

Since chinos are a bit dressy, look for a pair that has a “roomy” slim fit. They shouldn’t be baggy, but they also shouldn’t be tight. You want something right in the middle that’s sleek and looks tailored, but doesn’t make you look like a bodybuilder trying to wear a slim suit from H&M.

Vuori’s other flagship pair of chinos, the Collins Chino Pant, has a tapered, modern fit that fits to perfection right off the rack. They’re the perfect amount of slim around the thigh and calf, but still roomy enough to allow for comfortable movement. 

Vuori Collins Chino

Vuori's signature chino, the Collins is one of our go-tos for travel with its zip pocket, 2-way stretch cotton twill and secure back. It has held up well and feels oh-so-soft with a suede-like vibe to the material.

Check Price

How Long Should Chinos Be?

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The length of your chinos depends on where you want to wear them. 

If you’re planning to wear them with a formal outfit, the chinos should just touch the top of your shoes, and there should be a little break in the hem of your chinos at the most. 

Some guys like to wear chinos with more casual outfits, like the smart casual dress code we discussed above, and might prefer that their chinos show a little ankle. This look goes well with leather dress sneakers and leather loafers. 

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In that case, you’ll probably want to have the chinos tailored to come a bit above the top of your shoe, since cuffing them could make formal outfits look less tidy.

Cuffing Chinos: Yea or Nay?

Speaking of which, it’s perfectly acceptable to cuff your chinos with the right outfits. 

Like I mentioned above, I wouldn’t cuff your chinos with formal or business casual outfits. However, if you’re wearing chinos with more casual shoes or a t-shirt the cuffed look can work well. 

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For example, if you’re at the beach but still want to be presentable, cuff your chinos, put on a light linen button-down, and finish the outfit with leather sandals like huaraches

Or, for a more edgy look, tuck a plain t-shirt into your chinos and finish the outfit with some Doc Martens or other leather boots. This is a great outfit for every-day wear, and if you throw a tidy shirt jacket on top it can be appropriate for checking out the new pub, cocktail bar, or casual restaurant.

What Are the Best Chino Colors?

Identifying the best chino colors is mostly a matter of personal preference, but I can at least tell you which colors are most versatile and popular. 

First up, black. 

Taft Dragon 3.0 jacket over shoulder3

Black chinos are great for more formal outfits, date nights, and more casual outfits alike. You can pair high-quality, tailored, black chinos with a crisp button-down, charcoal blazer, and black oxfords for a quick and easy formal outfit.

For a more casual look, cuff a pair of black chinos, find a pair of white dress sneakers, and pair these with a short sleeve button-down shirt. 

These outfits would also work well with olive, tan, or navy chinos, but you might have to swap around the black shoes and other details for brown shoes to better complement the color of your pants.

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When it comes to versatility, you can’t beat neutral tones for chinos: tan, black, grey, navy, and olive. 

While chinos are frequently offered in pastels and vibrant hues, these aren’t as widely appropriate as the neutral tones I listed above and wouldn’t be the best choice for your first pair of chinos.

What to Wear With Chinos

Wolf and Shepherd Swiftknit Loafers model sitting on stool

I’ve listed a few whole outfit examples earlier in this article, but the best way for you to understand all your options with chinos is to break these outfits down into smaller pieces.

Let’s start with footwear.

Which Shoes to Wear With Chinos

In formal and business casual environments, chinos pair easily with leather loafers, oxfords, brogues, wingtips, Chelsea boots, and most other men’s dress shoes. 

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Stepping down a level of formality, in smart casual outfits you can pair white or black dress sneakers, drivers, or other casual loafers with chinos. 

Current, trendy fashion has even embraced chinos with more casual, streetwear outfits. You can wear chinos with casual leather boots like Doc Martens, classic sneakers like Converse All-Stars, or chunky white sneakers.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these.

How to Wear Chinos with Sneakers

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Converse All-Stars never go out of style, and they pair easily with chinos, especially when they’re cuffed. To fit in with the younger generations, I like to pair black Converse with black chinos, a tucked-in, slightly baggy tee, and finish it with a cross-shoulder bag. 

For a similar vibe, keep the tee and chinos and swap out the Converse for white socks and white, chunky sneakers. 

With dressy white sneakers, pair any neutral-colored chino with a patterned short sleeve button-down or polo for a more formal, yet still casual look.

Beckett Simonon Reid Sneakers

I like the Beckett Simonon Reid for its overall quality and construction, and its price is phenomenal. The biggest downside to Beckett Simonon is that, because they make their shoes to order, it can take up to two months for you to actually get them. But they’re the best value-for-money pick you can get in the minimalist sneaker arena.

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What Shirts to Wear With Chinos

Like shoes, you can wear just about any shirt with chinos. Let’s go over some of the basics.

Chinos and a T-Shirt

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Whether you tuck the t-shirt in or leave it loose, tees go effortlessly with chinos. 

The style of t-shirt you wear here can set the tone for the rest of the outfit. If you wear a slim, premium t-shirt with some light-neutral colored chinos, you’ll want to finish the outfit with a pair of drivers or dress sneakers to keep the polished, sophisticated vibe.

If you wear a baggy, thick t-shirt with chinos, you should finish the outfit with chunky sneakers, Converse, or something else that’s casual.

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I like to tuck a slightly baggy tee into well-fitting chinos, and then finish the outfit with a casual sneaker. Tucking the tee in helps accentuate the male silhouette, and you can throw a light jacket or bomber on top when in transitional weather.

True Classic
(Get 25% off by following our link and proceeding to the True Classic Store)

True Classic offers some of the best value and fit you can find in basic t-shirts. If you’re looking to stock your wardrobe with some simple tees that fit well, are flattering in the shoulders and chest, and don’t cost a ton, True Classic is a fantastic brand for you.

Shop True Classic Read Our Review

Chinos and a Dress Shirt

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Since chinos are slightly less formal than dress pants and slacks, they pair particularly well with dress shirts like Oxfords. We’ve had good experiences with Oxfords from Charles Tyrwhitt and Ben Sherman, and you can read more about our top picks here

You can wear just about any style of dress shirt with chinos, but I recommend keeping your French-cuff dress shirts for the most formal outfits, where you’re wearing a quality suit. 

Regarding fit, since chinos are cut on the slim side and aren’t baggy, maintain this look with your shirts as well. Steer away from baggy, loose fitting shirts and instead opt for slim fit or tailored options.

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You can also mix and match the color of your dress shirts with the color of your chinos. Since both chinos and dress shirts come in a wide variety of shades and hues, this is a good place to experiment with different color combinations.

Just remember to dress for the formality of the event—if it’s more formal, stick to the neutral tone chinos and white dress shirts.

L'Estrange London The All Day Oxford

Crafted from a loose weave premium Italian oxford 2% stretch cloth, thiis one of the softest Oxfords we've got our Adult Man hands on in recent years. It's hem and slightly relaxed color makes it versatile enough to dress up or down with ease.

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Chinos and a Blazer

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Speaking of more formal events, blazers can easily be added over a dress shirt for a formal boost to your outfit. 

You should stick with a white dress shirt here since the overall outfit will be formal, and the blazer should also be a neutral tone like black, grey, navy, or brown. 

This is a great outfit for business casual events, and most of the time doesn’t require a tie. You can dress the outfit up with a tie and pocket square if you’d like, but most of the time the chinos, dress shirt, and blazer are enough to be dressed well.

Chinos and a Bomber Jacket

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Chinos pair particularly well with bomber jackets. Bomber jackets are another fashion item with roots in the American military, so I suppose it’s not a surprise that they work together.

For a casual outfit, pair neutral-colored chinos with a pair of white of black dress sneakers, a quality, plain t-shirt, and a bomber over top. This outfit is hard to beat from a comfort standpoint, and you’ll also look neat and tidy, yet relaxed.

For a dressier option, swap the dress sneakers for a pair of brown leather boots. Add in a casual button-down shirt, like an Oxford, in place of the t-shirt, finish it with the bomber jacket, and you’ve got a perfect date night outfit.

Chinos and a Coat

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Chinos work well with just about any coat, for that matter. Whether it’s leather, denim, a parka, puffer, or Peacoat you really can’t go wrong when wearing chinos.

Wear a pair of brown leather boots, chinos, a white tee tucked-in, and a denim jacket on top for a rugged, sophisticated look.

If you need an extra layer of warmth for a formal event, throw a Peacoat over a blazer, dress shirt, chinos, and leather dress shoes.

7 Casual Chinos Outfit Examples

Tech Chinos and a Casual Jacket

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This casual outfit combines a pair of technical chinos with white sneakers, a t-shirt, and a casual jacket. It’s simple, it’s comfortable, and it looks more tidy than if the chinos were swapped out for jeans. 

Chinos and a T-Shirt

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This is about as casual as you can get, but chinos still work well in this type of outfit.

Smart Casual Chinos with a Button-Down

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For a slightly more dressy look that’s still casual, swap the tee for a casual button-down shirt. Since you’re still wearing sneakers, this outfit remains casual.

Smart Casual Chinos with a Denim Jacket and Boots

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This is a perfect example of how to pull off a smart casual outfit with chinos. 

Smart Casual Chinos with a Short Sleeve Button-Down

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This is another great example of smart casual in practice. Tan chinos, white dress sneakers, and a white short sleeve button-down combine for a casual, neat outfit that’s ideal for happy hours and hanging with friends alike.

Casual Chinos with Button-Down and Crew Sweatshirt

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While this outfit has formal elements like a dress shirt and chinos, it still maintains a casual vibe with the white sneakers and crew sweatshirt.

Jean and a Sweatshirt but with Chinos

model wearing asket sweater and chinos walking with concrete background

This casual outfit takes olive chinos, a clean pair of white sneakers, and pairs them with a simple crew neck sweater.

7 Dressy Chinos Outfit Examples

Summer Date Night Outfit

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Simple, yet refined. A polo, chinos, and suede loafers are all you need for a fancy night on the town.

Fall Date Night Outfit

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Pair neutral-colored chinos with black chelsea boots and a white button-down, and throw a black sweater over top for a perfect Fall, formal outfit.

Preppy Chino Outfit

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For a more preppy look, mix in salmon-colored chinos and a quarter-zip.

Cardigan, Loafers, and Dressy Chinos

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You can’t go wrong with a cardigan and a pair of loafers.

Business Casual Outfit with Chinos

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For a classic business casual look, tuck a well-fitting button-down into chinos and finish the outfit with a leather belt and dress shoes.

Dressy Outfit with Chinos and a Sweater

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A blazer, sweater, and chinos for an effortless, formal vibe.

Casual Wedding Outfit with Chinos

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This formal outfit is the perfect way to wear chinos and a blazer to a wedding.

Where to Buy Chinos: Our 3 Favorite Brands

You can easily get lost in the sauce because of how many chino options are out there. To save you some heavy lifting, here are our 3 favorite brands—we’ve tried all of them.


Vuori Cascade Tech Chino

My go-to tech chinos, and honestly, my go-to chinos for smart casual styles, are these bad boys. They're made from a blend of polyester and nylon, stretch like workout pants, but look sleek and formal like normal cotton chinos.

Check Price

Vuori got its start in Southern California-inspired athleisure, but has since expanded to other men’s staples, like chinos. 

Our favorite chinos are their Cascade Tech Chino Pants. While these pants stretch the definition of chinos by being made from 100% polyester fabric, they maintain the classic profile and bring more to the table by being lightweight, breathable, and appropriate for everything from your tee time to the board room.

I love these chinos for traveling since they’re as comfortable as workout pants but look much neater, so I can be ready for anything when I step off the plane. 

Vuori’s slim fit construction and stretch fabric keeps a slim, tidy profile and lets me still move with ease through any activities on a normal day.

Vuori Collins Chino

Vuori's signature chino, the Collins is one of our go-tos for travel with its zip pocket, 2-way stretch cotton twill and secure back. It has held up well and feels oh-so-soft with a suede-like vibe to the material.

Check Price

For a more traditional take on chinos, Vuori also offers the Collins Chino. Made with two-way stretch cotton twill, these chinos are ideal for everyday wear and feature a modern, tailored fit through the leg.

State & Liberty

State & Liberty Stretch Tech Chino

If you don't skip gym day, these chinos may just be your new favorites. Purpose built for guys who need more room in the quads, seat, and thighs, S&L's Stretch Tech Chinos also bring the brand's usual stretchy performance goodness.

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State and Liberty specializes in men’s athletic-style dress shirts, which breathe and wick moisture like running gear. They’ve expanded this technology to their Stretch Tech Chinos, which feature an athletic cut to accommodate guys with thunder thighs that would normally bust through cotton chinos.

These chinos are made with a proprietary blend of nylon and spandex performance fabric, which offers stretchy flexibility while maintaining a slim silhouette through the leg.

My legs are on the athletic side of leg shapes, meaning I appreciate more room in the thigh and seat area, and State & Liberty’s Stretch Tech Chinos provide more than enough for all day comfort.


Mizzen+Main Helmsman Chino Pant

These bad boys sit at the top of my list of the best chinos for men. Why? They're durable but don't restrict my movement and they look and fit great. It's not that I'm easy to please, but moreso that chinos that tick all of these boxes are super tough to find.

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Mizzen+Main is another brand that got its start in men’s performance shirting, and they also offer a modern take on classic men’s chinos with their Helmsman Chino Pants.

These chinos are made from a blend of polyester and nylon fabric that offers four-way stretch, moisture wicking, and wrinkle resistant fabric. 

I’m a big fan of the moisture wicking fabric—last Summer my car’s A/C broke but I never once felt like I was sitting in a swamp while wearing the Helmsman Chinos.

Around the waist, an elastic waistband makes these pants feel like gym shorts, and silicone grips on the inside of the waistband help keep your shirts tucked in. Gotta love the details.


Are chinos formal or casual?

Chinos can be worn in both formal and casual outfits.

Do chinos go with everything?

Chinos work with every type of outfit besides gym clothes and black-tie formalwear.

How do you wash chinos?

You should wash your chinos in warm or cold water and hang them to dry. Since chinos are made from cotton twill fabric, the cotton can shrink when tumble-dried.

What jacket should you wear with chinos?

For formal outfits, wear a blazer with chinos. When it comes to casual outfits, a bomber or denim jacket go well with chinos.

Do you wear socks with chinos?

It depends on the shoes you’re wearing, but you can wear socks or go barefoot while wearing chinos.

How do you iron chinos?

Chinos don’t typically come with a crease down the front of the pant leg, like khakis or dress pants do, so iron your chinos without a crease.