Building a new wardrobe (or refreshing an old one) can get pretty difficult with the array of options out there, especially when it comes to pants in seasonal fabrics.
Between lighter-weight chinos for spring and summer, and heavier wool fabrics for other parts of the year, you could find yourself with a closet jammed full of various varieties of pants.
That’s why it makes things that much easier to have a go-to, any-season pant in a neutral shade.
While most of us associate khakis with a baggy fit and pleats, the new khaki has undergone, at least by most measures, an update for the 21st-century man.
And the starting barometer for your new khaki pant involves two keys, things worth always remembering: color and fit. While the khaki of yesteryear might feature a washed-out, light color, a dark tan khaki—like these from Dockers—works with darker fall and winter hues and sits somewhere in the middle of the spectrum during spring and summer.
Another great example of nailing that in-between color is last year’s Newport Chino from Frank & Oak, reviewed here by yours truly.
As with any item, fit is also a huge essential. Since it’s a piece that can work casually and in dressier situations, look for a trim fit that’s not rock-star denim tight. Think something like a slim-straight Levi’s 513 or a 514 jean, yet in chino form.
Again, the F&O chino is a nice example of a pair with some taper from the thigh to the ankle. And a pair with either a minimal break (or maybe some extra length to allow a cuff or roll) keeps things sleek and not ultra-baggy.
Caring for chinos is something to pay close attention to, as well. Since chino fabric is different than denim (not anywhere close to as stiff, more susceptible to visible stains and made with more stretch) washing more frequently than your jeans is definitely advised.
Washing with dark colors in cold water and hang-drying is definitely the simplest option (and they could also be pressed to avoid wrinkling). Throwing them in the dryer might shrink them, making it tough to put them back on again… not something you want in the slightest.
It’s worth noting that if the fabric isn’t up to par (if it’s a cheaper pair from, say H&M), the color could fade much more quickly through washing.
Now, onto the outfits! (Click the images for a larger view)
1. Everyday, All-Season Wear
At first glance, this outfit might be easy to miss. It’s definitely not flashy or crazily fashion-forward, but that gives it lots of utility across any season, and pretty much any type of weather.
It’s the well-dressed man’s version of standing out quietly, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. In fact, it takes the best of so many men’s style essentials (a classic shirt, updated pants, a sharp dive watch and timeless shoes) and combines them, ensuring that this entire ensemble could work in the office or out to dinner, on the weekends or running errands on a weeknight.
That’s also why it’s worth investing slightly in some of these pieces. The jacket is a bit pricier but works in at least three seasons as outerwear, and with J. Crew, the quality of the leather speaks for itself (personally, a belt from them has held up great for over a year with frequent wear).
The blue OCBD, as long as it fits well, can function as a casual, comfortable piece when the sleeves are rolled, and when paired with the chinos and a classic desert boot with a slight sheen, it’s definitely work-ready. And in the event it rains or gets chilly, the navy jacket protects you from the elements while playing nicely off the blue top.
If it gets too hot, on the other hand, the jacket can easily be taken off without losing any of the outfit’s versatility. On your wrist, a low-shine, stainless steel dive watch is another classic that can be worn with everything from shorts to a suit, and there’s no need to worry about matching leathers, either.
2. A Day at the Office
This outfit is another version of incorporating traditional menswear elements, but doing so with slightly different stylistic touches.
Using the clean, simple base of dark tan chinos gives you some liberty to experiment with other, more unique pieces in this outfit. Take, for example, the patterned button-down shirt. Although the red is perhaps more appropriate for fall, a deep color like that would be a nice change of pace to the washed-out shades we typically see in spring and summer.
The blazer also echoes that same sentiment. It’s cut from a rougher chambray (not plain navy), another fabric which works well in both warm and cold temperatures thanks to the rougher, yet casual and washed, texture.
And instead of a shiny regular silk tie, a textured knit tie in a neutral shade deviates from normal neckwear choices. The silver tie also plays well off the darker chambray pocket square. In a deeper color like that, the chambray is perhaps the second-most versatile pocket square out there, besides a white cotton option, as it goes with a variety of colors regardless of season.
Socks with some pattern, but in a quieter color, keep the focus on the rest of the outfit by not clashing tremendously, while dark brown wingtips exude sharp (yet still slightly casual) style on your feet.
And the watch from the first outfit could also work equally well in this outfit because of the stainless steel band.
3. Warm-Weather With Some Polish
This outfit takes a summer staple, the short-sleeve chambray shirt, and ties everything together with a snappy-casual, yet still playful vibe.
The dark tan chinos, as long as they fit trim, can be cuffed or rolled here for a breeze around your ankles, and as much as it’s a trend right now, this isn’t a bad outfit to try sockless. Just make sure you follow these tips here.
Keep the fit of the chambray shirt slim through the waist, snug at the shoulders, and fitted at the biceps to avoid extra fabric blowing in the summer breeze. Consider swapping out a dark brown leather belt for a lighter ribbon belt with subtle stripes and lighter color, a solid warm-weather move.
And on that note, this outfit also swaps out a plain canvas watch strap on a more traditional Timex Weekender for something with more color, while pairing nicely with the blue touches on the belt and watch strap.
4. Beat the Heat
Even in the dead heat of summer, these chinos can still work in a crisp, yet casual way. Pairing a classic tan chino with a T-shirt is a nice high-low combination with some continental touches, thanks to the nautical-inspired stripes on that T-shirt.
And the chinos themselves work just as well as jeans or tan shorts might. They’re a neutral basic that coordinates with most other colors, particularly the navy of the T-shirt and the red of the watch strap.
Those Tretorn sneakers are an extremely solid shoe; crisp and streamlined, yet still durable and exceptionally comfortable. They’re the perfect summer shoe, in that they can be worn sockless with the chinos cuffed or rolled.
And whereas a shiny leather dress belt (like in the business casual outfit) might look out of place, a braided leather belt brings some casual texture to the look.
5. Fighting the Chill
This last ensemble proves that dark tan chinos really do have utility across all four seasons. The dark tan shade means they fit right into the deeper color hues we see in fall and winter, while holding their own stylistically against a thicker pair of work-inspired boots.
The rest of this outfit makes use of layering rugged essentials, like a white henley, with dressier (yet equally versatile) pieces, and a royal v-neck sweater.
For those times when there’s a chill in the air but it’s not Polar Vortex cold, a denim jacket helps the blue of the sweater pop nicely against that neutral outer layer, while also providing an extra layer against the cold.
With some character, a denim jacket can go just about anywhere, and look pretty cool while doing it. Texturally, that same braided leather belt fits in during the fall and winter months because of the rougher feel it has when compared to a dress belt. Reach for some thicker, marled socks and this outfit’s complete.
When taking an all-season item like dark tan chinos, the most important thing to keep in mind (after fit) is the versatility they instantly lend any outfit. They function just like dark denim, but can be more easily dressed-up — and just as easily dressed-down when paired with crisp basics, like white sneakers, a striped T-shirt or a rugged henley.
What’s your favorite of the above outfits? How do you like to wear your dark tan chinos? Leave it in the comments below!