17 May 2010

Blind Chino Tasting: Most Traditional

A Blind Khaki Tasting

The contestants

Bryan notes Most Traditional

Boyer inspects Most Traditional

Seven companies provided 13 pair of trousers to The Trad for a "Blind" tasting judged by men's style writers, G. Bruce Boyer and Robert E. Bryan. LL Bean, Bills Khakis, Brooks Brothers, the French Foreign Legion, J Press, Lincs and Martin Greenfield all put up entries with the requirement they be all cotton and plain front.

Due to the size of the venue, Le Veau d'Or, the inspection was limited to a tasting. That is, a close inspection of the pant with a focus on the fabric, manufacture, hand, details, and authenticity. A 1-100 point scale was used for five categories: Most Traditional, Most Original, Best Dress Chino, Best Khaki and Best Overall.

Winner for Most Traditional is the Bullard Field Pant by Bills Khakis. A whopping 10.2 ounce twill, authentic yet simple design and details that remind me of khakis issued at Ft Jackson; seam on seam pockets - high rise - wide belt loops. I can't wait to see what these look like with heavy starch.

Robert Bryan gave the Bullard a 97 commenting, " washed fabric, heavy trad, high rise, authentic khaki." G. Bruce Boyer gave the Bullard a 98 and noted, " best fabric + color, standard styling; well made; most authentic." No tags were left on the pant to give away it's maker or origins and so the Bullard won on its own merits (and weight) with the consensus afterwards that while some entrants tried, "too hard for authenticity" the Bullard kept it simple and pure.

I'd say the Pennsylvania terroir contributes to a beautiful hand feel while the twill shows nice legs. This is a huge khaki that reminds me of Silver Oak's Napa Valley release. It comes on big and the finish lasts forever. No need to decant. Pairs well with a rib eye at Peter Luger. At $165, this is a special occasion khaki but unlike $100 Silver Oak, you can open the Bullard more than once.

And even though Nordstroms (and probably the French) will tell you not to cuff plain front khakis - - I say cuff these babies big time. An inch and a half is perfect.


Anonymous said...

Not surprised at all that the Bullards won, given the field. STP has discounted these in the past. Agree $165 is steep, but they are fine pants.

Nothing by our friend RL in the competition?

tintin said...

There were two others who wanted to contribute but they were unable to get a sample to us in time. We will do this again for inclusion of those two and I'll ask RL to contribute as well.

I like the idea of aggregating the results through a number of tastings. I'll have to check with judges to see if they do as well.

David V said...

Will there be a final report with on the full range of entrants?

Josh R said...

Love this idea, Tintin.

Just trying to think of what the taste-testers might use as a 'palette-cleanser'... A quick feel of some white Oxford between each pair of chinos?

tintin said...

David- Yes, there will be a full listing and reviewer's score and notes of all at the end of the week.

Josh- White oxford is perfect! For this tasting each man just rubbed his own cuff.

K.S.Anthony said...

Wait, the FRENCH FOREIGN LEGION put up a pair?

Is this a brand or are we referring one of the greatest armies that ever marched (very slowly) across the Earth?

Garry said...

As one familiar with only the J Press, LL Bean, and BB I'd have to say that $165 is a bit over the top for a pair of cotton khakis. But frankly I've ditched my previous favorites as they sequentially went to a kind of khaki fabric ("no wrinkles!") with a cheesy and greasy feel that's nothing like the bellicose cardboard khaki of before ("lots of wrinkles, use starch!"). The last pairs of RLs I bought are super durable and get softer over time but are not at all cheap and cheesy, and the current guilty khaki secret is "Cabela's Aged Khaki Flat-Front Pants" which have the durable feel of the pre-1995 LL Bean "chinos" but I notice that they're made in Cambodia and Lethoso, not in Maine or Iowa. Still, I hope you get them in for round 2.

heavy tweed jacket said...

"No need to decant...you can open the Bullard more than once." Great. I'm sure they'll take to starch just fine and look great with a pair of Florsheim Yuma cobra vamps. As I said before, this is a brilliant idea.

tintin said...

KS - Yep, The Legion is in. Every so often - more often than I like to think - a pair of early 1950s FF Legion issue khakis will pop up on line. Keep a look out. They're off the hook.

Garry- Thanks for the comment. Ordered some Cabela khakis last year. They were naaaaasssssttttyyyyy.
But I'm open. Which ones exactly 'cause I don't want nothing to do with that last pair.

Yeah, the Bullard is expensive but they are state of the art. Order a pair and if you don't agree send 'em back and let me know. They are the real deal and nowadays that's hard to find.

HTJ- Thanks. Means a lot coming from you. I think they'd look better with a pair of Mark McNairy's croc Weejuns.

Anonymous said...

I guess you could say they were tasting "chino"noir...

Seriously, this is a great idea and I can't wait to see more of this.

K.S.Anthony said...

That is insanely cool. This is the same army that makes its troops iron no less than 15 perfect creases into their shirts every day...even in combat conditions.

I strongly considered knocking on the gates at Aubagne:

Bonjour monsieur. Je suis Americain et une volontaire... seems like a fast way to learn French.

Wow. I'll keep my good eye open for those. Thanks for the reply.

Anonymous said...

At $165 a pop I'd expect those babies to help me pick up chicks, which sadly, khakis just don't do anymore...if they ever did.

Love the whole idea and post, though. Great job, and nice photos!


JB said...

Nobody actually tried the pants on, which means the comparisons to a wine tasting would only make sense if the participants at a wine tasting never actually tasted the wine.

Personally I'm fine with inexpensive Land's End Legacy Tailored chinos. They're a nice soft fabric (starch? really?), they're cheap so you don't care if you spill ketchup on them, they're relatively slim, they fit nicely, and you can specify the inseam down to 1/4 inch and they'll cuff 'em at whatever width you want. Are they the greatest pants in the world? No. But seriously, who notices chinos?

Anonymous said...

"You mention the Foreign Legion. Our Red and Greens....Founded in 1831, mainly to sweep up drunken German students bothering our towns...."

Paid And Loving Eyes (1993)
Jonathan Gash (John Grant)



tintin said...

Anon 20:46 Chino Noir works for me.

KS Anthony- After getting out of the army I toyed with the idea as well and considered joining with the hopes of getting into the 2nd REP. But the 5 year contract was a deal breaker. After reading a couple books by a Brit and and an American it was probably one of my better decisions.

DB- I'd say they were the best of the best and $165 is a small price to pay for that. The key is how they fit you.

BJ- I like to think the judges spit as any taster would do at a serious wine tasting .

The fit was a question and impossible for this tasting. Also, a khaki that would fit Bruce might not work so well for Robert.

So I depended on these men and their knowledge and taste to help morons like me identify what was good and what was bad thus giving us a starting point.

I had a pr of LE khakis four or so years ago. I threw them away after a couple months. I didn't like the material or the fit or the cuffing and they were taking up precious room in my closet.

And you're right - - As long as you wear LE chinos no one will notice them. The point here is to wear what few would ever notice but to know yourself the origin, quality and yes, even the story behind something so everyday as khakis. Khakis in the army were starched. Heavily. Usually by Quarter Master laundry. Some vets, like myself, still starch their civilain khakis. At least those that lend themselves to the process. Wash and wear khakis with that nasty finish wouldn't starch up so well.

Tater- That link is on the fritz.

Laguna Beach Fogey said...

Fun idea! But I'm happy with my LE chinos, the latest batch of which have lasted more than three plus years and still going strong. These are just chinos, after all. A blind tasting of chinos (chinos!!) seems like gross overkill. Chinos, OCBDs, boat shoes, etc....these are the basics and we probably don't need connoisseurs to tell us which ones are best.

Nordstrom--not "Nordstrom's"

Gentry said...

Which fit of Bill's are the best? I've bought a few pairs, but they fit like Hammer pants.

tintin said...

LBT - I probably don't need you to tell me a khaki tasting is overkill. The Trad didn't get where it is today listening to other bloggers warn of overkill. I do note spelling + grammar errors (thanks) but happily admit not being a Nordstrom customer for some five years.

Gentry- A good reason to visit your local haberdasher and try on the three options (M1- Loose M2- Standard, M3-Slim).

Garry said...

TT - I hope that I'm not touting khakis that you think are "naaaaasssssttttyyyyy", but I'm talking very specifically about the "Aged Khaki Flat-Front Pants" and not the "Wrinkle-Free Accu-Waist Chinos" or the "Huntsman Chinos." I've tried the Huntsman and yes they are bad, with that same slick and frowsy "khaki" now used by LL Bean and Land's End and almost everyone it seems. The Cabela's "Aged Khakis" do have occasional zipper breaks but the material seems stand-up, as khakis should be. I have several pairs in the closet, however I brought them from 1 to 5 years ago, and it's possible something has changed.

Anonymous said...

Chicks or chinos, one man's naaaasty is another man's niiiice.

tintin said...

Gary- I don't remember which one I tried but I know it wasn't the aged khaki. I love a cheap khaki and I probably have at least 10 pr of Duck Heads. I'd like to do another chino tasting. Actually two. One with Cabelas, Target, JC Penny, Duck Head, etc. And a top of the line Chino tasting with entries from Turnbull and Asser, Cordings, Paul Stuart, Bastian, Purple Label. We'll see.

Anon - Well said.

Anonymous said...

Ja whol, "Fritz"! Das hat geschmeckt!

Googler: atlantic times once teutonic now slavic


Mateo said...

Don't listen to Laguna! More, More, More! I can't wait to read about all the rankings. This is a AWESOME idea! I can't wait.

Sheik of Araby said...

When tintin publishes his book, it should be called Chicks or Chinos: One Man's Quest for a Good Fit.

kent.edel said...

My first pair of Bill's were the M2, and I bought them at Nordstrom (or Nordstrom's) in King of Prussia maybe five years ago. They were the poplin, and as a 30-waisted ectomorph I was really pleased by their drape. (It's hard to get drape with heavier fabrics when you are dealing with only a small amount of it.) PF, cuffed (inch and an eighth, sorry: it's what I do) -- and yes, the tailor there tried to talk me out of the cuffs, invoking the same murky rule about PFs. (As a junior-high student in the late sixties, I wore the "preppie" uniform of the time: PF slacks with cuffs -- a natural pairing then as well as now. Didn't even know what a pleat was, but I knew what a cuff was.) Since then I have bought several more from a haberdasher in Princeton (Nordstrom here in South Jersey is carrying their own brand now, not Bill's). The M2's taper is not as great as it used to be -- the bottom is maybe a half-inch wider nowadays for some reason (maybe the same reason invoked by the putz designer that put the liner in the Brooks collar). But they are still pretty baller in my book.