I talk about dark denim a lot. Getting one great pair does wonders for your wardrobe because it can act as the base for 91% of the outfits you put together.

But sometimes, you want to switch it up.

As you probably already know, chinos (or “khakis”, as you might call them) are an awesome alternative to denim.

Usually you can get by with a pair of dark denim, some trousers, and a pair of chinos. But if you’re a guy taking this whole personal style thing seriously, that simple offering may get stale.

You need variety! You need pizazz!

I suggest you get into colorful chinos.

Here’s why: You’re adding an interesting pop of color to your wardrobe, and you can set yourself apart (in a good way) from every other medium-khaki-colored gent out there.

Plus, bright colors are a nice homage to the warmer, sunnier months to come! Why not brighten an overcast winter day with your pants? Am I right?!

Let’s look at some options

My favorite stores for colorful chinos?

Some brands have colored denim; it’s just a matter of you finding a pair you like. My one recommendation: The summer-weight, jetsetter, and travel jeans from Bonobos are great.

A few tips to successfully pull off brightly-colored pants

One pop of color at a time

If you’re wearing brightly-colored chinos, you don’t want an equally bright shirt. Every other element should be muted or neutral.

For example, wearing vibrant blue pants like the guy above? Tan is a nice neutral color to offset the brightness.

Don’t match! Complement instead

If you’re wearing red pants, your first inclination may be to accessorize with pops of red in other places. Avoid that. You want your colors to complement, not match exactly.

Complementing colors may take practice and you have to develop that eye for what looks good and what doesn’t, but with practice, you’ll get the hang of it.

Observe the photo above. This guy got it right. He has the brightly-colored pants, balanced with the dark, chunky cardigan. He has a tan leather belt (looks great with those pants), and a dark plaid shirt with mostly cool tones (blues, purples, etc) under the sweater.

Notice that there’s no other bright pops of red… anywhere.

Dress it up

You’ll be surprised how great a colorful pair of pants looks with a simple white dress shirt, tie, and sport coat.

Same rules: keep everything else muted and neutral.

Dress it down

You can also use it as an alternative to denim.

If you would normally throw on some jeans, reach for a pair of colorful chinos instead. Just pay close attention to the other elements in your outfit so they all go well together.

Again, complement your colors, don’t match (see above for clarification.)

Work your way up to pink

Intimidated by such bright color? You shouldn’t be. It’s not like you have to wear pink pants tomorrow. In fact, you don’t have to wear such a bright hue at all, ever. It’s up to you.

Start small and take baby steps.

Think pink is too crazy? Try out some olive chinos. Work your way up to a richer evergreen color.

Or maybe start with a charcoal blue and work your way up to a cobalt blue.

If bright colors make you uncomfortable, take baby steps. It’s kinda like starting off with large, oversized jeans and working your way to a straight leg with a better fit. It just takes time and a little getting used to.

Does this help?

What other questions do you have about how to rock something a bit different than your typical dark denim?

Let’s hear it below!

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34 Responses

  1. Andrew M on

    Pink pants?? Seriously?? The fella in the red pants doesn’t look too happy and I don’t blame him, if someone told me to wear red pants I’d have a face like that too. . Maybe it a age thing? I’m 43 and I’d be disowned by my 13 yr old if I wore brightly coloured chinos.I’m only a new style convert and looking for all the help I can get but I’ll need a therapist to get past this one.Great site though.

    • Barron on

      It’s all about gradual change and adopting things slowly. You don’t HAVE to do red pants. Maybe the dark forest green is the most colorful you want to go. It’s about experimentation and seeing what works best for you, but still pushing the envelope so you’re not stuck in the ‘blue jeans, black shirt’ (or similar) type of uniform most guys wear out of convenience.

      Pink / red pants aren’t THAT crazy. Again, it depends on what you’re used to and where you live. A guy from Florence would disagree with you. A guy from, say, Indiana would probably be on the same page as you.

      Do what you’re comfortable with but always be willing to try new things (within reason) 🙂

    • TJ on

      I hate to say this, and don’t take offense, but it may be an age thing. It seems to me that it is usually easier for younger guys to get away with a look like this. Plus you have a family and kids, who might not approve, so you’re at a much different stage in your life than someone like me who is 24 and single.

    • ManUp on

      As Barron said, it’s no harm in trying new things, but I’d keep it mild myself. Try different dark shades like brown, teal, dark green, navy etc or blue (like the color of jeans), or beige, but I’d stay well clear of all colors containing any hue of pink (wine, apricot, pink etc) – these IMO are far to feminine, but that’s just my opinion. I wouldn’t be too fond of red either – it’s too loud IMO. However, you could try shades of white (with a little bit of color mixed in – like blue, gray etc) – I’ve done so in the past myself – try even cream etc – I don’t think these are too feminine either.

      I’d say take the middle road here…

  2. Peter K. on

    I like forest green chinos for a nice rendition of the traditional khaki. They look nice with shades of blue and gray or a white dress shirt. I wear a dress shirt, forest green chinos, and loafers or boat shoes for a nice business/smart casual look. @Andrew maybe the forest green is more doable than the pink, eh?

    • Barron on

      Yeah it’s definitely a good transition color. There’s visual interest there, but it’s not so off-the-wall that your first-time style experimenter will feel uncomfortable.

  3. texaschili on

    The photo of the two guys wearing green pants with jackets. Does anyone know where that photo came from or what brand of clothes they are wearing?

  4. Morgan Linton on

    Great post Barron and you’ve inspired me to get a pair! What color do you think is the safest for me to start with, I don’t think I’m ready for bright green or pink quite yet?

    • David X L on

      Try more muted colors first, especially since it’s still winter. The blue chinos in that first pic is a great place to start. Or maybe try some maroon cords. Save the brights for when it’s actually bright out.

    • Barron on

      What David said. If you’re starting out, go for that darker forest green, dusty blue (like under the “pop of color” section), or burgundy.

  5. dz on

    colored chinos are one of those that NO ONE WEARS in my little midwestern college town where on any given day, its 85% Jeans, 10% sweats, 5% chinos because they have to, colored chinos are so versatile that I stand out but am never feel overdressed. Of all the stylish items that are rarely worn by the general population, colored chinos has to be my favorite.

    though, the pairs I have are somewhat muted cobalt blue and dark forest green. Maybe in the summer, I’ll get a pair of brighter colored ones.

  6. TJ on

    I have a pair of those j crew pants in the smoke red that I got last spring and I’m thinking about picking up a pair of the dublin green or cambridge blue this year. I really like them and think they look great. Some of my friends hate them and call them “salmon pants” but I don’t care because I think they look good.

    • Barron on

      That’s what I like to hear! They’re just hatin’ because they can’t pull it off like you can. Feel free to pick me up a pair as well. Thanks.

      • TJ on

        It’s specifically 2 friends of mine who are a couple and the girl wears a ton of black so what does she know?

      • Marlon on

        That’s also my thinking. That deep down they are just jealous I have the guts (confidence) to wear and actually pull it off wearing bright chinos.
        Thanks Barron. I now learned to complement color combinations.

  7. Default on

    I’m sorry but the models wearing pastel colored pants with pastel colored shoes look like they’re dressed as Easter eggs.

  8. victor newman on

    i think those colors would work if you live in Miami ….or Hawaii …mabey California..

    nowhere near up north…

    • Barron on

      I disagree. Technically, they work anywhere. But again, if you don’t like the super bright choices, there are still more subdued colors that you (or anyone up north) can incorporate.

    • Eric on

      I love my blue chinos (similar to pair F from above, but not so… shiny.), I wear them all the time up here in New York. A friend of mine rocks some cherry red pants.
      I think color is especially important up North, it really makes you stand out in a crowd. In a good way.

    • Barron on

      Good question. It may only be valid until the end of the month, but hopefully I can run another promo with them soon. Don’t hold your breath though, just in case 🙂

  9. Aaron Trent on

    I like it. I’ve been thinking about going fire-engine red. At this point it’s a want and I still have basics that are needed.

  10. ManUp on

    I have to say (and it’s probably just a matter of preference) that I hate narrow leg trousers/jeans on men – they’re just too feminine for me. Also, many of us Irish do not have particularly long legs (though mine are not short), so as wide long trousers visually maximizes leg length, I think that’s what we should be wearing in Ireland. I always feel it’s a good thing that men make themselves look at tall as possible.

    Back to the colors, some of the examples above look rather feminine IMO, but I have been experimenting a bit and recently bought a pair of bootleg brown trousers as they were the only ones that were wide legged and generous in length – indeed, I do like my trousers wide and long. As I usually go with Black or Gray (very fond of those colors – they go with anything), Brown made me a little uncomfortable – however, I got to like it. I could try Teal next (Blue/Gray mix).

  11. Chris on

    I love coloured chinos! They’re quite a common sight around London, but certain colours are still somewhat more unusual. I have some bright red chinos (just on the right side of orange) which I usually pair with a pale blue sweater. It looks great, but I’d like to wear something else with them as the blue sweater looks is becoming a bit stale! Any ideas? Love the tips you’ve put together!

  12. Dave Hahn on

    I can’t do bright colored chinos. I’m too scarred by the time I wore lime green chinos in middle school and the gay French teacher walked by me while I was in line for lunch and said “Nice pants!” and then had an entire lunchroom laugh at me.

    • Ieuan Darknell on

      Do what you want! It isn’t gay to wear bright colours. That is just a sexist stereotype 🙂 Dress to impress… yourself, luv!

  13. Michelle on

    A man who can wear bright-colored pants shows how confident he is. I think a camel colored pant is a nice way to transition yourself and get you used to wearing a color other than blue.