Although we tend to think of summer as an entirely separate season for our wardrobes, chino shorts offer a degree of familiarity. To start, they pair well with other transitional items you own – think polos, short-sleeve button-fronts, T-shirts, and even blazers if you’re looking to dress up slightly.
This post may have affiliate links, meaning we earn a small commission on purchases through the links (at no extra cost to you). This does not change our opinion but does help support the site. Thank you!
At the same time, the fit is unchanged. These aren’t jorts. These aren’t those seven inch or shorter inseam styles everyone’s trying out this year. Rather, they fall like your pants but just hit above the knees.
To avoid the trap of unflattering cargo shorts and if Bermudas seem too slim, chino shorts hit the sweet spot right in between. Consider the following tips:
What are Chino Shorts?
The basis for modern-day chino shorts starts with 19th century knee pants that offered a practical alternative to full-length styles for children.
Their more familiar construction emerged during World War II: European troops stationed throughout Africa wore shorts made from a lighter-weight cotton to better handle the heat. By the 1950s, chino shorts migrated toward becoming a casual summer civilian staple.
Today, chino shorts hit fall above the knee – not on or below yet not too far above that you feel uncomfortable.
At the same time, they’re not wider cut like cargo shorts yet don’t sit so close that your skin can’t breathe. You should be able to fit a couple of fingers between the knee and the material once you’re sitting down.
As they’ve long been a summertime staple, chino shorts typically feature light- to mid-weight cotton construction that lets air circulate while still offering some body and coverage. More modern versions opt for TENCEL™ or linen for more sustainability or stretch construction for more flexibility.
Along with these general parameters:
- Chino shorts usually have a flat-front design. This means no pleats and no crease. This form tends to offer the greatest amount of versatility and flatters a broader range of body types. These shorts further feature a mid-rise fit that hits just above the hips.
- Pleated chino shorts have come back in style after seeing their popularity rise in the 1980s. These shorts typically have a higher waist to accommodate one or two pleats on each side.
Colors and Patterns for Chino Shorts
Treat these like you would your pants. You can’t go wrong with something neutral and classic. Generally, that means navy, charcoal, tan, khaki, or olive.
As we see more colors entering men’s casual and formal wardrobes, chino shorts have received this treatment in varying degrees.
Although you’ll still spot some ultra-trendy shades out there, pastel and darker hues expand the possibilities. Consider a preppy, off-to-Martha’s Vineyard vibe with a dusty salmon, teal, or orange, or look into burgundy or bottle green.
Prints and patterns aren’t off the table, either. Checks, particularly a Madras plaid, embody summertime preppy style, as do micro-prints – from fish, whales, and anchors to, as of recent, pineapples. Or, double the cool factor with seersucker, known for its puckered texture allowing more air to pass through.
Styling Men’s Chino Shorts
Excluding boardshorts with a chino cut, you have three general options for styling this garment:
Consider a short that’s on the wider, more effortless side for its breathability. Here, T-shirts, worn untucked obviously, feel like the clear choice. Yet, if you’re looking to get more creative, pair it with a patterned button-front, like a camp collar, with a looser cut or with a couple more buttons undone from the collar.
For the rest of your ensemble, play it by the forecast. It could be a day for sandals – or one where you’ll lace up a pair of canvas sneakers or boat shoes and take along a lightweight jacket.
Get some inspiration:
Lighter, stretchy cotton is the very embodiment of effortlessness. You’ll begin planning your vacation once you feel its drawstring waist and see its robin’s egg blue hue.
A slightly washed appearance and sea glass-green color make it seem like you’ve been at the beach wearing nothing but shorts and a Hawaiian shirt for the past week.
These cotton chino shorts are pre-washed for a ready-to-go feel, no matter if you’re eyeing the shores or the campgrounds.
Even with a longer length and wider cut, these chino shorts continue to give off summers on the Cape vibes, no matter what you wear them with.
Whereas we’ve seen boardshorts attempt to mimic chinos, these shorts from Vans appear to have their mind on the waves and crystal-blue waters with a wider cut, shorter inseam, and drawstring elastic waist.
Bring out those pastels, but don’t forego structure. “Smart casual” chino shorts tend to fit slimmer – almost like Bermudas – and toe the line between experimental and traditional – much, in fact, like a suit for a beach wedding.
Toward the smart end, have a sport-jacket and some loafers ready, and pair your shorts with a button-front – tucked or untucked, based on the occasion – or a closer-fitting polo.
Consider the following styles:
Muted, dusty, yet with a color venturing away from predictability, these chino shorts hit that precise sweet spot.
Start to think ahead to that cruise requiring you to dress up (somewhat) for dinner and other events.
Who said you have to stay in the background? A slimmer, stretchy fit falling just above the knee pops with a series of vibrant pastel shades.
Saunter into preppy territory with an orange-yellow shade that screams Instagram-level “fire.”
For the Office
If your company’s dress code allows shorts, chinos are likely what human resources has in mind. That said, avoid the wider and short fits and bright colors we’ve highlighted above for something more traditional:
Khaki looks set the stage for muted grays, tans, and greens.
Bring those easygoing-yet-professional summertime vibes without compromising your comfort.
Keep it simple – and in budget – when you have the opportunity to update your wardrobe for summer weather.