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In a nutshell, khakis are khaki colored, cotton twill pants. Chinos are a bit dressier than khakis and they come in other colors such as navy, sand, Nantucket red, or baby blue. Today, the two terms are often used interchangeably even though there are slight differences.
First off, let's talk about the history of khaki pants. Khakis have an Indian heritage. In 1848, the corps of guides wore it as part of their uniform in India. In the 19th century, a British military had realized that their scarlet red uniforms looked really great, but it also made them easily visible to their enemies and so they realized it was time for a change. The uniforms also soiled very easily whereas the dust-colored pants of the Indian uniforms never looked dirty. The word khaki is derived from Hindi and means as much as dust-colored or soil colored which explains the perfect name for the khaki pants. For the same reason, khaki pants today are still within a spectrum of dust and sand-colored, never anything else. Enamored with the looks of khaki pants, the British military adopted it as part of their uniform for the Mahdist War and the second world war.
Quality hallmarks of khaki pants:
1. They come in flat front styles and pleated styles.
If you have thin legs, flat front may look very pleasing, whereas if you have bigger thighs, a pleated khaki gives you more room and is more comfortable and looks better.
2. Made from cotton twill material and it's very sturdy and they're very tight weave so it's not very breathable. It's very popular with big companies such as target or best buy and they usually mix polyester or other artificial fibers to the cotton to make them more sturdy. If you want to wear them as dress pants or as casual pants, I suggest you stick with 100% cotton, they're more comfortable on your skin and you'll sweat less. They don't wrinkle as much as regular cotton.
3. Traditionally, they always have belt loops and never suspender buttons. They're very easy to take care of, you don't have to bring them to the dry cleaner, you can just launder them in your washing machine. They match really well with polo shirts, long sleeve or short sleeve. You can wear them with dress shirts such as button down colored shirts, even regular dress shirts that you wear unbuttoned but you can even wear a tie with them and a blazer.
Quality hallmarks of Chinos
Chino is derived from China, which is where the pants were made really popular. Ultimately, they were a little dressier than khakis but today, they're basically the same thing. The big difference with chinos is the color variety.
1. Chinos come in different colors. Navy, light blue, Nantucket red, or sand, you can even add light pastel colors in green or yellow.
2. Chinos have belt loops, zip fly, can have pleats, and usually have cuffs. Of course, you don't need turn ups or cuffs and sometimes they come without them. Personally, I like them because they add a little more weight and it means the pants fall more nicely and drape more beautifully.
How should you wear and combine khakis and chinos? Personally, I love to wear them in a more casual setting with boat shoes, without socks and a polo shirt, however, you can also wear them with a dress shirt, always wear a belt, ideally some brown shoes and in terms of style, I would say a derby, a monk, loafer, or even a pair of boots look really well. If you want something darker, go with a dark brown, burgundy, oxblood red shoe color.
In terms of shirt fabrics, you can go with solids, you can pair it with Bengal stripes which are wider stripes, finer stripes, small checks, just what I'm wearing right now. You can also wear oxford cloth button down shirts which is great because of the 2 tone look of the fabric and it works well with khakis because they share the casual nature of the garment.
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