Gone are the days of wearing traditional khakis when you need to look sharp. Welcome to the wonderful world of chinos! Chinos have taken the menswear world by storm and it’s for the better. Blue, green, burgundy, grey, you name a color, they exist. Chinos are the perfect choice when you need something more casual than dress pants, but dressier than jeans. You might be thinking “great, now I have to learn another category of clothing”; not quite, when I say ‘chino’, picture an upgraded version of khakis.

Feel free to read it in order or check out the table of contents to jump to sections.

Photo Credit: Pinterest, He Spoke Style, @MagicFox

A Couple of Pointers to Get You Started:

  • Chinos can replace your khakis
  • They can be dressed up or down, going with everything from t-shirts to dress shirts
  • They make it easy to add color to your bottoms
  • It’s important to pay attention to outfit and color combinations in the photos you see
  • throughout this guide, don’t focus on fit, we’ll cover that further below


  • They make a great alternative to jeans and dress pants
  • Chinos can be worn with everything from a t-shirt to a dress shirt
  • From sneakers to dress shoes, chinos go with all sorts of footwear
  • Rolling your chinos at the bottom is a stylish look
  • Unwashed chinos are more dressy than washed chinos
  • Your body type determines what fit style you should go for
  • A tailor can hem your chinos to the right length for you
  • Chinos comes in many different colors
  • Wash your chinos in cold water to avoid shrinking them
  • Chinos are different from Khakis


Chino pants are trousers made from chino cloth, which is a twill fabric made of 100% cotton. Chinos were originally part of a military uniform because of their durability, but were soon adopted as day to day wear.


Pleated Khakis

Flat Front Khakis


Photo Credit: Nordstrom

Your mind may have jumped to khakis as soon as you saw chinos. However, chinos and khakis differ in a few ways:

  • Chinos are made of a lightweight cotton fabric, while khakis are made with a heavier weight fabric
  • Chinos fit more snugly, making them more modern and stylish
  • Chinos always have a flat front, where khakis can have a pleated front
  • Chinos come in wide variety of colors, whereas “khakis” (which is actually just a reference to the khaki color of the pant) are available in traditional colors like cream, navy, and of course khaki


Chinos can be worn exactly as you would wear your khakis and then some. If you are choosing between khakis and chinos, you should definitely choose chinos because they look more modern and are so much more versatile.

Sometimes you’ll see pants that almost look like chinos, but they have similar details to jeans, like full back pockets. These pants are called “5 pocket cotton pants”. 5 pocket cotton pants are between chinos and jeans on the dressy scale and are a good option for those who like to keep things on the casual side versus going full chino.

5 Pocket Pant Front

5 Pocket Pant Back

Photo Credit: Nordstrom

You can wear cotton pants as you would wear chinos, with a few exceptions. For example, 5 pocket cotton pants are closer to jeans than dress pants, so if you were to wear them with a blazer, you wouldn’t pair them with a dress shirt and wear them to a wedding or a formal business meeting. Instead, treat them as you would wear jeans with a blazer and understand they don’t belong in formal settings.

How to tell the difference between chinos and cotton pants? Check out the pockets. Chinos always have slit back pockets, whereas a cotton pant will have full back pockets. You will also notice a difference in stitching details; chinos have subtle stitching while the cotton pants have obvious stitching details like you would see in jeans.

Chino Back

5 Pocket Pant Back

These cotton pants have 5 pockets just like jeans do, 3 in the front and 2 in the back (there is a pocket in pocket in the front), whereas chinos have side slit pockets. Rivets near the belt loops is another marker of the cotton pant, just like jeans have.

Chino Front

5 Pocket Pant Front

Photo Credit: Nordstrom

Which should you go for? It depends on your personal style. If you are more of a casual person, 5 pocket cotton pants will work fine for you. If you want the flexibility to dress them up a bit, chinos are your go-to’s. It’s also nice to mix it up and have one of each and see what you end up wearing more.


Chinos and Jeans are two different things. Chinos are more “dressed up” than jeans. However, you can practically wear any top and shoe that you would wear with jeans with chinos. Swapping out jeans for chinos will give you a smarter and more professional look when you need it.


Chinos are slightly more casual than dress pants and that’s because of their material. Chinos are made of cotton where as a good pair of trousers is made out of wool and in turn has a drapey look. A dress shirt or button down can easily be worn with chinos and, optionally, a formal shoe to dress it up. However, it will be less formal than the same outfit worn with dress pants.

Wool Dress Pants

Cotton Chinos

Photo Credit: Nordstrom


In the chino family, there are a few different details that can make the pants more dressy or casual. Let’s go over them!


Sometimes you’ll see Chinos say “washed” or “broken in”, this just means they don’t look “new” and were pre-washed by the manufacturer. Some people prefer washed because they look more casual and are more comfortable than a brand new crisp chino. However, you will notice the “unwashed” chinos have a bit of a shine to them, which are better for dressing up.

Unwashed (notice the sheen)

Washed (matte look)

Photo Credit: Nordstrom

For example, if you wanted to pair your chinos with a blazer, for say a wedding, go for unwashed as it will complete the look nicely. However, if you wanted to keep the look slightly casual and with a blazer, say for work, a matte finish could work.

Unwashed Chinos + Blazer = Dressy

Washed Chinos + Blazer = Smart Casual

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Pinterest

Washed chinos will also fade naturally, keeping up with the casual side of things, whereas unwashed chinos are not meant to fade and will keep that sheen.

Which one should you go for? If you like to look sharp and dressy, get unwashed chinos. However, if you’re naturally a casual person who likes a slightly rugged style, go for the washed chinos. Keep in mind, washed chinos pair better with a t-shirt and sneakers look, whereas unwashed chinos pair better with a dress shirt and dress shoes look. Can you dress up washed chinos? Totally. Throw on a button down, tuck it in, and pair the look with a dress shoe.


Some chinos come with a vertical crease at the front of the pants, which makes them more dressy. Wearing creased chinos with a casual outfit like a t-shirt and sneakers will throw off the look, so stick to a dress shirt, button down, or sweater if going for the crease.

Chinos with a crease

Chinos with no crease

Photo Credit: Nordstrom

To crease or not to crease? No crease is more of a modern look and makes your chinos more versatile, especially if you like to wear them casually. On the other hand, having a crease can make your chinos look more formal, especially when wearing them with a blazer. It’s also worth noting a crease makes the leg from knee to ankle look slimmer, which works for guys who like a slim leg, but can’t wear slim pants.


Modern way to wear creased chinos, notice the length and slimness

Photo Credit: @blake_scott

Although having a crease is a traditional look, it can be made modern by wearing them at a shorter length like in the photo above.

Note: If your chinos already come with a crease, keep them creased by folding them at the line when hanging them in your closet. It’s hard to add a crease to non-creased chinos, it will just come undone throughout the day.


Chinos can be worn in a wide variety of ways, which makes them so versatile and fun to wear. Whether you want to wear them with a t-shirt or dress shirt, there are a couple details to keep in mind.


When it comes to length of chinos it’s best to either go for no break or a slight break in your pants. A break is the amount a pant dents at the bottom.


No Break

Slight Break

Photo Credit: He Spoke Style

Medium Break

Full Break

Photo Credit: He Spoke Style

Chinos should have a clean finish, so I advise against going for a full break. If you like some breaking at the bottom, medium break should be your maximum. You can ask a tailor to hem the bottom for you to get your perfect length.


Having no break in your pants is a modern look. If you like showing off fun socks or like the no-show sock look, this is a great choice since it exposes some of the foot when wearing a low cut shoe. When going for no break, the chinos should stop at the lower ankle, near the ankle joint.


No break front

No break back

No break side

Photo Credit: Nordstrom

Examples of how to wear no break:

No break with loafers

No break with sneakers

No break with derby

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Pinterest, Pinterest

Note: You can choose to wear no show socks or fun socks if going for a no break chinos and exposing a little ankle.


Having a little bit of a break won’t expose sock and foot, unless you sit down. If you work in a professional setting or prefer a classic look, this might be the one for you. The pants will hit the top of your shoe and will bend slightly. The pants shouldn’t go past the middle of the back of your shoe.


Slight break front

Slight break back

Slight break side

Photo Credit: Nordstrom

Examples of how to wear a slight or medium break:

1/2 Break

1/4 Break

Photo Credit: Pinterest, I Am Galla

Break or no break? The choice is totally yours. Do you like to show off socks or like the no-show sock look? Go for no break. If you like stick to a classic look, do a slight break.


Multiple breaks can be tricky. It’s not the end of the world if your chinos have multiple breaks, however they do give your pants a very casual and rugged look. If you want to go for multiple breaks, keep the leg slim to skinny, which prevents the chinos from folding over your shoes and looking frumpy. If your chinos end up having multiple breaks when worn with boots, it’s okay. More on boots and chinos in the next section.

Multiple breaks on a slim leg looks rugged

Photo Credit: ASOS, Pinterest


Full or multiple breaks with a looser leg will make your chinos look like they are bunching at the bottom and are too long for you. Chinos should have a clean finish and wearing the right length will help achieve that. Bonus: Chinos at the no break or a little break length will make you appear taller, as the bunches will weigh you down. Check out the following examples for what NOT to do.


Multiple breaks on a loose leg just looks like your pants are too long

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Pinterest

These pants are too long, they looks bad

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Pinterest

Note: If you chinos or pants do this, you can get a tailor to “hem” the bottom for you to your correct length. More on that in the tailoring section.


Photo Credit: Iconnico

You might have noticed in some of the photos that the chinos are rolled or cuffed at the bottom. This look is a very casual, yet style forward way to wear them, especially in the warmer months. You can pair the rolled up look with anything from sneakers to boots.


Roll up your chinos when you want to look casual and relaxed. Rolling is great for warmer days unless worn with boots. Avoid rolling in formal settings.


Photo Credit: Cool Men’s Gear

Rolling your chinos is easier than you think. The photo above shows three rolls you can try: (1) pin-rolling; (2) messy roll; (3) cuffed

A couple of notes:

  • It’s ideal to roll them a maximum of three times, as the more times you roll, the bulkier the bottom will get
  • You can show a little bit of ankle, but don’t go too high (refer to photo above)
  • Chinos that are slim or taper at the bottom will work better for rolling as a wide leg can unroll easily
  • It’s best to practice rolling when wearing the pants


Step 1:Fold chinos at the bottom about ½ an inch. If you want to keep the roll low, you can fold ¼ of an inch or at the hem stitching at the bottom. If you’re rolling your pants while wearing them, have your thumbs on the outside of the pants and fingers inside of the pants and then fold up. It’s easy if you fold at the front of the pants first, then continue the fold at the back.

Step 2:Roll once more, this time the roll will be about an inch. This is the step where you can decide how wide you want the roll to be, so feel free to go up or down from an inch. Smooth out the fold. If you like this length, you can stop here.


Step 3:Repeat step two. If you feel the roll is too high, put your thumbs inside the roll and push down a bit until you get to your desired length.

Voila! There you have it. Keep practicing and it will get easier and easier, I promise. For more precision, wear your shoes while rolling to get the right length.

Note: If you prefer the messy roll, don’t smooth out the folds.

Here’s my IG video on how to roll your pants.


More and more men are showing off their fun socks or going for the no-show sock look as a stylish statement, especially with chinos. In order to do this successfully, avoid ankle cut or low cut socks, the last thing you want to do is show sock and foot at the same time.


You can have fun with prints or keep it solid when choosing socks. If you’re exposing socks, make sure no skin on your foot is showing. It’s pleasing to the eye if the sock color compliments a piece of your outfit (i.e. blue chinos + green socks = works!).

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Note: If I just confused you about color matching, here’s a quick lesson using the color wheel

Photo Credit: The Martingale Blog

Colors opposite of each other, including the colors to the right and left of that opposite color, work well together. Example: Yellow works with purple (opposite), purple-blue (left of purple), and red-purple (right of purple).

Also, any three colors next to each other work well together. Example: Yellow works with green-yellow (left of yellow) and yellow-orange (right of yellow).


You might have noticed in a number of photos it looks like the guys are not wearing socks. However, the trick to save your shoes and feet from odor is wearing “no show” socks.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

You can wear no-show socks with everything from dress shoes to sneakers. However, skip the no show sock look for formal occasions. The example below is an easy look to try as a stepping stone to wearing cuffed chinos and no show socks. The casual look with fresh white sneakers and a rolled up button down is perfect for testing out on the weekend or on vacation.


No show socks + sneakers + cuffed chinos = stylish!

Photo Credit: Lifestyle by PS


A lot of styles of shoes work with chinos and that choice can easily dress up or down your outfit.


Sneakers, including slip ons, will dress chinos down, but you can keep them stylish by going for a leather or suede sneaker as opposed to a running shoe. No break and rolled chinos work really well for this look. This combination is perfect for weekends and traveling, as it provides form and function.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo credit: Pinterest, Pinterest


Boat shoes are a step up from sneakers and are great for looking smart and casual at the same time. From a t-shirt to a casual blazer, boat shoes work well with a number of looks. Avoid boat shoes for any formal occasions.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Pinterest


Loafers pair well with chinos for guys who like to dress up thier look a bit. From penny loafers to tassels to suede to leather, they come in a number of styles for you to experiment with. You can show your socks with loafers or opt for no-show socks.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Nordstrom


Oxfords and Derby shoes look great with chinos and can easily be dressed up or down depending on what your pair the look with. Wearing suede styles can help keep the look slightly more casual, while leather can really dress it up. This is a great shoe to pair when wearing chinos with a blazer for a formal look.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

, Photo Credit: Pinterest, Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Pinterest


Monk strap shoes pair really well with chinos. Although on the formal side, you can wear them with something as simple as a t-shirt to something as formal as a blazer and decide where you want to take the look.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Unkempt Gentlemen, Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Pinterest


Pairing chinos with boots is a very modern and fashion forward look and can be worn in a number of ways. Keep in mind, when wearing them with boots, they may slightly bunch at the bottom and it’s okay.


There are a couple ways to wear rolled chinos with boots and it depends on your boot style. If your boots have a wide opening, you can roll your chinos to the top of your boot.

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Pinterest

If your boot has a slim opening, you can roll your chinos to the middle or right below the top of your boot.

Oxford boots have a slim opening, you can cuff chinos on top for a clean look

Photo Credit: Pinterest

You can also roll and tuck the front part of your chinos under the boot tongue.

Chinos rolled and tucked into boots

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Pinterest


If your boots are slim at the ankle, you can wear your chinos over your boots for a clean and classic look. Make sure the chino fits comfortable over the boots. When wearing boots with chinos, multiple breaks will naturally occur and it’s okay.

No break chinos over boot

Chinos with a break over boots


Photo Credit: Pinterest, Pinterest

Chinos over Chelsea boots

Photo Credit: Pinterest


If your boots have a tongue that sticks out (like in a desert boots), you can tuck the chino into the tongue and have the rest of the chino naturally fall to the sides and back. Chinos with a slim ankle work for this look, whereas a wide chino would have too much excess fabric hanging off the side.

Chinos tucked into tongue of boot

Photo Credit: Pinterest


Fully tucking in your chinos into your boots is a casual and rugged style. Slim chinos work better for this look. You can either fold the chino out like in the example on the left or tuck your chinos nice and tight into your socks and let them naturally fall out as you walk. Make sure your chinos are not ballooning out at the ankle.

Chinos folded out then tucked in

Chinos cuffed on top

Photo Credit: Pinterest, I Am Galla




Wearing a belt with your chinos is optional. You’ll notice in some photos guys are wearing tucked in shirts without a belt, this works fine for a casual look. Not wearing a belt when wearing monochromatic colors streamlines the body and makes you look taller.

No Belt + Chinos = Modern

Photo Credit: Pinterest

On the other hand, wearing a belt with a tucked shirt is a smart and professional look and will tie your outfit together nicely. If you’re worried about the belt causing a break in your body, go for a belt and shoe color that is close to the color of your chinos (i.e. navy chinos and black belt and shoes; green chinos and brown belt and shoes).

Chinos + Belt = Classic Style

Photo Credit: The Modest Man


What to wear with your chinos can be broken down by Casual, Smart, and Dressy. You can mix and match the tops, outerlayers, and shoes to make something casual look more dressy and vice versa.

A couple of notes:

  • (1) Avoid mixing casual tops with very formal shoes (dressy boots are fine, but not dress shoes)
  • (2) Mixing casual shoes with the dressy category can make a stylish statement, but remember it dresses the look down (i.e. dress shirt, chinos and fresh white sneakers = stylish, but should not be worn to a formal setting.)
  • Casual: T-shirt, Henley
  • Smart: Button Down Shirt, Polo
  • Dressy: Dress Shirt
  • Casual: Sweatshirts, Hoodies
  • Smart: Cardigan, Sweaters
  • Dressy: Blazer
  • Casual: Denim Jacket, Bomber Jacket, Parka
  • Smart: Suede Jacket, Leather Jacket, Harrington Jacket, Quilted Jacket
  • Dressy: Peacoat, Over coat
  • Casual: Sneakers, Street Shoes, Casual Boots
  • Smart: Oxfords, Derby, Loafers, Nice Boots
  • Dressy: Dress Shoes, Dressy Boots

Example Outfits

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Supreet Chahal

Supreet is a Fashion Stylist from San Francisco, CA. She helps both men and women establish a sense of style and dress with confidence. If you want to work 1:1 with Supreet, visit StyleBySupreet.com. If you're a guy looking to learn more about style, check out PocketStylist.io, a site dedicated to teaching men how to dress well.

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