The best shoes to wear with chinos

The best shoes to wear with chinos

Chinos have been knocking around since the late 1800s and, like many other items of clothing, have military roots. Specifically, American armed forces stationed in the Philippines during the Spanish-American war had their uniforms made from Chinese twill cotton, and the term ‘chino’ derives from the Spanish word for ‘China’. 

Now you know the answer to a question that you probably didn’t ask.

Chinos & Dress codes

Chinos are traditionally a flat-fronted cotton trouser with a straight leg. Modern sensibilities tend to favour a slim fit, but wider fits are also common. They are usually found in block colours and, unlike jeans or formal tailoring, can commonly be found in bold and adventurous colours alongside traditional navy, grey and khaki.

Chinos offer a wide array of uses in the modern wardrobe, though it is worth noting before we begin that they are seen as a more casual item, therefore not appropriate for pretty much any dress code that calls for ‘formal wear’, so don’t go wearing chinos to a black tie event or you’ll look like a numpty.

Instead, think of chinos as a solid choice for the wonderfully vague dress code ‘smart/casual’. Small changes to the rest of the outfit can heighten or decrease the chinos’ formality, depending on the occasion, and your shoes play a large part in that. 

Dressing them up

If you’re looking to put a smarter ensemble together for something like a summer wedding, first date, or Friday-at-the-office, it’s a good idea to stick with a safe colour of chino so that your shoes will work with them effortlessly. Black shoes would arguably be too formal of a choice for chinos, so opt instead for a dark brown or burgundy oxford to really make your navy or grey trousers look the business.

Chinos paired with a checked or striped shirt would benefit greatly from a classic pair of brogues – few outfits wouldn’t. A smooth leather brogue has an unmatched ability to dress up an outfit and it’s no different here.

You could go one step further by pairing your chinos with a navy blazer and a white dress shirt, which would work nicely with a well-polished pair of oxford toecaps. Again, stick with a versatile colour in the shoe such as mocha, dark leaf or burgundy for reliability. A knitted tie adds a nice finishing touch here without looking out of place.

Dressing them down

A true testament to the chino’s versatility is the ease with which you can wear them casually. I love adaptable items of clothing like this; it means that you can wear a bunch of different shoes with them.

At the polar opposite end of the formality of shoes we’ve mentioned previously, we have trainers. Even though these are as casual as you can get (apart from maybe flip-flops, but I’m not going to condone wearing those with chinos), it’s important to make sure they’re of a high quality. In terms of both comfort and longevity, a trainer made of natural materials is a more desirable option for pairing with chinos.

Our collaborations with English trainer manufacturers Walsh and Goral incorporate stylish and versatile shades of leather and suede for optimum wearability – just try to avoid colour matching your shoes with your chinos, instead opting for contrasting colours.

A pair of chinos with what I’ll politely call a ‘statement colour’, like pink or green, tend to work well with a pair of trainers with contrasting white soles to really help to make the colours pop.

For warmer weather, a loafer is an excellent choice, particularly with a slim fit chino. A pair of no-show socks and a cheeky flash of ankle is a classy summer look.

Somewhere in between

What if you’d like to take ‘smart/casual’ literally and straddle both formal and relaxed styles, sitting on the proverbial fence of dress codes?

A straightforward way to do this is to keep the outfit on the smarter side and dress down the shoes. 

Certain styles, such as chelsea boots or chukka boots, were pretty much made for this purpose. Their sleek designs and shape provide a smarter edge, but the formality is lowered slightly due to the fact they’re boots. 

Another way to dress down otherwise more formal shoes is to consider a different material. Grain leather provides a more country-inspired look to a timeless pair of brogues or derbies, as well as disguising imperfections – perfect for a day out in unpredictable weather.

Suede is always a good choice to wear with chinos, as it has a luxurious feel and uniform look without being too formal. Any style of suede shoe is destined to work with chinos, especially when the trousers are a lighter colour – something about the softness of the suede combined with cream or white chinos always looks good.

The ultimate in casual wear?

I didn’t want this blog to be a long-winded way of saying that any shoe can work with chinos – now that we’re at the end, I’m still unsure as to whether I’ve been successful. When an item of clothing is as versatile as chinos are, it makes sense that you could wear various shoes with them, so don’t be afraid to try different pairings and see what works for you.