Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

What’s the difference between khakis and chinos?

The question

What's the difference between khakis and chinos?

The answer

Story continues below advertisement

Khaki is a colour; chino is a fabric (a sturdy cotton). So chinos may be of any colour, including khaki.

Indeed, I like to say that they should be of any colour but khaki, just because I find khaki a little dull. Since its first use in clothing, khaki (from Urdu and Hindustani meaning "dust-coloured") has served as military wear. Its main purpose is camouflage in dusty countries. It was for decades referred to in armies as drab – drab as a noun not as an adjective, but let's face it, it's drab. Do you want to be camouflaged?

Now, what is chino? You identify cotton chino by its weave: This kind of weave is called a twill; it has a pattern of diagonal parallel ribs. Denim is also a twill weave.

Don't be afraid of brightly coloured chinos in summer – red and blue are particularly trendy these days. But yellow chinos with a navy blazer (and leather shoes and no socks) would be fantastic and show that you were in the Advanced Class.

One word of warning about pastel colours though: Wear only one pastel item at a time. Combine pastels with dark colours and with white. Yellow pants and a pink shirt will make you look like an ice cream cone.

Novelist Russell Smith's memoir, Blindsided, is available as a Kobo e-book. Have a style question? E-mail

Report an error

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨