Developing and refining a great wardrobe often comes down to the best menswear essentials you can trust – like chinos. Start with the proper building blocks and you’ll be rewarded handsomely down the line, in matters of style and utility in equal measure. And the chino is a must-have that works especially well during fall and winter.
Like other dependable men’s style staples, like the field jacket or the white T-shirt, the chino’s roots were at first purely functional – they began as a Chinese cotton twill pant worn in the Spanish-American War before transitioning slowly but surely into civilian life. Chino, as luck would have it, is the Spanish word for “China” – not far from the Philippines, in fact, and the rest is history.
Brief lesson aside, why do you need chinos in your cold-weather wardrobe? The style is a touch more streamlined than blue jeans, making them a reliable business casual style option, sure. Chinos are an ideal option for fall given their substantial, polished drape – perhaps a reason the cotton twill fabric was preferred by the armed forces. You’ll also find chinos in plenty of fall-ready colorways, like various shades of deep brown, tan or rust.
Plus, who doesn’t love transitioning their wardrobe away from shorts, light wash jeans or linen trousers into something more hardy for fall? Chinos are your best bet in that case. The good news is, modern pairs most often have a decent amount of stretch, making them a comfortable move on the road, at the office or around town.
But beware: Most guys should stay away from pleats and overly baggy or relaxed-fit pairs these days – even though we find both ends of the style spectrum wearing them, the out-of-touch guy and the bleeding edge fashion guy. For now, we’ve got some Primer-approved picks that fit the bill nicely. Chinos may just become your new favorite pants this season.
If you’re talking the best chinos for men, you’d do well to talk Bonobos. The NYC-based company was founded with a simple goal: Make the best-fitting pair of chinos on the market, and well over a decade later, they’re still striving upwards. The key with Bonobos chinos is the use of helpful stretch for comfort, but it’s the company’s signature curved waistband that helps deliver a highly agreeable, mobile fit. These are priced at nearly $100, but given your choice of six fits, a range of waist and inseam sizes, and more than 15 color options, you could argue they’re worth the higher price tag.
Remember what we said about reliable style building blocks? J.Crew excels as well as any major brand at delivering classics in a modern way, classics that look great on every guy. In our experience, buying from J.Crew doesn’t mean sacrificing quality, fabric or fit, and the pricing for its wear-with-anything chinos (under $80 without a discount) is plenty agreeable. This pair features a timeless design with side hip slant pockets and a slimmer leg. Note that J.Crew also offers its chinos in straight-fit and athletic-fit builds, and in an astonishing array of fall-ready colors.
You could say that Dockers helped bring the chino into the mainstream (think: Casual Fridays or business casual style we talked about earlier), but the good news is, things have gotten more sleek, cool and stylish since those days. Take the Ultimate Chinos, with an apt name, a cleaned-up fit and no pesky pleats. We’re big fans of colors like Dark Ginger, which turn these into a seriously fall and winter-minded pair of pants in terms of style potential. Throw in the sub-$50 price tag and you’ve got a proper pair of the best chinos for men.
As with the reliable blue jean, it can be tough to find pants that work well if you’ve got bigger thighs or a bigger rear. Yet, you don’t want to veer to far into “relaxed fit” territory, either. What’s a guy to do? Opt for some extremely affordable, sub-$40 athletic-fit chinos designed for those with more built legs. The use of 2 percent spandex here gives them crucial comfort, while the leg opening is still tapered for a clean finish.
It makes perfect sense that Buck Mason – a brand that frequently nods to the past in its classically inspired designs – would produce a standout pair of chinos for men. The details here are timeless, from the mid-rise to a fit that tapers slightly below the knee. For those who prefer more room to move, these cotton slub twill chinos are available in a straight fit (Ford, shown) as well as slim (Maverick). Either way, you’re getting a substantial yet soft, garment-washed set of cotton twill chinos available in a range of pleasingly faded, versatile colorways.
The chino is about as all-American as it gets, right up there with the blue jean and the white T-shirt, and American Giant takes that ethos to the next level with the Sawbuck Chinos. They’re made the old-school way in Texas using a heavyweight stretch cotton chino twill fabric for durability. They’re well-suited for fall and winter in that regard, and they boast a more classic fit that should rest fit in nicely with equally substantial style picks like sturdy leather boots (the Red Wing Iron Ranger comes to mind). Just know that the USA-made construction makes them quite pricey compared to others on this list (they’ll run you nearly $200).
On the other end of the spectrum from pricey, USA-made chinos sits Uniqlo, always a trustworthy purveyor of budget-friendly style essentials for men. Its chino pants run slim but come in a range of waist sizes. They’re also perfect if you favor more minimal style, with dressy colors like Dark Gray, Black and Navy readily available. They’re so nicely priced, you could snag multiple pairs for your office wardrobe without breaking a sweat.
The Amazon Essentials line aims to corner the market on your wardrobe in several categories, all at tremendous prices. These chinos check off several boxes, from the stretch fabric to the highly wearable athletic-fit design. Colors like Dark Burgundy are seriously cool and well-suited to fall, especially with rich brown leather boots, a white henley and a grey shawl cardigan. And just as with Uniqlo and other affordable pairs of the best men’s chinos, you can snag multiple pairs without thinking twice.
The Devil-Dog Dungarees name dates back to New York in the late 1940s, and although the company no longer makes its hard-wearing jeans or chinos in the U.S. of A., they’re still a brand committed to accessible quality and fair pricing. This writer has tested out the brand’s well-fitting stretch jeans – which aren’t nearly as thin as other stretch jeans can be – and the Performance Twill Chinos seem to fit much the same mold. Think: A no-nonsense design, a timeless straight-fit cut, and a color that works well with blue chambray shirting, a brown corduroy trucker jacket or an olive henley.
Western Rise pants were developed with the modern man in mind– its durable stretch fabrics are made to resist stains and moisture, and they feature plenty of helpful pockets to take you from town out onto the open road. While some of the company’s styles feature an elastic waistband, the Evolution Chino is an all-new product, featuring four-way stretch Evolution fabric, crucial stain resistance and useful modern touches like a media pocket for your phone. Chinos you can wear to the office as well as out on a moderate hike are rare, but this pair delivers (trust us, we’ve tried ‘em).
If you’re searching for chinos that feel more like wearing tailored sweatpants (with polished style still at the forefront), you very well might want a pair of chinos from Mugsy Jeans. The stretch chino fabric is probably the “most stretchy” of any pair in our list of the best men’s chinos, while the Olive color is crisp, versatile and well-suited for the darker tones of fall. They’re pricier than other options at just above $100, but worth it all the same given the blend of comfort and fit.
If you’re searching for a polished pair of chinos to wear with closet staples – everything from a pocket T-shirt to a chambray shirt to a navy blazer and merino tee – Spier & Mackay checks the right boxes. Even more incredibly, they do so for under $50 for a pair of cotton chinos finished off with a soft garment-dyed process. Take your pick from eight colors guaranteed to get better the more you wear them, and be sure to check out Spier & Mackay’s three fit options, from Extra Slim to a more reasonable Contemporary. Note that the inseam is unhemmed, but tt that price, you’d do well to snag more than one pair.