Four days out from this Sunday’s Super Bowl, a street artist in Miami’s bohemian Wynwood district was at work spray painting the town with a mural dedicated to the year’s biggest showdown in sports. With “Kansas City” and “San Fran” lettering already splashed across a building wall in bright neon hues, he was now getting started on a goal post.
Meanwhile, down the street at its store-slash-social-lounge, Levi’s Haus, Levi’s was gearing up to stage the year’s biggest showdown in pants. The fashion brand, long beloved for its denim, was preparing for the high profile launch of…a chino?
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Mind you, we always like to bet on the underdog, and a case could be made that many of us have yet to recognize what chinos are really capable of. Seeing them as just pants for the office or engagement parties doesn’t acknowledge their potential to be so much more. Especially now that jeans are such a well-established part of most office dress codes, why not flip the script and encourage the next generation to finally free chinos from the boardroom?
Granted, first someone would need to get the cut right, and introduce some fun colours, and add some stretch. You know — give trousers a makeover for city life beyond the Financial District. Wynwood, for example, is not a neighborhood that you would traditionally head to in a pair of chinos.
And yet, come Wednesday night, R&B singer Khalid walked on stage at Levi’s Haus — a 20 minute drive from where J.Lo and Shakira will duet on Sunday night — in a pair of crisp navy Levi’s XX Chinos. And over the course of his performance, he successfully convinced us that we should forget everything we thought we knew about chinos. Chinos can belong on a concert stage, and in a neighborhood full of spray paint and Hawaiian shirts, and even — why not? — at your Sunday Super Bowl party.
Khalid will continue preaching the casual power of chinos all throughout his 2020 Free Spirit tour. Credit for a lot of the design work that sold him on those pants in the first place goes to Levi’s Chief Product Officer, Karyn Hillman and Janine Chilton-Faust, Levi’s Global VP of Men’s Design. “It’s an extension of our lifestyle. We are known for fit and quality, and this continues that,” Hillman explains. “But you can’t just take a jean and make it a chino. The actual construction isn’t the same. So we had to dig into that thoroughly. We came up with three fits — slim-taper, a standard taper, and a straight with this great crease — that we realized could get a lot more guys into these pants.”
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Chilton-Faust also made sure that once they’re on, the chinos are ready to move. “We have stretch embedded, and this garment dye that gives a supple feel but makes these sturdier than just a pant. You can feel comfortable and breathe,” she explains. The silhouettes are also designed to play nice with other items in your wardrobe. “With things like sneaker culture coming in strong, you want to see your shoe,” Hillman says. And while the chinos are available in bright colours like rose tan and jade blue, we found ourselves looking at even the classic beige version with fresh eyes. If the sandy expanse of Miami Beach proves anything, it’s that beige is a great way to ground a lot of bright colour.
Of course, before you start thinking that any of this spells the actual death of blue jeans, it’s important to note that Levi’s Haus is also home to some cutting-edge denim initiatives. Through the magic of lasers, a tricked-out washing machine called the Jeanologia Eco, and an iPad interface, the brand’s Future Finish program allows shoppers to apply custom treatments to their pants — everything from a floral pattern and a few tasteful rips to a purple tint and tie-dyed back patch — and watch them be treated before their very own eyes. In keeping with the brand’s water conservation efforts — to date, Levi’s has saved more than 3 billion litres with its sustainable production techniques — the entire process plays out with recycled H2O.
Even for those not headed to Miami to watch the Super Bowl in person, Levi’s still has ample customization options available. The Future Finish program is really an amplification of the kind of customization it already offers at the Tailor Shops integrated into many of its stores — including seven in Canada — which let shoppers make tweaks like swap out buttons and add custom labels to make their denim jacket or jeans completely their own.
The point is, when you’re getting dressed, sometimes blue jeans come out on top, and sometimes you’re feeling chinos. Sometimes it’s the year for the Chiefs to win, and sometimes it’s the 49er’s turn. But at least for this year, we’re sporting chinos to our Super Bowl party. Time to see how J.Lo and Shakira compare to Khalid. Who knows — maybe one of them will even be wearing chinos.