How to style a pair of chinos

Chinos occupy a distinguished place in men’s fashion, balancing the scale between casual and formal attire perfectly. Named after the Spanish word for “Chinese,” the name chinos refers to the cotton twill fabric first manufactured in 19th century China and earmarked for British and French military uniforms.

Since they were designed for  troops, chinos were typically produced in beige or khaki, reflecting their utilitarian military origins. However, today’s chinos diverge greatly in terms of colour, embracing a spectrum that can complement any wardrobe.

Currently, chinos serve as an excellent sartorial choice representing the midpoint between the jeans and the traditional suit trousers. But they’re more than a halfway house. They can slip comfortably into the formal and the casual situation equally.

Whether you’re setting off for a relaxed pub visit, spending a leisurely day out, or preparing for formal engagements such as work functions, weddings or other such events, chinos offer a sublime dressing option. 

Pairing Chinos

Let’s take a look at what to wear chinos with, in various situations. Remember this is a guide only – chinos are uniquely versatile, and it’s fair to say they go with almost any ensemble.

With a shirt

Pairing chinos with a well-fitted shirt is a classic combination that leans towards smart-casual. Opt for a neat button-down Oxford for work settings or a polished look. During warmer months, a short-sleeved shirt with lighter chinos makes for a breezy, stylish look suitable for both social outings and casual Fridays at the office. A classic combo is beige chinos with a white or blue shirt. Hugh Grant technically owns the look, but he’s cool with people borrowing it.

With a sweatshirt

For a relaxed yet put-together appearance, combine chinos with a sweatshirt or even a hoodie. This pairing works exceptionally well for cooler weather, providing comfort without compromising on style. With trainers, there’s a hint of skateboarding going on, which might be to your taste – but avoid if you’re on the formal side of neutral. Choose a fitted top to maintain an element of tailored sophistication.

With a jacket or blazer

Adding a jacket or blazer to chinos can instantly transform an outfit from casual to smart-casual or semi-formal. For a coherent look, pair a neatly tailored blazer with slim-fit chinos. Select blazers in complementary colours and materials depending on the season. A lightweight linen or cotton blazer works well for summer, while wool is more appropriate for colder months. This pairing is ideal for business casual settings, dinners or any occasion where a touch of formality is desired. 

With a t-shirt

Chinos worn with a T-shirt embody an effortless casualness that’s perfect for the weekend or a trip to the cinema. For an added touch of chic, tuck in the T-shirt and belt your chinos. This look can be elevated with minimalistic trainers or dressed down with sandals in the summer.

With a sweater

For those transitional days or a smart-casual office setting, a sweater paired with chinos offers a great combination. A fine merino wool or cashmere sweater lends a touch of elegance to the practical ruggedness of chinos.

Formal shoes

When dressing up chinos for more formal occasions, pairing with formal shoes is key. Choose sleek monks or polished brogues to lift the outfit firmly out of casual territory. Ensure that the chinos are well-tailored and creased precisely for a sartorial sharpness that complements the sophistication of your footwear.

Casual shoes or boots

For more laid-back or creative environments, pair chinos with casual leather shoes, such as loafers or desert boots. This combination ensures comfort while maintaining an air of considered ruggedness. It’s a look that’s suitable for both indoor and outdoor settings.


Merging chinos with trainers strikes a perfect balance between casual and trendy. Opt for clean, minimal trainers to keep the look refined. This pairing is ideal for casual outings, informal meetings, or simply for a modern, relaxed look. You can go sockless if weather permits, generating a cool vibe to effortlessly transmit.

Styling tips for chinos

  • Fit is paramount. Ensure your chinos have a modern fit that is neither too tight nor excessively baggy, especially around the rear. A slim or straight fit works well for most occasions, creating a streamlined silhouette.
  • Colour choices. While traditional khaki or beige are safe choices, don’t shy away from navy, grey or olive for added versatility. Brighter colours can also be fun for seasonal flair but handle with care for formal settings.
  • Accessorise thoughtfully. Depending on the occasion, chinos can be complemented with a range of accessories. A leather belt adds a touch of sophistication, while a watch and perhaps a simple bracelet can enhance the outfit’s serious appeal.
  • Cuff or no cuff? Cuffing the hem can add a casual, breezy vibe to the look, especially in combination with trainers or casual shoes. Remember to roll, not fold – you don’t want permanent creases in your pants. For a more formal setting, keep the hem uncuffed and ensure the chinos break cleanly on top of your shoes.

Hard to go wrong

Chinos are a cornerstone of contemporary menswear, essential for any wardrobe due to their impressive adaptability. They bridge the gap between casual wear and formal attire, accommodating a wide range of social and professional scenarios.

By understanding the breadth of styling options available with chinos, you can effortlessly navigate between sartorial settings, ensuring both comfort and style. Whether worn with a formal blazer or the casual cool of trainers, chinos are a foundation upon which any look can be built.