Do You Chino?

Written by reagan alexander
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The chino checks back in -- with color

Do You Chino?
Chinos have grown beyond their earth tones of yore. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

"It's hard to beat chinos because they're so versatile -- you can dress them up or down, they always look good and they're super comfortable. They're like the man's little black dress!"

— Estee Stanley, Celebrity Stylist

If fashion is art, the chino is the landscape painting hung in Best Westerns around the world. Pragmatic, ubiquitous and remarkable only in its ability to be unremarkable, the pant that was born from the military uniforms of the late 19th century has been an ordinary but ever-present staple of men's fashion for more than 100 years. However, the chino is looking to break ranks from its khaki past, popping up in a variety of colours and a handful of styles that make the reinvention of the chino worth noticing. The question is, with summer fast approaching, how does a guy achieve the new chino chic?

Embrace and Expand

Except for those rare acrobatic instances, we all put our trousers on one leg at a time. It's what we do after we put on the trousers that makes, or breaks, an outfit. The chino has sustained a solid reputation as one of those fashion foundations that begs for simplicity no matter what the colour scheme.

"Chinos are something that are always coming back into style no matter what happens in the world of fashion," said celebrity stylist Estee Stanley. "It's hard to beat chinos because they're so versatile -- you can dress them up or down, they always look good and they're super comfortable. They're like the man's little black dress."

It's an article of clothing, historically tapered, defying pleats and so simple and functional that it seems to fly in the face of the audacity that makes fashion fun, but the chino is changing -- expanding even for warm weather, not just in colour, but in cut.

"When you think of chinos you always think of a khaki or a neutral colour, but designers like Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors and H&M are spicing it up with pop colours for spring," Stanley said. "And these chinos aren't cut the way you see the country club-goers wearing them. These are different shapes from skinny leg to loosefitting, rolled-up cuffs and Bermuda shorts. These new shapes and colours are sexy and fresh."

Getting to Know Your Inner Chino

With the confluence of comfort, fashion and tradition that the chino offers its wearer, it can be hard not to get ahead of yourself as far as building an outfit, and it's been said that fools rush in where even H&M dares to tread.

For London transplant and current Los Angeles fashion editor and stylist Charles Adesanya, pulling off the chino look is all about keeping things uncomplicated.

"Chinos pretty much work for themselves. They send the message of comfort and demure style when dressed correctly," he said. "So start simple. Try a pastel blue or darker blue slim fit or tapered [cut]. It'll remind you of denim, in which we always feel safe and confident."

As your chino confidence rises along with the temperature, you'll soon be wondering how you ever lived without a pant that can work in the office as well as in a bar or on the beach.

"You can experiment with fit and color, but that doesn't mean it has to be bold," Adesanya said. "Pastels are a nice color trend to pay attention to, and you can team them with a polo shirt from Paul Smith, Ralph Lauren or Lacoste."

Mastering Color Combos

Even the wearer-friendly chino comes with its share of fashion pitfalls. Its greatest asset, versatility, can work against guys who start to think that it's a pant that can weather any styling storm. With the new-found popularity of the coloured chino, it only takes a few missteps to get you from casual cool to looking like you should be tying balloon animals at a children's birthday party.

"Stick to solid colours," Stanley advised. "You can mix it up, and you shouldn't be afraid to put on colours that you wouldn't think would go together; just stick to a max of two contrasting colours to avoid looking like a clown."

It's not just colour abuse that can get you into trouble, Stanley warned, pointing out that it's the pattern of the shirt that carries with it equal parts importance and peril.

"Don't wear prints," she said. "A stripe could be OK, but anything in the paisley family will make you look like you belong in a Miami nightclub circa 1985."

Yet, in the end, as in all things fashion, it's not what you wear, it's how you wear it.

"Confidence is key," Adesanya said. "And even with the pastels, you can keep it masculine. The great thing about fashion and style is not to place too many rules -- we have enough of that in life. Have fun but not at the expense of good taste, and you'll soon be addicted to this look."

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