HAJI MOHAMED DAWJEE: The thrill of twill: say yes to the chino


The other day while scrolling through Pinterest fashion boards – arguably the social media platform that gets most of my time, I came across a picture of a deliciously lush yet humble-looking chino.

As someone who is a “go-to” kind of person when it comes to clothing, or to be more specific, a “personal uniform” kind girl/woman/queer/exhausted mother of a two-year-old, I have my own personal grab-and-wear gear. Most people do. Most women do. But what they do not have as an option is a chino.

When I read the article, I was obviously redirected to a style blog for men, and the article in question argued that the chino was the perfect pair of pants for the indecisive man.

“Don’t know what to wear and no time to think?” grab a chino. “Have no idea where the day is going to take you?” grab a chino. “Have to meet the in-laws for brunch but also take your dog for a walk and play fetch in the mud while holding a bag of groceries?” chinos are your best friend. “Late for a meeting with the boss where you are going in to fight for equal pay on behalf of women?” the chino, my friend, is your weapon of choice.

I agreed wholeheartedly with all of these points. I think at one point I even shouted out a holy “Yes!” while holding my hands up to the sky.

Personally, as a woman, and even though the piece was aimed at men, I can attest to the fact that the chino is the most reliable, go-to, comfortable, versatile pair of pants, with pockets mind you, that you can wear.

There are three pairs in my cupboard. First up: a straight-legged pair of Vans Chinos in that typical not-so-khaki but not-so-taupe colour – they also never seem to fade. They’re a bit thicker and hardier but very comfortable and they have five pockets – FIVE. You wouldn’t want to try and do gymnastics in them, the weave of the cotton is quite intense and while they are stretchy, they are definitely not stretchy enough to do some weird up-in-the-air corkscrew turn while flipped upside down. Purchased from the men’s section.

Second is another pair of Van's chinos that have a much more relaxed fit, are a broader cut and while it seems like so much fabric should make the pants feel heavy, they are actually super light. I admit, these are in a very un-likely colour for me, they’re kind of like dirty mustard – but the colour palette of dirt is very on-trend and I think it will stand the test of time, besides, it looks great with a black t-shirt.

I wouldn’t recommend this style if your day may end up in going to give a speech at an event where people need to take you super seriously, but if that in fact is not part of your day at all, wear them all the time. Also purchased from the men’s section. No squish and squash. No movement restriction. And I think you may even be able to do some of those gymnast moves in these.

Also, a special shout out to the gen-zees who stole the idea of baggier more comfortable pants from elder-llenials and made them okay to wear again so that we don’t have to cut off our blood supply by sticking our legs into straws.

And finally, the good old “black is your best friend” chino. Very light. Very versatile. Also, a wider cut but throw on a blazer and you’re ready to go to the red carpet. This pair, believe it or not, was purchased in the women’s section of a Uniqlo - a very fashion-forward store that somehow manages to sell super high quality, timeless basics that are literally found nowhere else at affordable prices. Please can someone petition for a Uniqlo in South Africa. Or just replace H&M or Cotton On with one.

When I thought about my triad as mentioned above, it obviously did not escape me that two out of three of these were purchased in the men’s section. Because I simply could not find them in the women’s section. Of course, there are chinos for women, but really, are they? Or are they just Capri pants posing as chinos?

We make shopping extremely complicated, or rather, the industry does and then we, as women end up settling for less. Like capri pants. Because really in our heart of hearts all we want is to solve the issue of not wearing jeans and not wearing…capri pants- and to have the option to replace them with something else.

We go for jeans, no matter the weather because it is historically the most common form of bottoms and if you’re buying actual denim and not jeggings, they come with pockets. But really, as much as we love the distressed look of our Levi's, we yearn for something more, or less even. We yearn for a chino that has a pocket set-up you can choose from. Do you want four, or five pockets? Do you just need two really functional ones? Do you want a pair of pants that are straight-legged but slim yet relaxed or would you prefer a bit of slouch?

Like maybe the pocket needs to fall at hip level to add that extra bit of a relaxed look without you even having to try. Don’t we all want a fabric that isn’t latex or viscose or a jogger? That’s more lightweight than denim but heavier than some polyester blend or some sheeny satin thing? What we want are chinos. In all their glorious glory. That can be hammed so that our ankles are warm and dressed up with formal flats if you feel like it or rolled up and paired with fit-looking sneakers.

We must have chinos! We must have them now. Because Twill is a thrill.

Many, many women’s websites will tell you to settle for a pair of tights as the most comfortable go-to when you just have to throw something onto your leglets. Tights are NOT pants. Not unless you’re working out or riding a horse.

Lounge, live it up or go for a leisurely stroll in the only pants that matters most.

Say yes to the chino, and say yes to you!

Even if you have to go to the men’s section to get them. It’s not that complicated. Forget about inseams and outer seams and all the things people do to gender clothes. We’re talking about a comfortable pair of pants, not Batman’s formal tuxedo trousers. Try a couple of pairs on, tell people to piss off when they look at you and say “you know these are for men right?” and find your new best friend.

Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a South African columnist, disruptor of the peace and the author of Sorry, Not Sorry: Experiences of a brown woman in a white South Africa. Follow her on Twitter.