Wednesday, 28 July 2010

WWW:Styling Tips - Part 1: Chinos

Image from WhoWhatWear
The Captain Trousers by Current Elliot: Image by Net-a-Porter
The Army Pants by Current Elliot: Image by Net-a-Porter

Military trends don't generally do much for me but I have a confession to make - I was gullible enough to have indulged in the past.  Recently while looking for some inspiration I found myself impressed with Gwyneth Paltrow's getup of pairing chinos with a sharp blazer and even sharper shoes as featured on the recent WhoWhatWear post WWW:Styling Tips.  Rather than looking like an extra from Platoon she looks smart but sassy.  It has almost convinced me to give this more formal version of the military look a shot but I don't want to splash the cash to do so as I think I have the required ingredients already lurking in my closet!

I qualify my statement with "think" for a reason.  Remember many years ago when the cargo trouser was in fashion?  When dragon embroidered khakis were all the rage?  During that time I bought a pair of cargo trousers from Topshop.  Over the years I toyed with getting rid of them and never did.  They are practically vintage now and I am hoping to pass them off as this season's take on military.  In contrast to Gwynnie's much simpler chinos my cargo trousers have their fair share of bells and whistles - front and back pockets with button down flaps, knee patches, elasticised ankles, ankle zips.  Less chic, more all singing, all dancing.

They also have the word VELVET emblazoned in large white Gothic script across the trouser seat.  I must say that this is the one feature making me think twice about leaving the house in them - it may be sassy but its hard to feel smart when you have VELVET stamped across your arse.  I guess infusing a good dose of irony into army trousers is the only way anyone could sell them to me in the first place.

If we ignore the VELVET issue, I have plenty of neutral blazers and slouchy tees.  I even have an old pair of pointy toed, kitten heeled pumps which are apparently very now.  I could work this look for a whole week!  Would this be cheating?  Could my cargo trousers qualify as chinos or are they different things altogether?  After some research I found the answer in an old article in the menswear fashion section in the Times Online which states:

"It is important to define our chino as distinct from the cargo pant, an American style (like the chino) that has found favour over recent years and that often has chino-like fabric and colouring, but is distinguished by the presence of multiple pockets for carrying whatever it is that inhabitants of the concrete jungle like to have to hand.  The chino proper is another beast. For a start, it is clean, simple and flat-fronted. The lack of pleats is apparently down to a fabric-saving drive during the Second World War by the US military - and the provenance of the style is military through and through."

So strictly speaking cargo trousers are not chinos.  According to WhoWhatWear the pair of green chinos Gwyneth is wearing are Current Elliot's The Captain cotton trousers which are available on Net-a-Porter for £163 and despite the hefty price tag, they are almost sold out.  The very similar Army cotton slouch pants by the same brand will set you back over £215 for the addition of some external patch pockets and flaps on the back pockets - in my book those details elevate them to being cargo trousers!

But check out how Net-a-Porter are combining a slouchy tee, blazer and heels with both chinos and cargo trousers.  The looks are eerily similar to Gwyneth's.  Well, they say all art is theft, and I intend to get my military fashion kicks for free this season as, thorny issue aside as to the placement of the word VELVET, the bottom line (ha ha) is that my old cargo trousers qualify.

"Velvet" Cargo trousers by Topshop
Grey Boyfriend Blazer by Zara
White t-shirt by Cos
Black Leather Stiletto Pumps by Gucci

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