The casual chino should be a staple of most guy’s wardrobes, but it’s not always obvious what footwear you should pair them with; knowing what shoes to wear with chinos is important, as it allows you to wear the versatile trousers with confidence.
This article will cover the top 8 shoes to wear with chinos, some some of my favourite styles in each category, and what rules you should follow to ensure the pairing is as successful as possible.
What Shoes to Wear With Chinos Overview
As a super high level analysis, as the chino is quite a versatile piece, you can pair most footwear with them.
That said, regardless of its versatility, there are some best practices and suggestions that you should keep in mind when deciding what shoes to wear with chinos:
To clear it up, there aren’t any specific colour rules when it comes to matching shoes and chinos – as long as the colours work together like normal clothing pieces, you will be fine.
However, to help you out as much as possible, here are some matching suggestions for some common chino colours:
- What Shoes to Wear With Beige/Tan Chinos – Brown, or white.
- What Shoes to Wear With Navy Chinos – Brown, black, or white (Any colour, really)
- What Shoes to Wear With Black Chinos – As they’re quite harsh, I would reserve just black shoes for black chinos.
In every case, in regards to styling, you can wear any of the eight styles mentioned in this list – just make sure the colours work!
However, as chinos are a really solid smart-casual piece, and can support a wide range of footwear, it is important to match the shoes to the formality of the rest of your outfit – in this case, is will be everything you are wearing on your top half. Your bottom half is irrelevant, as we’re deciding what shoes to wear, and know you’re wearing chinos:
- If your top half is smart, for example, a blazer and tie, then wear smarter shoes.
- If your top half if casual, for example, a rain mac and t-shirt, then wear more casual shoes.
- Luckily, there are some especially versatile shoe styles that can be worn with both extremes of formality categories, and in between.
All in all, your shoes have a lot of power in being able to dress your chino outfit up or down – making sure your shoes are cohesive with the formality of the rest of your outfit will ensure your look works, and is as good as it can possibly be.
Now, let’s get into some specific examples of what you should be wearing for each formality level.
Casual Shoes to Wear With Chinos
Smart Sneakers or Trainers
Smart trainers are a really great casual pairing with chinos, because they’re not too casual, or (obviously) too smart, for the trouser style, and are usually damn comfortable.
Specifically, I personally love:
- All white tennis shoes – Adidas Stan Smiths
- Vans Old Skools
- Converse Chuck Taylors
They all work to reduce the formality, but while maintaining a level of class and polish.
This category also gives you the opportunity to inject some unusual colours into your footwear, as sneakers are more likely to be available in many colours of the rainbow, compared to the other styles in this list, such as burgundy and navy.
Especially with lighter coloured chinos, these coloured sneakers will provide a finishing touch to your look, especially if you match them with the top half of your outfit – for example, navy trainers with a navy Harrington jacket.
Smart sneakers are versatile enough for wear all year round.
How to Wear Chinos with Sneakers
- Look at acquiring ‘smarter’ trainers, rather than running shoes.
- Bring in classic styles, such as Converse Chuck Taylors.
- Keep it white for ease of wear, or inject colour to match with the top half of your outfit.
Another great casual shoe style to wear with chinos are military boots.
Boots are an especially a great match because a lot of guys generally lack the confidence to pull them off, allowing you to more easily stand out as being well dressed.
Adding to this, due to their ‘boot’ status, I feel they are slightly more formal than the aforementioned sneakers – however, they still fall into the ‘casual’ bracket as they are the most rugged and practical boot type.
Despite this, you could potentially bring them into smart-casual situations, if you know what you’re doing (but it’s not as easy as the ones I’ve classed as ‘versatile’ on this list).
Furthermore, because of this more casual nature, you could probably get away with wearing them in black (you’ll hear my problem with black boots later in the post), though brown would definitely be safer, easier to pair, and more appropriate for casual looks.
Because they come high up on the foot, I would wear Military boots in the fall and winter.
How to Wear Military Boots With Chinos
- Bring them into casual and smart-casual situations.
- Experiment with black, brown, and other typical leather colours.
- Make sure your chinos are long enough to cover the top of the boot.
Versatile Shoes to Wear With Chinos (Casual and Smart)
Moving on to slightly smarter cases, such as when you’re dressing up for a casual interview, or for a more formal smart-casual event, you may want to take your footwear up a notch too.
The following shoe styles are appropriate to wear in both casual and smarter situations – they’re more formal than the previously mentioned styles, but casual enough to still work for most uses.
Non-Black Chukka Boots of all Textures
The first style I want to mention is the ever versatile and timeless Chukka boot, which brings the formality of a chino up to a slightly higher notch than trainers or military boots, to smart casual and semi-formal levels.
Having said this, in most cases, they still maintain a moderately casual vibe, meaning you could probably get away with wearing these to an event you would wear smart trainers to – Chukkas may just reflect your personal style better, especially if you’re an older guy, or aren’t in a ‘phase’ of wearing trainers.
However, especially in the case of Chukka boots, there are many different colours and materials to choose from, which can alter their formality, and appropriateness with chinos.
I would personally look at bringing in a shade of brown, in either normal leather, or suede – I feel black Chukkas are a bit formal for most chino ensembles, and elevate the formality excessively further than brown.
This is in contrast to the previously mentioned black military boot, which I said is appropriate to wear with chinos (this might be getting confusing) – in this case, as Chukkas are a sleeker and more formal style, combining them with the most formal colour, black, will give you something that you could wear with a suit, which is too formal. Stick to brown.
A great example of Chukka boots being done right is in all of Steve McQueen’s outfits that included his famous Saunders crepe sole Chukka boots – in every case, the boots were smart-casual perfection, and matched perfectly with his casual, and smart-casual looks alike.
In this case, the suede prevented things from getting too formal, but the shoe sleekness and style kept it it smarter, and appropriate for the more dressy looks.
As they are an ankle boot, I would consider them appropriate for wear all year round, except perhaps the super hot days of summer.
How to Wear Chukka Boots With Chinos
- Try wearing Chukka boots with smart-casual outfits, for a perfect formality match.
- Stay away from formal ‘black’ varieties.
- For swagger, introduce suede Chukka boots.
Chelsea Boots of all Textures
Chelsea boots provide a similar function to the aforementioned Chukkas, but I feel are more appropriate and easy to wear with casual attire.
This is because, though the style remains sleek and stylish, they lack lacing, making them inherently more casual. Consequently, unlike Chukkas, I believe black Chelsea boots should not be worn with suits.
Therefore, black coloured Chelsea boots are acceptable and appropriate to wear with casual chinos, thus removing the need to worry about the whole ‘formality’ shenanigans, and opening up more colouring choices that you can actually fully exploit with a chino pairing.
Another important thing to consider is that your chinos need to be of correct length, which will allow them to fall really well into the boots.
Doing this correctly results in a classy streamlined silhouette, which also protects you from the elements, preventing water and other nastiness from getting anywhere near your feet.
Specifically, it’s important to make sure that your chinos aren’t too long, so that there’s a break, or too short that you can see the top of the boots – the nature of the shoe should allow a properly fitting pair of chinos to elegantly blend into your outfit.
Next, when it comes to colour matching, there are really two things you can do:
- A close, monochromatic match.
- A complete contrast.
In the first case, a monochromatic look will take the idea of a streamlined look to the maximum, and provide an uninterrupted line, elongating your figure. For example, black Chelsea boots, with navy chinos.
Alternatively, having a harsh contrast, such as black Chelsea boots with putty chinos, will draw attention to your shoe area, and showcase the smooth transition from the trousers to your shoes.
Either way, win win – you just have to make sure that they’re the correct length!
And, as I’ve already mentioned, as Chelsea boots come higher up the foot and provide better protection, I would consider them a great footwear choice to wear with chinos in the fall and winter.
How to Wear Chinos With Chelsea Boots
- Bring them into your rotation in the fall and winter months.
- Make sure your chinos are the correct length, so they fall correctly and produce a ‘seamless’ line.
- Go for a monochromatic look to elongate your figure, or a complete contrast to draw attention.
Boat Shoes and Moccasins
I don’t like wearing boat shoes or driving moccasins, but I’m including them on this list because they seem to be a popular choice, especially in recent years, for the more ‘trendy’ dresser.
This means that, for someone with a super classic aesthetic, such as myself, they might not be ideal, as they command a more fashion forward preppy presence, and style personality.
Having said this, they’re still appropriate for casual and smart-casual situations, but aren’t dressy enough for semi-formal styles, and provide you with an unmissable look.
People tend to wear them with shorter chinos, or chinos that have been rolled up and cuffed – I suppose this enhances and works with the casual nature of the shoe, and a trouser that falls into them with a break might not look quite right.
How to Wear Chinos With Boat Shoes
- Try to avoid a classic full break on your boat shoes or moccasins.
- If you’re into it, cuff your trousers to create a casual preppy look.
Smart Shoes to Wear With Chinos
This next section will cover shoes that elevate chinos firmly into the ‘smart-casual’, ‘semi-formal’, and in some cases ‘formal’, categories. Though this makes them less versatile, it allows you to master a specific look you’re going for.
As an example, you would wear these short of shoes with chinos when dressing up for a more formal interview, where a jacket and tie may be required, or for a formal event, when you’re rocking a oxford button down, and a v-neck jumper.
Brogued Oxfords and Derbies
Oxfords and Derbies with a form of broging, such as a half or full brogue, are a great choice for dressier occasions.
The brogue detailing works to lower the formality of the sleek silhouette, making them more wearable with chinos in a wider range of smart situations, from ‘smart casual’, to ‘formal’.
Despite this, unlike the ‘versatile shoes’, as mentioned above, they’re definitely too dressy for very casual looks.
To make this all easier to understand, I would place them one formality notch above Chukka boots, meaning you could still bring in different textures, such as suede, and maintain the formality.
If you’re a frequent reader, you may already know that I personally dislike loafers – I don’t know why… I just do.
Though, I do admit that they do look good on most guys.
However, I rarely see them done well with most chinos.
If you are going to attempt the look, make sure that
- Your chinos have a slim taper, but not too slim that you expose a lot of the ankle.
- Your chinos aren’t too short – it’s probably just a matter of taste, but I, and I know a lot of other people, hate the whole short trousers thing.
Plain Toe Capped Oxfords and Derbies
Though you could definitely get away with wearing plain toe capped Oxfords with chinos, there are better options on this list that reflect the formality of the trousers, such as boots.
That said, plain Oxfords, especially in specific styles such as the ‘wholecut’, are in concreate semi formal and formal territory.
They provide a similar use to the brogued Oxfords, but aren’t as casual, as they’re plainer, meaning I feel they work best in in semi-formal situations, and above.
Color Rules for Smart Shoes With Chinos
For all three of the formal shoe styles in this section, even if the rest of your outfit is ‘formal’, I would generally stay away from wearing black shoes with chinos, as, again, we’re in suit territory. Instead, stick in the brown, tan, and oxblood ballpark – this is an especially good opportunity to bring these colours in to your wardrobe, as in some cases, formal shoes in these colours are too casual to wear with suiting, and above.
However, if your ensemble is looking ‘like a suit’, such as if you’re wearing a dark jacket and dark chinos, you could probably bring in black formal shoes, to solidify that super formal look.
Running shoes are called ‘running shoes’ for a reason – these super casual and functional sneakers should not be worn with chinos, a smart casual trouser.
Though they’re both technically casual, the formality match isn’t quite there, so you should reserve chinos for slightly more formal shoes – if you want a close alternative, go with a pair of ‘smart sneakers’!
Like with loafers, I hate sandals, in any outfit, especially ones that feature long trousers.
I know fashion forward people go for this look, and if that’s your cup of tea, then by all means, give it a go! However, if you’re into increasing your chances of being taken seriously by as many people as possible, I would personally skip this, as, like with the short trousers thing, I know many people also don’t like this look.
So, now you know what shoes to wear with chinos.
All that’s left to do is:
- Identify the formality level you’re going for.
- Select a shoe style that fits into that category, or a ‘transition’ piece.
Following these steps, and you’ll be able to mastermind a cohesive and stylish outfit!