Jeans vs Chinos: What Is The Difference?

When preparing for a night out on the town, brunch the next morning, or even the workday, you have no shortage of options in planning your outfit. If you want to keep things casual, but still look nice, you have two options: jeans vs chinos. Which of these pants is right for you, though?

While jeans are definitely limited to casual wear – even when dressed up – chinos have a bit more versatility. The latter can also be made semi-formal depending on how you dress it up. In this article, we’ll help you understand the key differences between chino pants and denim jeans. You’ll learn some of our top styling tips for each, and you’ll also gain a better understanding of which situations call for which type of pants.

Let’s get right into the topic at hand – what is the difference between chinos and jeans?

What Is The Difference Between Jeans vs Chinos?

While both of these pants can be worn casually, only one can be dressed up in an acceptable manner for business-casual or semi-formal wear. But the differences don’t end there. Let’s start by breaking down all the characteristics you should know about jeans.

What Are Jeans?

We love a nice pair of jeans. They come in so many different colors, styles, and fits. Made popular by Levi Strauss back in the 1900s, jeans are still a popular choice for men and women alike. However, these days they are far more versatile than the big, bulky, heavy-duty jeans of times past. Today, you’ll find ripped jeans, skinny jeans, classic blue jeans, black jeans, you name it – you can find it.

As you probably already know, jeans are constructed from denim fabric. This denim comes from warp-faced cotton woven diagonally. This weaving pattern is very distinct – and one of the key differences between chinos and jeans. And while chinos are also woven from a type of cotton, the fabric used in jeans is a bit heavier. This fabric is also a bit more durable and stain-resistant than the fabric of chinos.

The biggest takeaway here is that jeans are strictly limited to casual wear. You will rarely wear these in business settings unless you’re fortunate enough to work in a place with a casual dress code. Unless this is you, you’ll save the jeans for after-work fun and weekend outings – at least, provided you aren’t hitting up spots with a dress code of their own. More on that later. For now, let’s discuss chino pants in depth.

What Are Chinos?

Chinos are another type of casual pants that every man needs in their wardrobe. They are a bit more versatile than jeans. We’ll touch on that later on. First, some background information:

Like jeans, chinos originated in either the 18th or 19th century. There are conflicting reports as the British and French military both wore these as an integral part of their uniforms. It’s probably fair to say they originated in the mid-18th century and were made popular for civilian wear at some point in the 19th century. That’s enough of a history lesson for today – let’s take a look at some other characteristics of chinos.

Just as with jeans, you can find chinos in a variety of colors. They tend to be more or less of the same style, though – you will rarely find skinny chinos, ripped chinos, etc.

The fabric used to construct chinos is also a type of cotton. However, the weaving pattern used to craft chinos is strikingly different from that of jeans. Instead of creating a diagonal weave, chino pants are woven in a twill style. This creates a unique look and feel that only chinos provide. It may seem like a subtle difference – but make no mistake, this twill fabric weaving method contributes to differences in strength, appearance, durability, and more.

Compared to jeans, chinos weigh substantially less. This makes them a better choice for warm weather – so bust them out during those spring and summer seasons. But their lower-weight fabric also makes them a slightly less durable option – you’ll find that they wear out faster than jeans do.

In terms of versatility, chinos take the cake. Wearing chinos is great for all sorts of situations – because you can dress them up to create a semi-formal look or dress them down to keep things casual. We’ll talk more about styling these in the next section.

When To Wear Chinos vs Jeans

As you can see, chinos and jeans have some striking differences. Jeans are available in a wider variety of styles, making them a more fun addition to your wardrobe. However, you’ll find that chino pants are quite a bit more versatile – as you can style them for a semi-formal setting or dress them down for a casual look.

Both types of pants more or less cost the same, and for a number of scenarios, they can be pretty interchangeable. But it’s time we help you decide between the two – let’s look at a few use cases.

For A More Casual Look: Stick With Jeans

If you’re going for a more casual look, wear jeans. They are far more casual, and in our opinion, more fun. You can find jeans in a variety of washes, with or without rips, with patches, in different fits, and more. And when you get custom denim jeans, even your casual outfits will look stunning and professional. That’s because they’ll fit you perfectly – and the way your outfits fit is perhaps more important than what you’re wearing in the first place.

When it comes to after-work or weekend fun, we prefer jeans. The one caveat here is that some settings – like the club, a Michelin star restaurant, or weddings – all have dress codes that jeans will not satisfy. Nevertheless, wearing jeans with a nice tailored casual shirt or sweater and a pair of sneakers that make a statement is our preferred look for any sort of casual setting. But, if you want an outfit that toes the line between semi-formal and casual, stick with chinos.

For A More Formal Look: Stick With Chinos

It’s true that chinos are by no means a formal type of pants. However, they are more formal than jeans. And thus, if you’re looking for semi-formal or business casual pants, stick with custom chinos.

The best part about wearing chinos? If you’re not certain whether the dress code is casual or semi-formal, you’ll be dressed the part either way. You can add a nice button-up shirt and a custom sports coat to make this a more semi-formal look. Or, dress your chinos down with a nice custom-fitting shirt and some sneakers. The number of outfits you can create with a pair of chinos is remarkable.

Keep in mind that if the event is leaning a bit more formal – you may want to ditch the chinos in favor of slacks. We wrote a similar article discussing chinos vs dress pants if you’d like to learn more. We also have a resource to help you size your chinos to perfection so you can truly look and feel your best – learn how chinos should fit in our blog before you start shopping!

A Versatile Wardrobe Will Consist Of Both Jeans & Chinos!

Now that you know the different situations in which you should wear jeans vs chinos, you’re ready to get shopping. But hold on just a minute. In saying all this, we want to stress one more point before we wrap things up: a versatile wardrobe will consist of both jeans and chinos. It will even contain dress pants, shorts, and perhaps even another type of pants we haven’t discussed yet: khakis. Learn more about khakis in our article discussing chinos vs khakis.

The point is that certain scenarios will call for either jeans or chinos. So it is important that you don’t just choose one or the other when shopping – you will come across situations where you want one or the other, so make sure you’re prepared!

Final Thoughts On Jeans vs Chinos

Well, that concludes our breakdown on jeans vs chinos. You now know that both of these pants can be worn casually, but chinos have the advantage in that they can be dressed up for a slightly more formal look. Because they cost about the same price, it is a good idea to stock your wardrobe with both types of pants so that no matter the venue, no matter the occasion, you can put your best look forward.

And, for all things custom pants online, look no further than Black Lapel. We help men like you upgrade their wardrobes with all sorts of custom garments. These clothes are guaranteed to fit not just your body – but your lifestyle. If you’re still not sure whether you should go with jeans or chinos, let’s get in touch. We can help you navigate workplace dress codes or prepare a few outfits for certain types of events you frequent.

Experience the Black Lapel difference today – and you’ll never go back to traditional off-the-rack shopping!