21/12/2015 10:57 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST

Chinos, Boat Shoes, Black Tie: Decoding Men's Fashion For The Regular Guy

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NEW YORK, NY - JULY 15: Models prepare backstage at Nautica - Presentation - New York Fashion Week: Men's S/S 2016 at Skylight Clarkson Sq on July 15, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

The fashion world can be daunting at the best of times. Sure, regular men's fashion is pretty easy -- we all know what shorts and a t-shirt are -- but throw new terms like brogues, chambray and chinos into the mix and confusion kicks in.

On top of that you have a myriad of dress codes that leave the regular guy wishing someone would just spell it out for him. So, we've done just that -- with the help of two experts in the biz.


Chinos aren't jeans, and they aren't suit pants. So, what are they?

"Chinos are simply cotton, or cotton blend pants," men's fashion designer Brent Wilson told The Huffington Post Australia.

"Chino is actually the name of the 100 percent cotton twill cloth from which the pants are made, but the name 'chinos' is now commonly used to describe tailored cotton pants, whether they are made from chino fabric or a substitute."

Stylist Lydia-Jane Saunders agrees, and sheds some light on the origin.

"The chino fabric originated in China, hence the name. Originally it was used for work and military uniforms before becoming popular in mainstream fashion in the 20th century. Traditionally the main colour is khaki, as well as stone, but you now see a lot of navy and burgundy -- actually almost any colour these days," Saunders said.

So what of the current trend of rolling chinos at the hem?

"If you have long legs I say roll up or cuff your pants, but if you have a shorter frame its best to avoid this as your legs will only look shorter. I like to see this look with a simple plain tee and blazer or a patterned shirt with the sleeves rolled," Saunders said.


Are loafers and boat shoes one in the same, or do they differ?

"They are very similar depending on who you ask or what brand you purchase, but traditionally boat shoes have a rubber sole for non-slip and are unlined to facilitate quicker drying, whereas a loafer can be made from any materials and traditionally have a slight elevated heel," Wilson said.

"Boat shoes tend to be sportier than loafers, especially with their herringbone patterned rubber sole that helps grip on slippery surfaces, such as boats. Boat shoes often have laces, but loafers never do. Traditionally boat shoes were only worn on boats but both styles are now very common for casual wear," Saunders said.

Should men wear socks with the abovementioned shoes?

"In my opinion, never!," Saunders said.

Wilson is a bit more lenient on the old sock, as long as it can't be seen.

"I personally always wear socks but use a 'sockette' (I may or may not steal these from my girlfriend). They are a very low-cut sock that can not be seen whilst wearing your boat shoe or loafers, but will ensure your feet are kept smelling like they won't cause death to others when removing your shoes. Rule, Boat shoes -- no socks or sockets only. Loafers -- sockets or socks, but the socks must compliment the outfit," Wilson said.

Chambray shirt

Okay, so we know it's a shirt. But what is the chambray part?

"Again, 'chambray' is simply the type of fabric (a plain weave fabric woven with a coloured yarn in the warp and a white yarn in the weft, but is woven in a twill construction), so when chambray fabric is made into a shirt you get a 'chambray shirt'!," said Wilson.

"Many people think chambray is denim, but it isn’t. It is a lightweight cotton woven fabric. Usually a light blue colour, which is why people mistake it for denim. Personally I love the look of a chambray shirt and darker jeans," Saunders said.

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Short sleeve button up shirts

Quizzed on whether it is good fashion for men to wear short sleeve button up shirts, the jury was divided.

"No, I’m not a fan. I prefer long sleeves rolled up to the elbow. But if someone does want to wear a short sleeved button up shirt, it needs to be cuffed," Saunders said.

"Yes, yes and yes. Did I mention we at Brent Wilson offer a fantastic short sleeve cotton Oxford shirt this season?," Wilson said.

'Smart casual' dress code

Dress codes are tricky as everyone has a different take.

"This is a hard one. It really depends on the workplace and event context and should be interpreted dependant on this. I believe smart causal to be a mix and match of casual and formal pieces in the one outfit. Tailored shirts, shorts, chinos jeans, blazers, loafers, brogues or a nice pair of fashion trainers," Wilson said.

"People are divided on whether jeans are appropriate for smart casual. I say they are, if they are dark with no rips, but they must be worn with a blazer. Chinos are perfect and shoes must be closed," Saunders said.

'Cocktail' dress code

For women, cocktail means a dress that hits the knee, but what about for guys?

"Men should wear a suit (with or without a tie), dress pants with a dress shirt, or even a nice pair of pants with a sport coat or jacket," said Wilson.

"Cocktail for a man is still formal but you can be a little more creative. A slim fit windowpane suit with a dark hued tie and shirt -- but not black -- is perfect. It can also be a blazer and trousers, never jeans. I’m a big fan of brogue shoes for cocktail too, and a pocket square," said Saunders.

'Formal/black tie' dress code

"Black tie does not mean you must show up in a black suit. Rather, that your host has put a tremendous amount of effort into making the evening exceptional and are relying on you to respect the unique elegance that black tie so brilliantly brings. The dress code indicates the formality, not the colour. Think dinner suit jackets, in black, white or a variety of other unique and elegant fabrications and colours. Black tailored pants always. Crisp white shirts always, with a bow tie or tie," Wilson said.