How to Wear Dress Shoes and Sneakers With Chinos

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by  Karlton Miko Tyack | Last Updated: 
how to wear dress shoes and sneakers with chinos - zara mens chinos, thursday boots oxfords & low top sneakers

Chinos are more laid-back than dress trousers but classier than jeans. In the world of menswear, we hear this sartorial adage all the time.

They’re the best of both worlds. They’re versatile. You can wear them with anything.

This is mostly true. Unfortunately, because of that, the landmines are harder to find when it comes to styling chinos. This is especially so when considering what shoes to pair them with.

Chinos might go well with a range of footwear, but the best options are certain dress shoes and sneakers. Here’s why.

What Shoes Go Best with Chinos?

model demonstration fit and feel of wolf and shepherd longwing shoe

Off the bat, the best shoes to wear with chinos are either non-tuxedo dress shoes or low-profile leather sneakers. The former leans into the dressier side of the chinos, while the latter brings out the more casual notes.

Both types of shoes offer simple, elegant silhouettes while having enough character and timeless class. Basically, they’re just like chinos. They exude that sort of effortless style that flatters any guy.

This doesn’t mean you can only wear dress shoes and sneakers with chinos. They’re the best footwear options because you can rarely go wrong with either choice. Moreover, they’re year-rounders.

Adjacent styles include dress boots and even non-leather sneakers as long as they’re simple enough and not overly performance-forward. You can opt for simple, leather-soled service boots or suede Nikes.

You Can Choose Different Footwear for Different Seasons

In the fall and winter, you can even go as far as to wear chukka boots, camp moc boots, and bluchers. If you’re sticking to a classic, trend-resistant look, just don’t pair your chinos with extra heavy boots—anything with a steel toe, for example.

In the spring and summer, you can pair light-colored, lightly woven chinos with loafers and boat shoes. Depending on your style, you can even wear cream chinos with elegant leather sandals while on holiday. I’d just avoid wearing them with rubber beach flip-flops.

Other styles you want to avoid include Crocs, backless slippers, and tucking your pants into high-top sneakers. That’s best done with jeans.

How to Wear Dress Shoes with Chinos

As mentioned, dress shoes complement the dressy side of chinos. As such, this combination looks most natural in business casual and smart casual contexts. 

You can wear dress shoes and chinos in more properly casual situations, as long as you stick to pieces with clean lines, like a well-fitting crewneck t-shirt or henley. Just remember the classic rule that casual doesn’t mean sloppy.

In fact, if you really want the shoes to make sense within a casual combination, employ layers and structure. 

For example, if you’re wearing a t-shirt, chinos, and dress shoes, top it off with a chore coat. This adds nice, clean architecture to the outfit and hat-tips to the silhouette of a traditional, formal suit.

The Type of Dress Shoes Impacts the Overall Outfit

If you’re pairing your chinos with a fitted plaid flannel, you might go for a sturdier brogue shoe or even a brogue dress boot. The outfit acknowledges the outdoorsy inspiration but reins it in with a sleeker silhouette.

This very same outfit with a more traditional burly flannel and work boots would be better with jeans rather than chinos.

Meanwhile, you might choose leather loafers with chinos, a button-down, and a cardigan. The loafers match the outfit’s classy but casual combination.

The most formal way to wear chinos with dress shoes is by incorporating them into a broken suit. 

For example, a dress shirt, a tie, and a navy suit jacket can be worn with khaki-colored chinos. This combination is a classic template that can have a tone reminiscent of a casual Friday at the office or a leisurely country club vibe, depending on how you style it.

Wear it with traditional oxfords and a solid tie, you get the former. With suede loafers, a club tie, and perhaps a cable-knit v-neck sweater vest, you get the latter.

Examples of How to Wear Dress Shoes with Chinos

Here are two gents perfectly pulling off the chino-dress shoe combination.

Of course, a dress shirt, chinos, and dress shoes work beautifully together. However, adding a v-neck pullover and cuffing his pants adds a level of between-seasons stylishness. 

It’s a perfect example of how you can change the vibe of your chino-dress shoe look with a few small changes. I can imagine this guy wearing this combo with a tie, suit jacket, and pants uncuffed at the office, ready for the five-second after-work makeover.

Remember when I mentioned how adding layers and structure can level up your outfit? This is an excellent illustration. The quarter-zip adds a mix of elegance and sportiness, making the t-shirt blend in with the suit jacket.

Meanwhile, the overall classic, clean silhouette and all-black, matte dress shoes give him room for fun with color. The Nantucket red chinos are lively but not loud because of how beautifully balanced the look is.

How to Wear Sneakers with Chinos

These days, you can actually style high-quality, low-profile leather sneakers similarly to dress shoes in smart casual situations. For example, the suit jacket, t-shirt, and chinos combo? You can easily swap out the dress shoes for white leather sneakers.

As mentioned, the swap simply brings out the more laid-back side of the chinos and the outfit as a whole, of course.

While you can wear a fitted t-shirt of any style with chinos and dress shoes, they undeniably look more natural with sneakers. The simpler the outfit, the more fun you can have with your sneakers.

Black and white leathers are the most versatile. But, if you’re wearing khaki-colored chinos and a simple gray henley, then go for those statement Dunks or those pre-distressed Golden Gooses if you want.

A pair of gray chinos with a t-shirt and a quarter-zip already has a sporty tone to it. That being the case, they’d pair handsomely with some GATs or Nike Killshots.

Examples of How to Wear Sneakers with Chinos

For inspiration on how to wear sneakers with chinos, check these examples out.

I love this outfit because it perfectly captures just how consequential the sneakers are. If these were loafers, he’d look instantly more dressy.

He has a more modern, approachable kind of casual that anyone can wear. 

A guy with a more traditionally formal style might save this look for Saturdays, reading the newspaper on his porch. A more laid-back guy might wear it on a casual Friday at the office—or even any day of the week, depending on where he works.

Plus, you have to appreciate the tonal socks and cardigan.

Here’s another example of the magic of layers. In this situation, he takes a relatively dressy foundation (dress shirt, khaki chinos) and casualizes it with some sporty yet refined pieces. 

The double-zip jacket is techy but not too performance-forward, making the Nikes look perfectly at home.


At the end of the day, your outfit should strike the same balance between formal and casual as chinos themselves do. That’s why traditional dress shoes and simpler sneakers are the best, and frankly easiest, options to go with.

Sure, you can wear a T-shirt with your chinos and dress shoes or sneakers, but go for a properly fitting, crisp shirt. Want to incorporate Nikes with your chinos? Go for it. Just pick a simple model that adds sportiness without compromising the outfit’s class.


Which type of shoes are best for chinos?

Chinos are so versatile that they go with a wide range of shoe types. However, your best bets are dress shoes for a more formal look or low-profile leather sneakers for a casual approach that’s still clean and crisp. You can also style similar shoes like dress boots or GAT sneakers with chinos.

What shoes should I not wear with chinos?

I would avoid really heavy, clunky boots, performance-forward athletic shoes, and flip-flops. Many sandals also don’t go well with most chinos unless they’re an elegant leather sandal paired with light-colored chinos to achieve a resort chic look.

Can I wear high-top sneakers with chinos?

sneakers better match the casual yet clean look of chinos. High-tops with chinos aren’t a faux pas by any means though. Just keep in mind that tucking your pants into your high tops is better left to jeans.

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