Chinos for Spring and Summer

Like I mentioned in my “Spring Selections” post, chinos are a great item to have on hand when the weather starts to warm up (and they’re much more affordable than loafers, too). Like many other popular men’s garments, chinos have a military background but have become immensely popular with civilians over the decades. They offer a casual alternative to denim, and are equally appropriate in business casual offices and summer beach houses. I generally look for chinos in the off-white, grey, and khaki spectrum, but there are plenty of companies offering them in bold colors. The choice is up to you.

I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite models below; any half-decent men’s store should have plenty this time of year, but these are the ones that I’m most familiar with.

Uniqlo: This Japanese retailer has become popular for its inexpensive basics, and their chinos are some of the most celebrated. Their Vintage Chinos are accessible in both price and fit; they come in at $40 and are a fairly classic fit with a very slight taper. I have these in a size 31 and the leg opening is about 8″ across. The material is not great – it’s rather flat and dull, but at $40 or under they’re fairly priced. They also have a slim fit model, but these are VERY slim and are much too tapered for my tastes, even for casual use. All told, though, the Vintage Chinos are a decent buy for the price.

J. Crew: J. Crew has a variety of cuts for chinos, but I’m most familiar with the Urban Slim Fit. This fit has a bit more taper below the knee than the Uniqlo Vintage Chinos – my size 31Urban Slims measure 7.5″ across the hem – but the thigh and rise are somewhat similar (i.e. not aggressively slim and low). There is a big jump in material and construction quality between the two, and these can often be had for $50 or less during sales.

Club Monaco: This mid-tier retailer, owned by Polo Ralph Lauren, is surprisingly new to the online retail game. Their aesthetic is certainly similar to J. Crew, and I find most of their products to be comparable in cost and quality. Their “Davis” slim fit is my personal choice, and is similar in price and fit to the J. Crew Urban Slim (CM does have two other fits, in case you want something skinnier or fuller). I don’t think there’s a huge difference between these and J. Crew’s, but I’ve found that Club Monaco’s clothes tend to go on deeper discount during sales.

Brooks Brothers: BB has a few different options; their Milano chino is a fairly office-ready style of chino, but is reasonably slim through the thigh and calf. They also have a new line of aptly-named “Slim Fit” chinos from their youthful Red Fleece line. I have not tried these on, but my hunch is that they’re a bit slimmer than the Milano and feel more casual due to the garment-washed fabric.

Epaulet: Epaulet’s offerings seem to expand every time I look at their site, but chinos and trousers have been one of their classic items from the beginning. Their Rivet Chinos are a big step up from the mass-produced items above – they’re made in the USA by a highly regarded company, and the material and construction quality are very good. Prices vary from $135 to $165, which is a reasonable price for what they’re offering. I would try to describe the fit myself, but you’d be much better off just reading their product measurements on the site.

Bonobos: I say this with a bit of hesitation, since I think Bonobos has changed as a company quite a bit in the past few years (I don’t think I’ve bought anything from them since 2011). Their fits have evolved a bit since I was buying chinos there, but they offer a solid product with a slightly different shape (usually a bit slimmer in the thighs and seat – see measurements here). Personally, I find their aggressive use of patterned liners a bit annoying, but it can look fine if you only have one pair. They also have some other options without the “statement pockets.” I think their stuff is too pricey at full retail, but they can become a good option during sales.

Dockers: Another popular budget option (from the infamous source for multi-pleat chinos) is the Dockers Alpha Khaki. These tend to run quite slim, and feature a lower rise and casual detailing. For that reason, I think they’d be more at home with a polo or casual shirt rather than an OCBD and blazer. They can also be found on Amazon for prices as low as $20.

Incotex and Mabitex: I am not personally familiar with these two Italian companies, but their names always come up when people talk about chinos (and I’ve seen many great photos of them in the past few years). The quality of their garments is supposedly high, but the fit varies considerably depending on the model. If you want to check them out, here’s what they have on YOOX.

As always, there are many great options that I have inevitably left out. Who makes your favorite pair of chinos? Let me know in the comments below.