Cotton twill trousers (CTT), commonly referred to as chinos (but I prefer the former to the latter because it just sounds that much smarter), are this season’s must have alternative to denim. Because of the versatile fabric, CTTs are available in [almost] every colour and pattern under the sun. If you’re a neutrals guy, you’re covered… if you’re into prints and bold patterns, no problem.
How should they fit?
Cotton twill comes in all types – from super casual to fine, almost-dress-pant weaves. Casual twill trousers should fit you similar to the way your denim fits – snug around the waist but sitting on your hips, slim in the leg and tapered from the knee down. The extent of the taper depends on your personal preference and body type.
Dress twill trousers on the other hand, should fit similar to your suit trousers. They will sit slightly higher on the waist and have a similar fit in the leg as your favourite pair of tailored suit pants. If you are not a suits guy, think Harvey Specter – snug, but not too snug in the leg, tapered from the knee down and cut to just hit the top of your shoe. If the pant is too long and rests on your shoe, too much of a break will be created, causing the pants to pool around your ankles and ultimately resulting in you looking sloppy. Keep in mind, however, chinos almost always look better cuffed or rolled. With the casual style, you may want to go longer to allow for a once or twice [stylish] roll, and for the dress chinos, a 1.5 or 2 inch cuff to add a more sartorial look.
Too scared to dip into the pantone book of chinos? Stick with the neutral grey, blue and khaki shades. Runways have shown a plethora of chino-focused looks, exemplifying their versatility. Pairing blues with contrasting blues on top or greys on the bottom and blues on the top or even the classic khaki on the bottom with a blue shirt or blazer on top. They’re great for the office when you don’t have those must-be-in-a-full-suit meetings.
If you’re an adventurous man who likes to explore new trends and turn heads with statement pieces, stick a pin in a pantone book and you will surely find a chino available in the colour you land on. This season is all about the pastels. Still easy to wear and quite versatile, you can offset the formality of a blue suit jacket by pairing with a nice pastel blue or yellow chino and a solid or minimally printed shirt [caution: you will also look like you just stepped off a yacht and are ready for a Negroni – I’d argue this is a good thing, but to each his own!].
Great, now which brands make em best?!
Funny you should ask… I happen to have had experience with quite a few different CTTs and am happy to share some insight. Because cotton twill trousers are always [yes, always] made of cotton, the variance between the cheapest and most expensive is not as much as it is for a dress pant. That being said, without incorporating wool (like dress pants normally have) you can get chinos for significantly cheaper than the cheapest dress pant.
Here is a guide to buying CTTs, based on your budget.
H&M, The Gap, Uniqlo and Old Navy all have their own line [or lines], of chinos. I like The Gap’s slim and skinny fit chinos and have also have had luck with H&M and Uniqlo. I haven’t checked out the Old Navy variety, but assume they are comparative to The Gap. If you’re unsure whether or not you are able to pull off or don’t know if you will feel comfortable in coloured chinos, I’d suggest grabbing a cheaper pair from one of these stores and giving them a shot before committing and investing in a more expensive pair.
Middle of the road.
If you don’t mind spending a little more for a little higher quality and probably a little bit better fit (depending on your body type, of course) check out the chinos at Club Monaco, J.Crew, Top Man and Banana Republic. All of these stores have classic (bigger and looser) and slim fit chinos for you to choose from. I’d suggest trying on a pair of each to see which looks best on your body.
High end & designer
As for the higher end, fine twill chinos, there are a few brands that do it right. Incotex, Canali, Freemans Sporting Club, Cucinelli at the higher end of the expensive scale, and Ralph Lauren, Reiss, Ted Baker and Brooks Brothers at the lower end of the expensive scale.