I have been pursuing the perfect pair of chinos for as long as I can remember. Part of the problem was that I did not know exactly what I was looking for, but after years of wearing chinos 99.99% of the time I am starting to figure it out. What I am looking for is a pair of “collegiate cut” chinos. Billax (Frequent contributor and Ivy Style connoisseur) wrote about them earlier on my blog (Uprising!).
Collegiate cut chinos which were popular in the late 50’s and early 60’s. They have three defining characteristics. First, they have a high rise that generally falls somewhere in between 11-12”. They also have a fuller thigh which is common enough, but they have a narrow leg opening. You can easily find low rise slim fit chinos today, but finding chinos with a decent rise and a slim, but not tight thigh and a narrow leg opening is proving to be a challenge.
Both ads are from 1955 and were found over at the always awesome Ivy League Look Blogspot.
Not being able to find this type of chino available for sale I was inspired by Worried Man, a frequent contributor to Talk Ivy. Worried Man consistently sports lovely looking collegiate cut chinos which he has had tapered to his own taste. I set out to do the same.
Worried Man from Talk Ivy looking cool in his collegiate cut chinos.
The first hurdle I encountered was getting the ratios correct. Both Worried Man and Billax were kind enough to share the measurements of their chinos as well as other valuable tidbits. I will start with the leg opening, because it is the most important factor.
The leg opening is a moving target, because how large or small it is depends on the size of your shoe. In general your leg opening should be 75% of your shoe length and it should cover the laces of your shoe. This is more for dress pants than casual pants. The leg opening on collegiate cut chinos is smaller at about 70% of the shoe length.
I did a little bit more math based on the collegiate cut measurements that I was supplied before I started working on my own chinos. From the top of the thigh (directly below the crotch) to the knee there is about a 29-31% drop. From the knee to the leg opening it is about 16-17%. The overall drop from the top of the thigh to the leg opening comes in at around 41-44%. These numbers are useful to get a feel for the dimensions of the trousers.
O’Connell’s Old Stock Madras c. 1965
a) Outseam 41 1/2″
b) Inseam 29 1/4 ”
c) (a-b) Rise 12 1/4″
d) Leg Opening 8 1/4″
e) Knee 9 7/8″
f) Bottom of Crotch 13 7/8″
g) waist 33 1/2″
To create my pair of collegiate cut trousers I started with a pair of size 30 waist tailored fit Lands End chinos that I purchased on sale for $25. The rise measured at 10.5” which is less than I wanted, but I decided that it would be manageable. The top of the thigh was is 12.25”, the knee 9” and the leg opening 7.75”. I took two pair to my tailor and had him reduce the leg opening to just under 7.5”. I talked to him about what I was trying to accomplish and left with high hopes.
Neither pair turned out great and they have both slightly different measurements. The pair on the bottom actually has a wider leg opening and is less tapered. Update: I added a new pic 11/5 that better illustrates the fit.
On the way to pick up my chinos I was very excited. I was imagining that I would now have the perfect pair of chinos and much more importantly I would have a repeatable process to get more! However, I was a little disappointed in the way that they turned out. The thigh is too baggy and the taper does not look seamless. I think that the biggest issue is that I had to have the waist taken in a size which left extra material in the upper thigh and seat area. I am not giving up, not yet. I am going to give it the old college try! To be continued…