by Blake Herzog
Cargo pants have been many things to many people, starting out on British and American troops during World War II who put binoculars, ammo and other supplies into their plentiful pockets.
Their little bros, cargo shorts, caught on with outdoorsmen and women because of how much “cargo” they can hold.
The full-length version filtered their way into pop culture through hip-hop couture in the mid-1990s, pushing their way into high fashion and peaking in popularity in the early 2000s on influencers of the day like Gwen Stefani.
They’ve never gone away, but this year it’s their turn as a Y2K-era staple to surge back onto the runway, malls, streets and social media (including TikTok, which wasn’t around last time).
Anything that’s a little loose-fitting and has at least one pocket not at the hips is at the top of the style parade this year — we’re seeing cargo skirts and the sometimes-controversial cargo shorts bloom this year, too.
If you think this trend isn’t for you this summer, just check out all the variations. You’re almost guaranteed to find a pair that speaks to you.
Cotton cargo pants in khaki or olive green are connected to the cut’s long history and mark you as an explorer or adventurer. When you wear these you’re saying you aren’t afraid of standing out or stepping outside the box.
You can wear them with anything from a cropped T-shirts to a trench coat (or both) as you venture boldly into the world. They’re also easily streamlined from the bagginess of the old-school cut, which multitudes of designers have stepped up to the plate for with some ravishing results.
The camo patterns that gave cargo pants their kicky flair in the ‘90s and early ‘00s are roaring back, but many more options are available now, from pinstripes to graphic and embroidered touches and full-on cloth murals. These attention-getting garments mark you as an artistic soul who appreciates color and the way it perks everything up.
Your styling choices might be a little more limited as you don’t want to divert attention from the great statement piece below, but you can use your creativity to complement them.
Denim may be the most dominant fabric being made into cargo pants after cotton. These can be worn almost anywhere that jeans can go, and they tend to be baggier than other varieties, which does offer an advantage in being able to stuff more into your pockets without the outline being visible on your thighs. Their looser fit calls to mind the bellbottoms aesthetic of the ‘70s that’s also trending upward but in a fresher way.