A Quest for Khaki (I Mean Chinos)

by Mackenzie M. | February 24th, 2012 | Men's Shopping

The inspiration for this men’s fashion article came up yet again as I was walking among the towering skyscrapers of Chicago’s “Magnificent Mile” shopping district. Surrounded by twenty-something men in pea coats, I noticed another portion of their outfits that seemed to be similar – khaki pants.

While growing up, I always thought of khakis as something to wear to formal events only, but the casual khaki is here, and more in style than ever before. A nice pair can anchor a casual outfit for class or a formal event with ease.

To do research for this article, I visited several big name stores along Michigan Avenue (think of Park Avenue in New York or Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles for comparison), and I tried on different kinds of khakis at various prices and came to one conclusion – don’t pay sticker price.

I began this escapade for khaki in the fantastic TOPMAN. Chicago is one of only a handful of locations in America, and I recently wrote an article regarding it, and the stress surrounding shopping there, but I thought I would give it another shot.

I was not successful. After weeding through racks upon racks of clothing (they don’t group pants in one area), I came upon a grouping of khaki pants in multiple colors. To my dismay, they turned out to be skinny jeans. I asked where the khaki pants were, and the clerk just laughed. He explained that I was looking for chinos, also known as the casual khaki. Upon finding the correct section, I discovered that each of the pairs were priced anywhere from $60-80, well out of the budget of a college student. The lesson to take away from this experience? Call them chinos, and look for lower prices.

A jaunt across the street led me to the massive Macy’s located at Water Tower Place, and left me again looking for the perfectly priced pair of chinos. Again, the prices ranged well above $60, with hardly a sale to be found. The lesson to take away from this experience? Don’t give in; keep looking for the item within budget.

After walking another two blocks, I ended up in a fabulously large, upscale mall known simply as 900 North Michigan. Filled with higher end stores, I knew finding chinos in my budget would be a challenge. I ended up at J. Crew, my personal standby, and began the search again. I found the perfect pair of chinos, but for upwards of $90.

After asking for the help of the salesman, he showed me nearly identical pants that were priced at nearly 50% of the cost, due to fabric and fit. The “urban slim fit” chinos fit perfectly and rang up at around $45, after the 20% student discount (available to all students). The mission had been accomplished. The lesson to take away from this experience? Don’t be afraid to ask the salespeople what they recommend, and always ask about student discounts, as they are more common than most people think.

Happy Shopping!

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