The History of the Chino

The History of the Chino

Menswear’s most versatile piece has a unique military origin story

Other than a pair of jeans, it's hard to think of a more American garment than the chino. They call to mind distinctly American images—everything from Ivy League campuses to classic Hollywood and casual Fridays. It should be noted though, the casual cotton pants weren't invented here in the States. Their story begins on the other side of the pond and starts, like so many pieces of men's fashion lore, with the military. 

In the 1840s, British colonial soldiers marching through India dyed their white uniforms to match the terrain's dusty, saffron-hued sand. In fact, the term khaki is derived from the Hindi word “khak,” meaning "dust-colored." Eventually, every soldier was outfitted in khaki cotton uniforms and soon they became standard issue for many of the world's military. Decades later, during the Spanish-American war in the Philippines, lightweight cotton twill pants produced for soldiers in China were similar to the khakis but cut with a more streamlined design. The name “chino” comes from the Spanish slang for China.

Image credit: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

 Eventually, it was young American soldiers who introduced the pant to civilians. The young GIs would sport their tan uniform chinos on college campuses after returning from World War II. Durable, comfortable and adaptable to any range of styles and colors, the gents wore the drill-cloth pants with everything from T-shirts and sneakers to oxford cloth button-downs and loafers. And because the trousers were as timeless as they were durable, the style endured.

Bridging the gap between your daily denim and some proper trousers, a pair of sturdy cotton chinos are an essential part of a man's wardrobe. The key is finding the right pair. Staying true to the iconic pant’s provenance, our twill chinos are ruggedly durable, crisp and comfortable.

But most importantly, they’re versatile and built for performance. Cut from Japanese twill cotton that’s been updated for mobility with four-way stretch and a unique recovery technology that allows it to keep its shape after multiple wears. The sharp silhouette pays homage to the standard-issue chinos of decades past, and the slight taper to the leg adds a modern sensibility.

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