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The Ultimate Style Guide For Chinos VS Khakis

Khaki and chino pants are both extremely popular choices for men of every age due to their longevity, versatility, and comfort. In contrast to suit trousers and dark denim, a pair of khakis or chinos may be worn with a vast array of different clothes, dressing them down for a casual affair or up for a smart look. But do you distinguish between chinos vs khakis?

All too often, the terms chinos and khakis are used interchangeably. The problem with that is that they are not the same. Sadly, most articles attempt to answer this question simply by giving the history of each pant style, which does not do a good job of explaining the differences. While a brief history of each is explained here, this article goes into greater detail to fully explain all the differences. So just what is the difference between khakis and chinos? Much has to do with construction and fabric.

What Is The Difference Between Chinos And Khakis?

In the case of chinos vs khakis, one easy way to spot the difference is to observe the stitching. On chinos, the stitching is concealed, which gives them a dressier, more polished look. On khakis, the stitching is visible. 

Another difference is the fabric weight. Khakis are usually made from a heavyweight cotton fabric whereas chinos are usually made from lightweight cotton or cotton-blend material in a tighter weave. Typically, chinos provide a closer fit and are cut slim, giving them a formal appeal, whereas khakis have a fuller cut which makes them more versatile and comfortable.

Khakis are straight-legged, often have pleated fronts, and are cuffed at the bottom. Chinos are flat-fronted with tapered legs that may be cuffed or uncuffed. Traditionally both pant styles came in a medium tan color but now khakis are available in earth tones like beige, navy, light brown or black and chinos are available in a vast range of bold colors.

Fabric Choices

Khakis are made from 100% cotton twill. Chinos may be made from either 100% cotton twill or a cotton-blend. Regardless, the material is more breathable and wears extremely well over time. Chinos are often better suited for summer wear because they are available in bright colors and use a lighter weight cotton.

Chinos VS Khakis: Which Came First?

Khakis preceded chinos. This is surprising given that khakis are more intricate, as they often have pleats, which requires a greater degree of craftsmanship. Originally, khakis were worn in the mid-19th century as part of the military uniform for British officers located in northern Colonial India. The term khaki derives from the Persian word meaning dust, used to define the pant’s color. Worn by an assortment of adventure movie characters such as Indiana Jones, khakis have become a popular clothing staple.

Chinos also started in the military, but at the time of the Spanish-American war. Manufactured in China, these lightweight cotton twill pants were modeled after khakis. The term chino is derived from the Spanish slang term for China. To conserve cloth, these pants were designed without pockets or pleats and with tapered legs. This resulted in a streamlined fit which has lasted through the ages. Today, both pant styles are a popular alternative to jeans.

Chinos Or Khakis: Which To Wear

Aside from the style differences between chinos vs khakis, there are some other traits that might help you choose which kind of pants to wear for particular occasions. To begin with, chinos are available in many more colors than khakis. The vast color assortment allows for more styling options according to season. Second, khakis have pronounced pockets whereas chinos have concealed pockets. The hidden pockets make chinos more suitable for dressier occasions. Third, khakis can have flat or pleated fronts but chinos are always flat fronted.

This is only a matter of preference, however, a pleated front is generally more traditional. Additionally, if you have broad shoulders, or you are a little on the heavy-side around your midsection, pleats help balance your body proportions. Flat fronted pants flatter slimmer bodies and are more modern. Both chinos and khakis are better than jeans for dress-up occasions. Chinos and khakis can be worn to the office.

Is There A Need For Chinos And Khakis?

khaki pants for sale

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Chino and khaki pants are an important staple in any man’s wardrobe. As far as men’s pants go, chinos and khakis are the most versatile. Not only do these pants look good with a button-down, t-shirt or sweater, but they also go great with a sports coat or blazer for a dressier event. Chinos and khakis are better than jeans because they breathe easier and are far more comfortable. This is particularly true during the warmer months because of the worn-in soft cotton twill material that breathes more easily than denim.

Additionally, when you want to add more color to your wardrobe, chinos are an excellent choice. In many ways, a good pair of chinos or khakis can help you stay relaxed while preserving a smooth and smart look. In today’s world, it is important that fabrics produce the day-to-day flexibility that modern man demands. Most importantly, chinos and khakis are a must-have for their ease of transforming from day to nightwear, with sporty and classic looks for daytime and plenty of dress-up options for an evening out.

How To Style Chinos And Khakis

In the category of chinos vs khakis, both are just as easy to wear as jeans, and perhaps even a bit more versatile. Like jeans, both chinos and khakis can be worn casually or in more formal situations. However, chinos and khakis allow you to kick it up a notch in the formality area. Khakis can be worn for anything from household chores or a jog through the park, or for a night on the town with a special someone or to your office. Chinos are great for casual wear but also pair excellently with blazers and sport coats for a more dressed-up look.

How To Wear Chinos

A good fit is vital when wearing chinos. They should not be too tight or too baggy. Chinos streamline and elongate your appearance while pairing well with a button-down shirt that is tucked-in for easy styling. Accessorize with a woven belt for a polished look that complements a youthful figure. Your chinos should not be too long. The leg length should be either at the ankles or just skimming the tops of your shoes.

What To Wear With Chinos

For a casual look great for warm, sunshiny days, pair your chinos with linen and chambray shirts. For a more dressed-up look, pair with blazers in contrasting colors. Additionally, don’t be afraid to add some personal touches for a more refined look. Knitted ties and pocket squares are also a great way to dress up your chinos in a relaxed way.

Chino Colors

You have a lot of freedom when choosing chino colors. Traditional favorites such as cream, white and navy work well with many color combinations. Grass or emerald greens provide a novel influence to casual styles.Choose earthy browns and muted blues for a rugged masculine look. Regardless of which color you choose, opt for classic hues for a timeless look.

How To Wear Khakis

Your khakis should sport a mid-rise fit that rests around your hips, below your belly button. Although khakis are supposed to be a little roomy, they should not be baggy. Your khakis should provide a look that is athletic as well as relaxed. A unique aspect of khakis is that they look better with age. For casual wear, a broken-in pair of khakis is perfect. Some slight fraying on the cuffs gives them character. Of course, when wearing khakis for a more formal occasion, choose a newer pair.

What To Wear With Khakis

You can pair up your khakis with anything from a blazer to a t-shirt. Khakis look great with casual, soft-shouldered jackets such as linen, corduroy or cotton. Pair your khakis with loafers, leather boots, suede oxfords, or wingtips, and a leather belt when dressing up. For a casual look, pair your khakis with chambray or denim button-downs, sweaters, henleys, and solid or striped t-shirts. Choose canvas sneakers, boat shoes or chukkas to complete the ensemble.

Khaki Colors

Khakis are available in a handful of colors but the most common is medium-tan. For a sharper and more flexible look, go for a darker brown instead. Another classic color choice is navy, which goes well with a button-down shirt or a sports coat. Both colors pair well with a variety of other colors and styles.


golfer in khaki pants

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

With chinos vs khakis, although there may be more similarities than differences, khakis and chinos are two separate pant styles. Both are extremely versatile clothing choices, excellent for social gatherings, a day at the office, boat trips, backyard barbeques, or a night out on the town. Both styles can be dressed down with a t-shirt or casual button-down, and both can be easily dressed up by pairing them with a blazer or sports coat along with a nice pair of dress shoes.  How you choose to wear them will depend on your needs and your style. Perhaps you are having a hard time choosing between the two styles? Guess what; both will fit excellently into your wardrobe and your life, so go ahead splurge! Get some of each!

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