As incredible as denim is, it is far from the only pair of trousers that a guy needs. With chinos being far less common than denim in this subculture, finding a great pair that gets fit, fabric, and details all correct is far more difficult than it is with denim. While I can think of 5 denim brands just off the top of my head that fit all of those criteria for me, I only own two pair of non-denim trousers that fit all of those criteria. Given how much I love chinos and trousers, this is quite frustrating at times, but it also makes for a really fun and challenging hunt that I enjoy the process of. It also makes it even more rewarding when I find a pair that does check all of the boxes.
One of the pairs that I have come across in my quest for a full closet of great chinos and trousers is this pair of 15oz Heavy chinos in tan from Samurai, the kings of heavy and slubby denim. I first came across it reading Indigoshrimp’s blog and was immediately drawn to the beautiful fabric and the fact they were not too slim of a fit, an issue that many chinos in the raw denim world have. Let’s take a look at these and see what’s what.
Aside from the fabric and metal buttons, these look like fairly traditional chinos
These chinos feature:
Original Samurai 100% cotton 15oz heavy selvedge chino fabric in tan
Samurai branded metal hardware
5 metal button fly
Fifth coin pocket
Silver Lame’ selvedge ID
Original Samural jacquard pocket bag fabric
Chino-style front pockets
Chino-style rear pockets (unlike many chinos from denim brands that do denim-style rear pockets)
The fabric really is the star of the show
In terms of fabric and features, these chinos are stellar. The fabric itself is absolutely brilliant. This is without question the most interesting and characterful chino fabric that I have ever come across in my life. One aspect of Samurai that I love is that they do not just do heavyweight fabrics, they also do very interesting and beautiful ones. The weight alone makes this fairly unique among chinos, but it’s the texture that truly makes it great. It has a great balance of slub and hairiness without overdoing either of those traits. Some textured fabrics can look gimmicky to me and I personally think this fabric avoids that.
However, if you want a more traditional chino look, this fabric may look like a gimmick to you and you may want to avoid this pair. The weight alone may turn people off. It certainly feels tough, but it is not overly stiff either. It’s a great balance of feeling substantial without being too cumbersome. Also adding to the greatness is the color which is a more rich and deep color than an actual tan. It is not as dark and orange as duck either and I think it is a perfect color for this heavier fabric.
The color is extremely versatile, going well with dark brown, green, and navy here
One smart feature is the fact that they used metal buttons instead of plastic or wood buttons for the fly. Given the heft of the fabric, this was a very smart decision. It doesn’t hurt that the buttons themselves look awesome. The laurel design, Kanji character, and Samurai logo all make an appearance on these fly buttons and they look great. The inner hardware is also Samurai branded and looks equally impressive. Continuing with the Samurai branding, we also have Samurai branded pocket bag fabric on all pockets. This is a beautiful ecru fabric with subtle designs in it. This fabric is not too thick and is quite soft. I would have preferred a stronger material, but I do like the way it looks.
The pocket fabric and hardware are beautifully customized
I really like that they went for actual chino details instead of making a pair of “chinos” that are just five pocket jeans with a non-denim fabric. Chino front pockets are generally much deeper and easier to access than jean front pockets and these are no exception. I also like that they went for chino style rear pockets. This means no back pocket rivets, but the benefit of having the more sleek rear pockets more than makes up for this.
Silver lame’ selvedge may not be to everyone’s taste, but I think it pops really nicely against the dull tan color of the fabric. It is a Samurai signature and is another small, but welcome feature that helps set these chinos apart from the pack. One negative in terms of features is the way the belt loops are constructed. They are quite thin and not tucked or reinforced in any way on the bottom other than the single bar tack. They are not poorly attached, but they do feel a little flimsy given how thick this material is and how securely attached they are at the top.
I do wish the belt loops felt more secure at the bottom
Chino-style pockets are so much more user friendly than 5 pocket denim ones
The fit is sort of a normal, slightly slim, straight fit with a decent taper in the leg from the knee down, especially if you do not need to shorten the hem. The measurements of my size 36 pair are as follows:
Front Rise: 11.5”
Back Rise: 13.8”
Original hem: 9.1”
Original inseam: 32.9”
My hem: 9.3”
My inseam: 29”
If you are looking for a super slim, tapered look, this pair is not for you. However, I do think that this cut will appeal to a large number of denim heads. It is not overly wide and the taper is enough to make them work for most people. I also really like that the thigh is not too slim, which is an issue that I have come across often in chinos. However, the fit is by far my biggest issue with these. My main problem is with the rise. The front rise is a modern medium rise, which I would still consider fairly low. However, it would be workable if it were not for the fact that the rear rise is extremely low. In fact, it is less than two and a half inches higher than the front rise, unheard of for most jeans and trousers of any type. For reference, I have jeans that only have an 10” front rise that have a 15.5” rear rise. This is an exceptionally low back rise.
The low rise is a major issue. These pictures show how uncomfortable the fit is in the crotch
This low rise coupled with the heft of the fabric make these chinos feel and look a bit awkward on me. I am not a thin guy, but these trousers make me look wider than I already am. I am not exactly sure what is causing this because I have wider-legged jeans that make me appear far slimmer than these do. They can also be quite uncomfortable. The low rise makes the exceptionally tight in the crotch area and they constantly feel too low on me and I always feel like I need to pull them up higher. Even worse is the fact that the rise issue makes tucking in shirts a problem for me. This is especially an issue for chinos because they are generally considered a more formal or smart option in comparison to denim.
The cut and fabric cause these chinos to flair out weirdly in the hips/thighs
Construction is pretty good overall. I am very glad that the inseam is felled on this model, something that I wish more Japanese jeans had. The bar tacks and chain stitches are quite clean for the most part and the button holes are well executed as well. The overall stitch work is pretty good, but not great. I have certainly seen neater and tighter stitching from most, if not all of the other brands that I have reviewed so far. I would not call it poor, but it is not up to the level of brands such as RJB, Viapiana, Roy, Ooe Yofuketen, and more. The biggest issue is the fact that the lock stitching on the fly was not done well and you can see that it is split in one place. This should not be a problem for now, but may become an issue in the future.
The construction is definitely not perfect on these. I expected better.
A feeling of emptiness is what best describes my thoughts on these chinos from Samurai. There is a lot to love about them. The fabric is one of, if not the most interesting and characterful chino fabric I have ever seen and I really love seeing denim brand put this much effort into a chino fabric instead of treating them as an afterthought as so many do. The details are also pretty nice overall, especially the hardware and selvedge color. The construction is only decent, however, and I would expect better from a high end Japanese brand such as Samurai.
Worst of all, the cut is just strange. The thigh down is very nice, but the top block is quite weird. In fact, I think it is objectively bad simply because of how uncomfortable it is and how the front and rear rise are so at odds with each other. A low rise is personal preference, but this rear rise is lower than the rear rise of my RJB jeans that have a paltry 9” front rise! At the end of the day, I simply do not feel comfortable in these when I wear them and have been taking them out of my closet less and less often over time. Despite this, I am very happy that they exist and I hope the fact that they sell so well inspires other denim brands to put more effort into their chino fabrics.*
If you think the top block and less than perfect construction will not bother you, then I highly recommend these chinos from Samurai. The fabric alone makes them quite special and if you love texture and heavy fabrics, these are going to make you very happy. They can be purchased at Okayama denim here for $220, though they are almost sold out right now. My guess is that another run will be coming soon. The price is fair for what they are in my view and as long as the fit works for you, I doubt you will be disappointed.
*Freewheelers, Stevenson Overall Co, and Mister Freedom all offer some incredible chino fabrics, but I still wish more denim brands made chinos with fabrics as interesting as their denim.