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What are Chino Pants? The Ultimate Guide to Chino Pants and What They're Used For

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An Introduction to Chino Pants

With a million different selections out there, modern professionals need to be able to distinguish between formal and casual pants and know how to style both. One of the more popular and easy to wear styles for both men, women, and everyone in between are the chino pants. They straddle the line between casual and formal, making them a versatile addition to any wardrobe. Wondering how to best select chinos for men? We’ll provide the ultimate guide on the history and origins of chino pants, what chino pants are, the difference between chino pants, jeans, and dress pants, and give a couple styling tips.

What are Chino Pants?

Chino pants are semi-formal pants that are made of a twill woven lightweight fabric such as cotton or twill with concealed stitching. Chino trousers can be thought of as cotton khaki pants. They have a wide range of colors available, with hidden pockets, flat fronts, and were originally designed for military use.

Chino pants for men were first used as military trousers during the Spanish-American war, due to their lightweight fabric. They were the ideal summer uniform, both breathable and durable. Since then, they have filtered down to become one of the most popular civilian pant styles. Because chino pants are both considered casual when paired with T-shirts and professional when paired with dress shirts, they become one of the most useful pants to have in your wardrobe.

Tan Chinos


Chino pants are typically made of a lightweight cotton blend or 100% cotton with a tight weave. You can think of them as cotton khaki pants. Nowadays, more chinos are also designed with a thicker blend, making them comparable to the comfort and warmth provided by jeans. They are usually cooling and the material is breathable, making chinos perfect for both summer settings and indoor offices. 


Chino pants for men have a wider tapered cut (wide at the thighs, tapering down at the ankles) and will have no pleats, noticeable seams, and a single angled pocket on each side. The lack of the pleating, originally designed to save fabric, has now made the chino incredibly easy to store and pack. 


The chino is a perfect blend of casual fun and elegant professionalism. Popular colors are typically light shades of beige, camel, and nude. Muted colors such as grey chinos are also useful to have in your wardrobe. But brighter colors, such as pink, navy, and olive green are also becoming more popular and fashionable. Here's a guide on how to wear grey pants with brown shoes for men.

 Grey Chinos

What is the Difference between Pants and Chinos?

The modern professional needs to be able to distinguish between dress pants for formal occasions and the ever changing business casual. Fortunately, the chino pants for men are versatile enough to be used in both occasions. We have listed the main differences below. 

  1. Material - Chino trousers are made of a canvas like fabric in a variety of colors. They are durable and cooling. Dress pants are typically made of wool, giving them a smooth finish and are softer than chinos. 

  2. Occasion - Chinos for men can be worn at both formal and informal events, depending on how they are styled. They match well with informal tees as well as with button down or button up dress shirts. Dress pants are mostly for formal events and can look incomplete if not paired with a suit jacket or a sports coat.

  3. Upkeep - Chino trousers can be machine washed, but be sure to check the care instructions with each pair. Pants on the other hand may need to be dry cleaned only, especially if they are made of wool or wool blends.

    What is the Difference between Chinos and Jeans?

    Both jeans and chinos are versatile for business casual attire which makes them popular choices for pant styles. In fact, it's been found that statistically your appearance can even affect your pay! As such, it’s more important than ever to know how to style yourself and both jeans and chinos are an easy way to improve your style. While jeans and chinos are very similar, there is one big difference: formality. 

    Formality - The biggest difference between chinos and jeans is that while chino pants for men can be worn on both formal and informal occasions, jeans are typically only worn on informal occasions. Women’s chinos, however, may sometimes be too informal, depending on color choice. 

    Material - Chinos are made of twill or cotton while jeans are made of denim. However, they are both durable and comfortable to wear.

    Use Case - Chino trousers are typically lighter than jeans and are perfect for the summer and spring seasons, while jeans are thicker and better suited to colder seasons. But a pair of black chinos easily becomes more versatile than a pair of black jeans. 


    What are Chino Pants Used For?

    Chino pants for men are used for a variety of different events. If you compare chinos vs. khakis, you’ll see that chinos can be worn on many more occasions. 

    Formal events such as weddings, workplace events, and interviews. Black chinos or tan can be a great match for formal events. 

    Semi-formal events such as holiday parties, fine restaurants, and awards ceremonies. Black chinos or grey chinos are good matches for semi-formal events.  

    Casual events such as dinner dates, happy hours, and birthday parties. Colorful chinos are great matches for casual events. 

    Basically, whenever you want to wear a light but still stylish pair of pants in the summer, chino pants are a good choice. 

    Why is it called Chino Pants?

    There are two distinct theories on why it is called chino pants. This also helps clarify the chino vs khaki question.  

    The most popular theory stems from the 19th century. The term comes from the Spanish slang word for Chinese ‘Chino’. This was popularized during the Spanish-American War in the Philippines. At that time, the twill fabric it was made of was exclusively imported from China and the nickname of the ‘chino’ caught on. While khakis were also originally military uniforms, chinos for men became more slim fit and removed the pleats from khakis in order to conserve fabric.

    The term could also have originated from the South American Spanish word for “roasted”, which is Persian in origin and refers to the typical tan color.

    What to Wear with Chino Pants?


    On formal occasions, you should stick with the more traditional colors of tan, nude, or beige. They can be easily styled with a simple white dress shirt and a formal blazer or sports jacket. With a buttoned up shirt and a decent tie, you’ll be able to show off your sophisticated style while adhering to the formal dress code. 



    On semi formal occasions, chinos are easily the best pick. Chinos for men can be styled with a large variety of items ranging from a patterned button down to sweaters or even a wool coat. As long as you have a clean dressy shirt and a pair of closed toe shoes, you’re fine to go. 


    Are chino pants for men casual? Yes, they can be! On casual occasions, chinos are a great way to show off style while keeping that elegance. Casual pairings with chinos include T-shirts, graphic tees, jean jackets, sherpas, and even Hawaiian shirts. There is no end to the possibility of combinations and it is a great opportunity to wear bright colors as well. White chinos paired with a denim jacket, faded red chinos with a navy blue dress shirt, or navy chinos with a light pink dress shirt are all great combinations. Black chinos are also popular and go great with most shirts. 


    Casual Chinos


    In conclusion, chino pants are one of the most versatile pants out there. They can be worn in both formal and informal situations and come in a variety of colors. There’s endless ways a chino can be styled and they are often both durable and comfortable to wear. The lightweight material is perfect for summer and spring seasons and they are a perfect way to express sophistication and personal style while adhering to any sort of dress code. They have evolved from their origins as military uniforms to a pair of versatile pants that everyone should own at least one pair of. 


    • What are Chinos?

      Chinos are pants made of a lightweight material such as cotton or twill that are often worn in both formal and casual occasions. Traditional colors are tan and beige. 

    • What are Chinos vs Khakis?

      Chinos come in a more variety of colors than the typical tan khaki, with hidden pockets, a lighter fabric, and have no pleats in the fabric at all. They are more fitted and cut in a slimmer fit than khakis and can be worn in both formal and casual occasions, while khakis are more often worn in casual occasions only.

    • Are Chinos Dress Pants?

      Chinos are not dress pants, but they can also be worn in formal occasions. Dress pants are typically made of wool and are usually worn with a suit jacket and only on formal occasions, while chino pants are made of a canvas like material and can be both formal and informal. 

    • What is Chino Cloth?

      Chino cloth is a twill fabric made of cotton that was developed in the 19th century for British and French military uniforms. It’s designed to be comfortable and durable. 

    • What are Chino Pants for Women?

      Women’s chinos are made of the same material as men’s chino pants and are used in both formal and informal settings. They are comfortable, slim fit, and easy to style with blouses and blazers.