You’re thinking about denim, right? Nope, it’s not that. I would have thought so too. But let me explain why another pair of pants tops denim as the most versatile pants a man can wear.
What’s versatile anyway?
To start this off, we need to ask ourselves: What does versatile mean?
- Comfortable? Yes, of course.
- Fitting? Please.
- Easy to wear and combine with basically anything else? Indeed.
But the most important aspect is the ability to dress this pair of pants up or down for (almost) every occasion. That’s what versatile should be. Now let’s take a look at everybody’s most beloved pants: denim.
Why is denim not versatile?
Well, denim is pretty versatile. If you opt for the right color, that is. Dark wash denim — indigo or black — is a classic, timeless piece of menswear that we probably all have or at least had at one point. It won’t go out of style anytime soon and is a great choice for any man.
Dark wash denim is versatile in that you can dress it up or down. It shines in casual outfits with just a basic t-shirt on top, for example. You can also pair it with a button-down and a blazer. A smart casual look. But this is as far as it gets. Smart casual is also not my favorite way of styling denim. I prefer it casual.
What’s more versatile
There’s another style of pants, however, that you can dress up even more and still be rocking casually with a t-shirt and kicks.
Those comfortable cotton trousers are the perfect middle-ground between casual denim and fancy dress pants.
From street style to dapper looks, smart casual to office attire, a nice chino has you covered.
Let me tell you a secret: I own one pair of chinos. It’s more than 5 years old. It cost me $15 (on sale). And I wear that pair to death. I even wore it to my wedding. How about that?!
Get the right chino
As with denim, the color of the chino matters quite a lot. A pair of salmon-colored chinos won’t nearly be as versatile as a neutral-colored one. Also, please don’t buy salmon-colored chinos!
As I described in a previous article, a solid foundation is built upon neutral colors. That is as true for tops as it is for pants. Therefore, your first pair of chinos (or your only pair if you’re a wannabe-minimalist like me) should preferably be one of the following colors:
- dark gray
Extensive list of options, right? Yeah, I know. But it’s all for the greater good. These two colors are easily paired with anything else. Some of you might ask for black. Yes, black is a great color, too. But here’s my take on it: Cotton trousers in black can sometimes make you look like a waiter. Especially when combined with a white shirt. The picture above shows that a black pair does work. But I’ve seen a few fails as well. So take black with a grain of salt. I love black, don’t get me wrong. I do prefer navy in this case, however. Black denim is perfect on the other hand.
If you get more than one pair of chinos, you’ve got a plethora of color choices. Some of my favorites include: tan (or beige), khaki, gray, dark green, dark brown, olive, or even burgundy. I’d stay away from white and neon colors. It’s hard to get these right.
Not every chino is created equal
When it comes to fabric quality, chinos come in a wide variety. The most affordable pairs are made out of a thin, sort of matt cotton surface. I like the look of these. As I said above, I own a pair of chinos from H&M* that only cost me $15 on sale. They usually go for around $30. I’m impressed how well mine has aged. I do wear my chinos regularly.
More expensive chinos come in a luxurious, soft finish, that is more comfortable than cheaper models in most cases. These often resemble dress trousers and can therefore be dressed up even more. With a blazer in the same color, you could mistake a high-quality chino for suit pants. If you’re looking for a high-quality chino, I can recommend the brand Asket.
In my opinion, chinos take the cake as the most versatile and sort of underrated style of pants in menswear today. The simple fact that you can wear them with a t-shirt and kicks one day and with a shirt, a blazer, and dress shoes the next, makes chinos the perfect all-rounder.
If I only owned one pair of pants, I’d go for navy chinos* any day. Luckily, I own a couple of other pants as well. I love my denim, I can’t live without joggers right now, and I do like a good dress trouser, too. Check out my tips for a basic wardrobe & more menswear content here: