It’s the go-to look for so many men who work in business-casual offices. So why do khakis so often look so bad? Nine style experts share their secrets to finding a long-lasting, tasteful pair of cotton pants
By MAX BERLINGER
When it comes to below-the-waist options for guys, chinos are the perfect pant for our times. Straddling the divide between the casual cool of jeans and the formality of suit trousers, they serve a workaday function that can be flattering if done right. But like so many menswear mainstays, not all chinos are created equal. There’s a wide variety of cuts, shades and prices on the market, to the point of overload. And that’s why we’re here. We called on some of our most stylish friends to weigh in on their favourite pairs, and why exactly they stand out from the crowd. Here’s what we found.
The For-Most-Men Pick
Recommended by: Josh Peskowitz, men’s fashion director at Moda Operandi.
Peskowitz enjoys these chinos because of their versatility. “They are literally an all-day, every-day fit,” he says. “They can be dressed up or down.” That extends to their cut, which is middle-of-the-road and suitable for a variety of body types. “They are trim but not too slim, I like things to be fitted but not tight.” He does have one tip though: “The key is making sure they are tailored to the right length.”
Ralph Lauren Eaton cotton-blend twill trousers, US$450 (RM1,863), modaoperandi.com
Chinos for Skinnier Legs
Recommended by: Jack Sachs, owner of Drama Club.
“The Italian fashion group Slowear didn’t technically invent chinos, but to the extremely loyal followers of their iconic trouser label Incotex, they may as well have,” says Sachs, owner of a trendy clothing boutique in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighbourhood. “All of the Incotex line is crafted with the kind of Venetian attention to detail you’d expect from a fine suit and is unparallelled for a pair of casual pants. This ‘slacks’ cut is slim but in a sturdy stretch cotton updated with an over-dyed olive green.
“I like to go one size above what I’d wear in a pair of jeans, so there’s a bit more room in the seat, but still a respectably trim leg. Unless you’re shredding at the skate park or still dressed by mom for Easter Sunday, a pair of chinos should have tapered leg to match your own.”
Slowear slim-fit trousers, US$340, slowear.com
The Chinos for When You Wear a Lot of Chinos
Recommended by: Chris Rovzar, editorial director of Bloomberg Pursuits.
“I work in a semiformal office environment, and I went to boarding school, so I’m used to having tonnes of pairs of khakis,” reports Rovzar. “Every year or so, I just go over to Uniqlo and buy a whole stack of these in different colours. They’re surprisingly well made — the fabric is thick and thus avoids that weird creasing behind your knees that some figure-hugging cotton pants can develop.” They’re also a flattering cut for slim guys who are also a little bit athletic.
“No one but the most waifish of humans should dare try the ‘skinny’ fit,” says Rovzar. “God help your calves if you do.” The Uniqlo pants are also so cheap, you don’t mind if you wear them out or spill something on them. “J Crew khakis used to be my inexpensive go-to. That position has been usurped.”
Uniqlo flat front slim fit pants, US$39.90, uniqlo.com
The Drawstring Pants for Easygoing Guys
Recommended by: Isaiah Freeman-Schub, editorial director of Framebridge.
“Five years ago, you would have found me judging people that would buy — gasp! — drawstring chinos,” says Isaiah Freeman-Schub, the former fashion editor at WSJ Magazine. “How lazy can you be? Then, I actually wore some. Comfort ensued. I converted.
On a plane, Saturday bodega runs, brunch, the gig economy — all great places where drawstring chinos are appropriate attire. These ones from Save Khaki are just tailored enough to show you care, but roomy enough so you forget you’re wearing them. I often find myself wearing these and only these for an entire weekend.”
Save Khaki easy chino, US$120, savekhaki.com
The Full-Cut, Pleated Pair
Recommended by: Justin Berkowitz, fashion director at Bloomingdales.
“Some people are denim people; by nature, I am not,” says Berkowitz. “My love of a cotton pant knows few bounds; early on in my career a certain publicist even lovingly gave me the moniker ‘Chino’ because of my disposition.” While slim-cut is an easy go-to for most guys, fuller cuts have been entering the market and making waves in trendy circles in recent months — a movement that Berkowitz approves of.
“Lately, I have been all about takes that include plays on volume and with pleats. This pair from Ralph Lauren, exclusive to Bloomingdales, with not one but two (!!) pleats, is a personal favourite from our spring assortment.”
Polo Ralph Lauren Yale Brixton pants, US$148, ralphlauren.com
Khakis for Thinner Guys
Recommended by: Steve Dool, trend forecaster and author of a forthcoming book about shoes
“I’ve been on the thin side ever since I was young (save for a brief stint in college when drinking beer roughly every day padded me up), and for that reason, especially as I’ve gotten older, I’ve generally avoided pants that are too skinny or cut too generously,” says Dool. “Both tend to make my frame look even narrower. These trousers from Acne Studios are a great fit. The taper isn’t crazy, and I’m not swimming in fabric, either.”
Acne clean trousers, US$220, acnestudios.com
The Forgiving Chinos
Recommended by: Patrick Doss, menswear expert at TheRealReal.
Most chinos tend to be either skinny in the leg or have a low rise, so they can really feel painted on,” says Doss, a menswear expert at the luxury vintage site The Real Real. “The tailored fit of Brunello Cucinelli chinos always works well for me. They have a medium rise and a slimmer, but not skinny, leg, which is more comfortable.” And don’t be afraid to embrace cargo pants — Cucinelli’s discerning work is a far cry from the baggy shape you may be envisioning.
“I like this particular pair of Cucinelli chinos because they’re a take on vintage military style that feels modern. They’re versatile enough to pair with almost anything.” If you’re willing to splurge on a new pair (US$845), you can find them here.
Brunello Cucinelli flat front cargo pants, US$95, therealreal.com
Two Fits for Silicon Valley Guys
Recommended by: Victoria Hitchcock, Silicon Valley-based stylist and image consultant.
“The nylon stretch in these is a good introduction to my signature “tech” look,” says Hitchcock, a stylist who works with many Silicon Valley power players. The style comes in three fits, and Hitchcock likes “fit two” for “mean and lean” guys (ie skinny dudes). She also likes “fit three” which is slightly looser and more relaxed.
“It’s the modern replacement for those wide-legged khakis I’m always trying to confiscate from my clients,” she says. “They’re a much more versatile fit and can be worn slightly relaxed on slimmer guys or as a more tapered fit on guys with bigger legs.”
Rag & Bone flyweight chinos, US$225, ragandbone.com
The Colourful, Versatile Slim-Fit Pant
Recommended by: Stylist Andrew Weitz of The Weitz Effect.
“I am a fan of Isaia’s slim fit chino,” says Los Angeles-based men’s style consultant Weitz. This sport pant “toes the line between traditional and modern for a tailored silhouette that’s not too tight”, which helps all body types look good. Isaia offers a variety of colours in this lightweight cotton fabric, which is also woven with a slight stretch for comfort and ease. “This chino is great for everyday wear, especially at the office when paired with a casual shirt, blazer and a great loafer or sneaker.”
Isaia slim fit chino, US$212, saksfifthavenue.com