Shh. Listen. Hear the word “chinos” and the first thing that probably comes to your mind is posh country clubs, Renoir-style boating parties, gin and tonics, late afternoon games of croquet on Great Gatsby-like lawns, prep schools, Whit Stillman movies, the Upper East side, and The New Yorker magazine… but chinos are more than that. Much more! Worn the right way, and matched with the right gear, these 20th century classics of the American wardrobe can be as cutting edge as any piece of streetwear.
On the pant spectrum… chinos exist somewhere between khakis and formal dress pants. The classic piece of menswear is believed to have originated as a pant worn in military uniforms.
The word chino means "toasted” in Spanish, which may or may not refer to the beige, almond color of traditional khaki chinos. At the same time, chino could also refer to Chinese origins of the original fabric. Slightly baggy, chinos were originally designed for comfort. They were marketed to the average All-American guy. Somewhere along the way, however, chinos became associated with preppy style.
But here's the thing, gentlemen… chinos come in countless different colors and styles. While there’s nothing “street” about a traditional pair of khaki chinos, a pair of monotones or camouflage chinos, stone washed or cut and stylized with metal detailing, is as urban underground as it gets. Pair them with a vintage denim shirt and work wear jacket and you’re as far away from preppy, Woody Allen style as you can get.
If prep school fashion hijacked chinos, which, as we already stated, was originally designed for the average All American man, then it’s high time that streetwear fashion return the favour and hijack chinos from the preppies. At the same time, all this cross-cultural hijacking just proves how versatile and adaptable chinos are.
In the end, the man who embraces a war cry of individuality knows that mixing and matching styles is the way to go. True individuality comes with blurring and bending the rules. It’s as true in fashion as it is in art and music.
Now let’s hear that war cry!