Chinos are a type of pant made from chino fabric.  The original khaki (light brown) is the traditional and most popular color, but chinos are made in many shades.  These pants can be used for a dressy or casual look.  When we mention khaki above, we are referring to the “color”.  Below we will discuss the idea of “chino pants” being different than “khaki”pants” when referring to style (not color).

Chino cloth is a twill fabric, originally made of 100% cotton.  The most common items made from this type of fabric is the pant that shares its name.  Yes, trousers made of chino fabric, are widely called chinos.  Although the fabric was originally one hundred percent cotton twill fabric, it since been developed in cotton-synthetic blends as well.

Pants which are also called trousers are an item of clothing worn from the waist to the ankles, covering both legs separately.  When these garments are made with cotton twill they are often chinos.  However, this does not mean that all twill pants are chinos.

What is the difference between chinos and khakis?

These two pant styles are very similar.  They both are made of cotton or blended fiber twill fabric.  Chino pants earned a more formal style than khakis primarily because of the stitching and fabric weight.

One of the distinct differences between the two pant styles is the stitching.  Stitching on chinos is concealed (hidden) and the stitching on khakis is visible. This gives chino pants a more finished look, which in turn makes them appear a little more “dressy”.

Another less obvious rule of thumb for telling the difference between khakis and chinos is the fabric weight difference.  Chino pants are often made of a lightweight 100% cotton or cotton-blend fabric, while khakis are often constructed of a heavyweight 100% cotton fabric.  Again, this is more of a rule of thumb but not an absolute.  In addition, for consumers it is not easy to determine the weight of the fabric.  As far as we know, there is not an exact weight designation that separates the two fabrications.

Another possible distinguishing feature would be that chino pants are often cut slimmer to provide a closer fit than khakis.  The slimmer look adds a bit to the more formal appearance.

In summary, chinos are a bit more dressy than khakis.  However, it is not always easy to see the difference.  To make it more confusing, chinos can be made in a khaki color.

More about Chinos:

Originally developed in the mid-19th century for British and French military uniforms, it has since migrated into civilian wear in many countries.  Trousers of such a fabric gained popularity in the U.S. when Spanish–American War veterans returned from the Philippines with their twill military trousers.

The use of natural earth-tone colors also began the move towards camouflage, instead of the brightly colored tunics used prior.  The British and then American armies started wearing it as standard during the latter half of the 1800s.

About Chino Fabric:

Chino fabric was originally made to be simple, hard-wearing and comfortable for soldiers to wear.  As already mentioned, chino cloth is a twill fabric, originally made of 100% cotton (but not always).   Twill is a type of textile weave with a pattern of diagonal parallel ribs (in contrast with a satin and plain weave).  This is done by passing the weft thread over one or more warp threads and then under two or more warp threads and so on, with a "step" or offset between rows to create the characteristic diagonal pattern.

The pure-cotton fabric is widely used for trousers, referred to as chinos, but 100% cotton is no longer an absolute requirement.

What is the origin of the word chino? 

The etymology of the term chino is disputed.  Some sources identify the root as the American Spanish language word chino, which translated literally means toasted. Others believe that because the cloth itself has been manufactured in China, the name of the trousers may have come from a typing error for the country of origin (China with an “o” is Chino).  However, our guess is that the origin of the word is not from a spelling error.

Research: Pant Styles

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