You know, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about men’s pants.
As staples go, denim seems like an obvious go-to. But when you break it down, denim isn’t the most versatile choice for our wardrobes.
Another style takes the cake, in my opinion. Let’s break it down together!
Versatility is the name of the game
Now, when I say versatile, what exactly do I mean?
For me, versatility comes down to a few key factors.
First, the pants need to be comfortable — able to be worn all day without restricting movement.
Second, they require a great fit — tailored but not too tight.
Most importantly, versatile pants should effortlessly pair with other items to work for any occasion. Whether dressing an outfit up or down, the versatility all-star transitions seamlessly.
Why not everybody’s favorite, denim
Denim does offer some versatility, there’s no doubt about that.
A dark wash — your straight blacks or rich indigos — makes for a timeless classic. It’s a look most men have tried at some point, and for good reason.
A dark-wash denim can switch from casual to semiformal without a hitch. Throw it on with a basic tee or button-down and blazer, and you’ve got yourself a sharp, smart casual style.
But its range stops there.
Denim doesn’t really take you into genuinely formal territory.
The versatility king
So what outpaces denim for versatility?
Enter the chino.
The often-overlooked chino pant perfectly straddles the line between laid-back denim and dressed-up tailored slacks.
Chinos can shape-shift effortlessly from streetwear to sleek professional. They’re the true all-rounder pants.
Let me let you in on a little secret. I own a single pair of chinos — just one! — that I bought on sale years ago for $15 at H&M. This ridiculously low-price H&M staple is still crazy affordable without sale at $30.
They’re nothing fancy, but I wear them more than any other pair of pants I own. I even wore that trusty pair on my wedding day, if you can believe it.
I know, madness.
How & why
Stick to neutral colors like navy or charcoal gray for optimal versatility.
And don’t be tempted by stuff like bright white or salmon pink — leave those statement shades to the people who really know their stuff.
A colored chino expands your options once you’ve got the basics covered.
I’m a fan of tan, olive, dark brown, and even burgundy. Just build up gradually. And remember — not all chinos are created equal.
My beloved chinos are a thinner cotton with a matte finish. They seem almost casual compared to dress slacks. But the quality of such an inexpensive pair still impresses me years later.
On the higher end, you’ll find chinos with a sumptuous feel and sheen. These can mimic slacks when paired with a blazer. For top-notch chinos, I like Asket or COS, or even some designer brands, although I try to stay away from expensive items as much as possible.
I have kids… multiple small kids. They ruin clothes quickly.
The bottom line… ehem, get it?!
Ultimately, the chino’s adaptability makes it the versatility MVP in my book.
It masters both ends of the menswear spectrum. The fact that my single trusty pair has served me so remarkably well proves the point. Given the choice of only one pant, I’d be rocking navy chinos daily until the sun sets.
Of course, it’s nice to have variety — rotate in some denim and dress pants too. Joggers definitely have their place. You get comfy chinos with waistbands, now, too.
But it’s tough to beat the versatility of a great chino. Take it from someone who has field-tested this extensively!
If you’re interested in more menswear tips, check out my recommendations on crafting a capsule wardrobe and other back-to-basics style advice. Let me know if you give chinos a try — I’d love to hear your thoughts!