Cargo Trousers, or pants, as some might call them.... a feature of almost every mans wardrobe. A staple for almost every occasion, the new denim?
What started our obsession with this common trouser alternative?
Cargo pants were developed by the military. They first appeared during WWII, when enormous pockets were put to soldiers' trousers to contain items such as maps, bandages, and ammo. The earliest cargo pants, designed for the British Army, featured only one patch pocket (the large, sewn-on pockets typically found on cargo pants or jackets). The Americans added a second, and dual or quad pockets have since been the standard.
All of this is to argue that if troops – real soldiers fighting battles – can get by with only a few cargo pockets, then we civilians should, too. The most basic designs have two pockets that are closer to the hip than the knee and sit nicely rather than protruding. Of course there are brands taking a more maximalist approach to pocket count and size and doing it well, but they’re the exception, not the rule.
KEY POINTER 1: Do Choose The Right Fit And Fabric
The first time around cargo pants got a pretty rough deal and came in for some slack, so why did cargo pants have such a poor rap the first time around? It doesn't fit. Cargo trousers gradually became huge, baggy, and thick to the point where they seemed like a parody throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s era, which wasn't known for restraint. Today's best cargo pants are simple and streamlined, with a thin or straight fit. Wide-legged styles can be flattering, but there's a careful line to cross between being somewhat big and being comical.
It's difficult to go wrong with the cloth here. The classic is sturdy cotton twill, but smarter variations like thick corduroy and soft wools are also excellent choices.
KEY POINTER 2: Don't make things too difficult for yourself.
It's all about balance when it comes to good style. If you're going all-in on cargo pants, this is the look for you.
It's all about balance when it comes to good style. Keep things simple up top if you're going all-in on cargo trousers, even the polite, well-tailored ones. Military field jackets and utility vests can be worn with cargo trousers, but doing so without seeming like you just robbed an army surplus store is challenging (the trick is to mix colours and fabrics, and keep the fit modern).
Cargo pants look best with classic pieces like chunky fisherman knits, overshirts, hiking boots, and denim jackets for most men. You can't go wrong with an oversized T-shirt and a pair of crisp white shoes in the summer.
KEY POINTER 3: Keep It Casual
The greatest cargo trousers, as previously stated, are frequently elegant and well-tailored. They're sometimes even created out of tailoring fabrics. Even though, formality is not one of their qualities. A pair of cargo pants paired with a cashmere sweater, Oxford shirt, and boots is stylish, but that's about it. Keep things relaxed and lean in to the practicality of it all.
KEY POINTER 4: What To Wear With Cargo Pants
Cargo pants can be thought of as a somewhat more exciting chino, which means you can wear them with almost any casual jacket, T-shirt, and sneaker combination. If you're just getting your feet wet, stick to colour combinations you're familiar with, like black, sandy-beige or blue denim
Classic menswear fabrics like flannel, pinstripes and checks all work for cargo pants. Stick to muted tones and look for pairs with classic tailoring details like a pintucked or pleated front, or a properly turned-up hem. You can dress them down with a good, chunky crew neck or turtleneck, and simple Derby shoes or leather sneakers.
Fleece belongs in the same category as cargo pants: it was once regarded uncool, but we were all relieved to see it make a comeback. When it comes to fleece, it's vital to keep things simple, much like it is with cargo pants, if you're going for a mature style. Think in neutral tones like cream, white, and grey instead of the customary vibrant colours and colourful motifs.
You can dress up a pair of cargo pants for parties, dating, or work to some level. Choose a pair with a fitted fit and well-proportioned pockets that don't draw attention to themselves. Unless you're wearing a sweater, leave your shirt untucked and pair with a slightly cropped jacket for a more interesting silhouette.
Minimalist doesn't have to equal boring, and reducing everything to a monochrome palette is a timeless choice for a reason. The emphasis is on the precise silhouette and details, such as the way the trouser hem gently touches the top of the boot and the sharpness of the cargo pant pockets. If you're not a fan of all black, navy and a fresh white tee will work just as well.
It's not a sin to desire to dress casually and simply, especially in the summer. Cargo pants made of soft, rough cotton work well here because they have a little more edge than a typical chino but aren't fussy. You're ready to go with some beaten-up skate sneakers and a well-fitting T-shirt.
Often, the reason an outfit looks expensive has nothing to do with the price tag and everything to do with texture. Mixing tactile finishes like shearling, wool and leather gives a rich, luxurious feel to this cargo pant outfit – keep to muted tones like navy and tan, and make sure the fit is spot-on, too
If you work in a suit-and-tie environment, cargo pants are probably out of the question for your workplace outfit. A sleek, well-fitting pair in grey, navy, or black can easily find their way into your rotation if the tone is a touch more business casual. Save the tie for another day and pair them with boots instead of shoes.
Embracing the military heritage of cargo trousers is a smart choice that's simple to execute. The khaki trousers and leather boots harken back to military uniform, but the cargo pants' thin fit and the sleek curve of the boots lift it out of the barracks and into the present. In the summer, a knitted T-shirt would be just as good as a cable knit.