Staple #23: The Chinos
One of the most frustrating and fun challenges of building or improving a man’s wardrobe is finding versatile items of clothing. Unless you’re one of the rare men who’s happy to admit he’s a clothes horse, you don’t want an entire bedroom converted into a closet, just so you have enough space for your shoes.
On top of wanting to avoid the tedium of picking through ten pairs of pants with only slight variations in color or style, most men either can’t or don’t want to invest a significant portion of their money into a huge wardrobe. So taking the time to find and purchase pieces that can be worn in multiple situations helps the average man save time and money – making this whole process a lot easier.
One of the most versatile items a man can own is a pair of neutral chinos. They can be dressed up or down, travel well, are great for any season, and are common enough that they won’t draw attention if worn multiple times in a short period. By purchasing a pair that fits right and omits offenses like a break that’s too long or multiple pleats, you’ll avoid looking like a Best Buy employee.
To that effect, I wanted to show that you could even wear them with a navy polo and avoid the correlation, simply because everything fits well and is simple.
There is absolutely nothing attention grabbing about a pair of chucks, some chinos, and a polo – and that’s the way it should be. You can still look well dressed and respectable without coming across as overdone or too fashion conscious.
This is the kind of thing you wear to your nephew’s baseball games on Saturday morning, to your parents’ for Sunday dinner, when you’re picking up a buddy from the airport, or when you got home from work and don’t plan on going anywhere important. It’s comfortable and simple without being sloppy, feminine, or childish.
The Dockers Alpha Khakis are a great option for your work-horse chinos. They fit slim without being tight, taper in a visually masculine way, and avoid any ostentation like excessive stitching, extra pockets and flaps, or large logos. I suggest getting at least one pair in a neutral shade like khaki or grey, but they have quite a variety of colors for when you’re ready to start expanding. The weave of their cotton is a little too rough to wear well in most business or formal situations, but they’re great for casual, business casual, or business in a pinch.
By upgrading your shoes, throwing on a button-up shirt, and your trusty navy blazer your can take the same pair of pants to a business lunch, on a trip, or out to dinner. The key, as always, is a good fit in every item.
You can even dress down your business casual (or dress up your casual) one level further by wearing the same ensemble and forgoing the belt and wearing louder, bolder socks (or none at all).
And while most chinos are going to be too casual for your business wear at home, they’re great to pack for business trips. You can get a lot of mileage out of the same pants. By wearing the exact same clothes as your business-casual outfit but adding a tie, belt, and (possibly) more somber socks, you’ll be able to make your sales pitches, meet up with the boss, or impress the new company you’re interviewing with.
Of all of the Staples, the chinos will probably see the broadest range of possibilities in your closet, so take the time to find something that fits right, is the best neutral color for you, and will last a while. It’s worth investing the money and time.
Photos by the talented Chad Keyes.