Finding the best chinos for men amid a sea of formless khakis can be a painful ordeal, especially given what a crazy couple of years it’s been for pants generally. Weirdness abounds: swishy is king, pleats are back, dress pants are enormous, and it all can be a little overwhelming at times. Thing is, the plethora of groovy trousers doesn’t mean that more earthbound bottoms are suddenly out. There’s plenty of room under the Golden Age of Pants umbrella for the classics, and it doesn’t get any more classic than some hardy, reliable chinos.
As far back as World War II, men’s fashion has turned to chinos for their sheer utility and versatility. There aren’t many types of pants, after all, that feel as at home covered in grease in a mechanic’s garage as they would at a garden party in Martha’s Vineyard. Chinos are the crème de la crème of casual pants, just the sort of bottoms to make you toss your joggers into the back of your closet and consider (gasp!) swearing off sweatpants for good. You can wear them with a beefy Oxford cloth button-down and slip-ons at home, a crisp white T-shirt and scuffed sneakers to the bodega, or a blazer and loafers at your friend’s laid-back barn wedding upstate. Point is: Regardless of what you wear ‘em with, a trusty pair of chinos will never do you wrong, no matter how attached you’ve become to your loungewear.
The Best Chinos Shopping Guide
What makes a good pair of chinos?
A classic pair of chinos is usually made from a mid-weight cotton twill fabric that fall smack dab in between a typical shirting fabric and your average pair of blue jeans. (For the nerds, that’s about 8-ounces). They’ll fit like a well-tailored trouser, with a mid- or high-rise and, generally, a darted rear waist to hug your bum in the most flattering way. Many higher-quality chinos will also include a curtained waistband which is an extra piece of fabric fixed to the inside of the waistband. This helps reinforce the waist, prevent it from rolling, keeps the pockets lying flat, and covers the inner seam work (don’t worry, it’s really not necessary).
What’s the difference between chinos and khakis?
Scratching your head at the menswear parlance? You’re not alone. Khakis and chinos are quite similar and, it can be difficult to tell the difference between the two. To be honest, those differences are pretty minor and the lines between the two just seem to be getting blurrier every day. Both are usually made from a cotton-twill fabric with slanted hand pockets as well as welted pockets at the rear (as opposed to the patched pockets you’d find on a pair of jeans). But the menswear cognoscenti will tell you that khakis tend to use sturdier fabrics while chinos are ever so slightly lighter (yeah…silly). Not only that, khakis are also more strongly tied to the dusty beige color from which they gets their name, so you’re more likely to see a pair of navy cotton twill pants dubbed as chinos rather than khakis.
Wait, do I really need a pair of these?
If you’ve been off the chino train for a minute, right now is a great time to hop back aboard—after a decade or so of slim fits dominating the conversation, designers are shifting back towards a straight-fit silhouette that’s more comfortable, universally wearable, and altogether timeless. When you’re sick of all the bonkers prints and voluminous cuts dominating the rest of your wardrobe, these 19 unflappable pairs—yes, the very best men’s chinos on the market today—will be just the palate cleanser you need. (If you’re looking to get back into the chino game for less, you’ll find plenty great pairs to work with, but you can also check out our favorite khaki pants under $100.)
The Best Chinos Overall
J.Crew’s been on a tear recently. With Noah founder Brendon Babenzien at the helm, the catalog brand-turned-mall-stalwart has made some stylish shakeups, all while referencing what it’s always done well in the past—and that very much includes their chinos. To be clear, they were never really bad to begin with, but for several years, the focus has been on the brand’s slim-fitting silhouettes. Rebooting its relaxed-fit chinos—the kind you remember from vintage J.Crew campaigns of the ‘90s—is one of the best decisions they’ve ever made. They’re relaxed but not overly baggy, with a gently tapered fit below the new, and the fabrics used are the best of the mall brand bunch. Plus, they boast details normally featured on their higher-end counterparts, like waist curtains and bound seams. Are there nicer chinos out there? Sure. Are there nicer chinos for the price? No way.
The Best Budget Chinos
The Dickies 874 is a verified menswear icon and, in many ways, the perfect pair of pants. (Hell, we’ve sang the praises of Dickies’ signature work pants so many times over the years, you could probably write this blurb for us.) They’ve got the higher-waisted, wider, straight-leg cut we’ve been digging lately, and they’re made out of the iconic structured cotton-blend fabric that the 874 is known for. That means they’re tough enough to stand up to construction sites and skate sessions, versatile enough to wear to the office or the bar, and come in roughly as many colors as a bulk pack of Crayola. Oh, yeah, and they only cost about $30, which leaves plenty of room in your budget to tailor ‘em down a smidge or simply stock up on extra pairs. All of which is to say: this is by no means the last time you’ll read about Dickies 874s on GQ.com.
The Best Upgrade Chinos
Todd Snyder’s well-known round these parts as a general upgrader. Blue jeans? His are better. Button-ups? Also better. Outerwear? Not just better, but damn-near the best. Same goes for his high-quality chinos. They’re cut from a crisp Japanese selvedge twill from Kuroki Mills, the kind of fabdic you’d expect to find on a pair of selvedge jeans in a cooler-than-thou denim boutique. They feature on-seam hand pockets for a more streamlined look and nearly indestructible old-school melamine buttons. As for the cut, these babies are relaxed. Like, actually relaxed. They’re bordering wide-legged, if we’re being honest. And in the year of our Lord, 2023, that’s really all we want.
The Best So-Hot-Right-Now Chinos
Okay, so when we said earlier that J.Crew is on a tear, we really meant it. The brand’s Giant-fit chinos helped solidify the wide-leg wave as a legitimate movement, selling out several times over—and catalyzing just as many glowing takes in the process. The good news is that the frenzy has settled down (mostly), and you can nab a pair for yourself right this very instant. Like the other J.Crew joints we spotlight above, these are a straight-up 100% cotton chino available in a full range of certified classic colors, including black, navy, and stone. Heads up: if you’re not a fan of pre-cuffed hems, you might want to bust out a seam ripper and an iron.
The Best On-the-Go Chinos
In pre-pandemic times, you had a lot on your plate—meetings, dinner dates, maybe a flight in the mix—and you needed pants that could keep up. Now, with life (mostly) normal again, you’ll want to readjust your wardrobe to your new (old) routine. And if that means moving around more, like further than a 3-block radius from your apartment, or even means commuting to work, you’ll need a pair of pants designed to handle a high degree of wear and tear. That’s where these stretch chinos come in. They’re fashioned from a super breathable, weather-resistant polyamide-elastane blend that wards off wrinkles. They won’t sag in the face of constant movement, or weigh you down in a gross pool of leg sweat. Wear them all week at home, toss ’em in your suitcase before your first next trip, whatever: they’ll stay looking fresh and crisp through it all.
The Best Fashion Guy Chinos
Studio Nicholson might not be a household name, but the British label has steadily cultivated a devoted following off the strength of its big, billowy silhouettes, top-tier materials, and subtle design flourishes. (Think massive trench coats paired with crisp, almost tent-like button-ups, and a smart color palette of dusty tans, deep navys, and inky blacks.) While the Crew’s Giant-fit chinos are undoubtedly large, Studio Nicholson’s Sorte trousers are—wait for it—even larger, and might be—gasp—even more deserving of the “giant” descriptor. Add to that massive pedigree a couple of deep pleats and a clean hem and you’ve got a supremely understated chino that still manages to speak volumes.