Collegiate Cut Chinos Part 1

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!).

The Perfect ChinosThe Perfect chinos in action. These have it all.

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.

The Ivy Look Slim Chinos

Talon Ad from 1955Both 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.

Woored Man's Collegiate cut  chinosWorried 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.

More measurements:

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.

Collegiate Cut Chinos Cew

College tryNeither 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…

oxford cloth button down
Jerrod Swanton is a simple man interested in simple, classic, and traditional style.

15 Comments on "Collegiate Cut Chinos Part 1"

  1. Acton_Baby says:

    Try the Stan Rey’s , the styling seems to suit a taper, a more appropriate rise and under $30.
    Nice to see Worried Man in the blogosphere, he needs more exposure !

  2. rowdy says:


  3. Jonathan says:

    This may sound unappealing, but you may want to try the slim fit khakis at Old Navy. They have a higher rise than one might expect from the brand and I find they have a nice taper. I have two pair-one in khaki and one in navy. The navy pair shrunk a lot after being washed and dried twice, while my khaki pair seems just fine. At the very least the ON khakis would be an inexpensive experiment.

  4. oxford cloth button down says:

    Acton Baby – Thanks for the lead. I just gave them a quick look and I think that I will make an order soon. Your are absolutely correct that Worried Man needs the blog exposure. He is one cool cat.

    Jonathan – I love the tip! It looks like I might have to make a trip to the dreaded mall 🙂

    If I keep getting such great ideas there may end up being a part 3!

  5. Mark says:

    I, too, have had nice success with Old Navy slim fit khakis. I bought them purely to wear around the house and to do chores, but I like them so much that I bought a second pair and now wear them regularly. They are all cotton, fit well (I’m 6’1″. 155lb”) and look nice, although close inspection will show that the stitching isn’t the best (but, heck, it’s only noticeable if you study them and they cost – on sale – all of $15). Definitely worth a shot.

  6. Halby says:

    Good looking out. I too would love to find some slim fitting, high-waisted khakis. Put This On suggested Jack Donnelly’s Dalton pant. The website just says “medium rise’ so I emailed them asking for specific measurements. But at $98 a pair, it’s a bit pricey no matter what the rise ends up being.

  7. Erik says:

    I’ve been pretty happy with my one pair of Bills Khakis M2s that i had slimmed down a bit. However, at $120-135 a pair…I probably won’t be buying enough to keep myself stocked for the work week. Actually, I probably won’t buy any more at all. Khakis shouldn’t be priced luxuriously.

    I was browsing Lands End yesterday and found that their Traditional Fit Non-Iron chino has a Long-Rise option. If you can live with a non-iron finish (I hear LE’s isn’t bad) you’ll have plenty of cash left over to taper the leg if you’d like.

    I’m also looking at Jack Donnelly, Stan Ray and Orvis. Any thoughts on them?

  8. Halby says:

    JD got back to me. The rise on a pair of the slim-fit dalton pants (W 34) is 11.25.” Not bad but still…that price.

    • Jovan says:

      Halby, for that price you’re getting a quality product. I own several pair now. The slim fit option is a bit tight in the seat, though. I’d advise looking at the regular fit and cutting those down.

  9. oxford cloth button down says:

    Thanks for all the comment guys! Just for a little teaser Jack Donnelly chinos will be making an appearance in part 2. However, Stan Ray and Old Navy have my attention as well. Alterations are not cheap. I think they were about $40 to taper a pair of chinos. JD might not be a bad deal if they fit you with no need for alterations!

  10. Erik says:

    JDs are sold with an unfinished hem, right? So, they’re $98 and need to be hemmed (probably $10) and tapered ($20-40) which makes them more than buying Bills at a men’s store (which will finish them for free…if not, they should). That reasoning turned me off of purchasing a pair, when I can get Orvis (9.2 ounce twill…those things are so heavy they can probably stand on their own) for the same price, with a finished hem (offers 1/4 lengths). For the high-end khaki, I’m tempted to go with them next time.

  11. Mark says:

    To your point about alteration costs, a few years ago, I bought a pair of Old Navy linen casual summer pants on sale, on line for about $20. I usually wear 32×32, but only 33×32 were on sale, so I took a shot. Of course, these were not only 33 waist, but as measured against others, were at least two inches too big. So, to have them properly taken in with the seat being tapered in as well, it cost me (remember I live in NYC where everything is expensive) $20. Hence, I doubled the price of the pants. While I grumbled at the time, I’ve worn the heck out of them for two straight summers and they still look good.

  12. Eric says:

    II think that pic of Worried Man in not very flattering at all, especially not one that I would try to replicate. I am curious why you aren’t pleased with your current chinos? All the pics you post show your chinos to be well fitted. I think that is a contrast to the costume look of Worried Man above who looks like the kids that were always bullied in school. That outfit stands out because it’s eccentric, not because its high quality garment that is properly fit…

  13. oxford cloth button down says:

    Eric – Thanks for the comment. I think that Worried man is “camping” it up a bit in that pic with the soda. However, I think that the fit of his chinos are great and although I think that he should have added a belt it looks like a perfectly normal outfit to me (chinos, madras, and loafers). My dissatisfaction with my current chinos is that they often flare out from the ankle to the leg opening. I would also like a slightly roomier thigh and higher rise.

    • snakeninny says:

      I had the same issue; the leg opening is too big.
      But recently I’ve found that J.Crew bowery classic chino fits me well, it tapers from the knee, making the look cleaner and slimmer than its essential 1040 chino or brooks brothers clark chino.
      J.Crew 770 (the original urban slim) and brooks brothers milano will be too slim for me, although I haven’t tried the latter yet.

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