Love them, hate them, or have a relatively neutral, Switzerland-esque take on them — cargo pants are back. Recognized by their pouchy pockets and roomy silhouette, the utilitarian bottoms have become a near-ubiquitous favorite amongst fashion folk. And much to the chagrin of those in the anti-cargo camp, the practical, military-inspired pant is set to stay its course for the upcoming months. Come fall 2023, you’ll continue to see camp-ready parachute pairs and denim cargo jeans — the latter of which promises more versatility than a traditional style, which, admittedly, can occasionally come off like the bottom half of a Kim Possible costume.
Trend forecaster Kendall Becker offers insights over email as to what exactly prompted the industry’s fascination with ultra-pocketed, utility bottoms. “Trends move in cycles, of course, and we’re currently in a ‘pant cycle’ at the moment, meaning that most innovation is happening in bottoms rather than tops,” she shares with TZR. To wit, the fashion analyst adds, “the past few years furthered the gorpcore trend — while it was more street-style-centric and done mostly for fun rather than practicality, the craving for comfort has brought an actual need for the laidback look. And with a fashion spin from our favorite designers, cargo pants and jeans can be undoubtedly chic, too.”
Beckers also says that “as we stick with easy knits on top, we’re looking for newness in bottoms to bring a fresh perspective to our wardrobes” — and denim cargo jeans provide that in tenfold. Look, for instance, to Isabel Marant’s Fall/Winter 2022 show, which featured several multi-pocket denim pairs in medium-indigo washes to dark grungy colorways. And during Milan Fashion Week, Trussardi presented oversized cargo styles in heathered black denim, while Annakiki offered what purists may consider a sacrosanct faux pas but anti-authoritarians will love: skinny jean cargo pants.
Lastly, Becker adds that styles like cargo bottoms — especially those done in denim — are a fun and refreshing deviation from tradition. “For years past, minimalistic styles (like the skinny jean) were our wardrobe heroes, so it’s exciting to see cargo denim, wide-legs, and an array of colors enter the scene,” describes the trend analyst. Take this theme of experimentation with you throughout the fall season, and if you’re so enthused, try your hand at styling a pair of cargo jeans. You’ll find seven outfit ideas below to get you started.
Treat Them Like Trousers
“Pairs that mimic the cut of trousers feel sophisticated while the utility pockets bring an ethos of creativity,” says Becker. With your trouser-esque cargos, try a cinched-in corset blouse, easy tennis sneakers, and light-catching silver accessories.
An Ode To Gorpcore
Dial up the utilitarian pants’ outdoorsy feel by opting for more pieces that exude a similar camping-ready spirit. You’ll want to look for pieces that feature the key sartorial codes of gorpcore — like exaggerated pockets, weather-proof textiles, and visible zippers. Add in luxurious accessories like an iconic designer It Bag — Fendi’s forever-beloved Baguette Bag, for instance — and leather loafers.
Elena Bonvicini, founder of Insta-approved denim label EB Denim, encourages you to play with subversion by styling a pair of roomy cargo jeans in a going-out outfit. The denim designer’s look of choice consists of her indie label’s dark-wash style, “a pair of heels, a cropped shirt or corset, and my best winged eyeliner.” She adds that multi-pocket pants are ideal for a night spent sipping cocktails because they “eliminate the need for a purse,” meaning you can party hands-free.
Cargo Pants In Color
Colorful denim has been an ongoing trend of 2023, and Becker explains that it extends to jeans of the cargo variety, too. “Colored iterations, like cream, near-neutral pink, and sage green, will be ones to watch,” she details. The trend forecaster invites you to consider leaning into a Hot Aughts influence when styling a non-indigo design, as cargo pants were a notorious staple of the epoch. (Recall a No Doubt-fronting Gwen Stefani rocking a slouchy olive green pair, and let that vision lead you.)
REVICE Denim founder Shai Sudry concurs, shouting out the denim brand’s parachute-inspired Amelia style, which “is meant to sit low on the hips and were inspired by the early 2000 rise.” Sudry “envisions the style paired along with crop tops,” and since the bottoms “were designed to be versatile for all seasons, as you walk into fall, wear the Amelia Pants with a faux fur cropped jacket as well.” Or, for the adventurous dressers, how about a floppy fuzzy hat like one from the celeb-adored Emma Brewin?
Bring On The Baggy Silhouettes
For those that abide by the “big pant, tiny top” formula, a capacious style like cargos would typically be paired with a formfitting top. But as more and more fashion rules are proven to be inconsequential, even archaic, in this current era of fashion that prioritizes individual expression and exploration, consider piling on baggy silhouettes. Start by styling a pair of cargo jeans with your favorite roomy white tee (you know the one) and an oversized bomber jacket. Pointed-toe heels and a textured clutch will complete the look.
Denim On — You Guessed It — Denim
Like long denim shorts — or, as they’re canonically known, jorts — Candian tuxedos have gotten a bad rap for being anti-fashion. If you’re open to vindicating the all-jean look, try doing so with cargo jeans. Grab a graphic cardigan and wear it underneath a longline denim jacket, as the layering will break up the denim on denim to make the look feel more unassuming.
Simplistic With A Streetwear Edge
EB Denim’s Bonvicini also wants to remind you of the magic that can be found in straightforward simplicity. “Cargo pants have so much detail that I like the pants to be the main focus of the outfit. My perfect casual look with cargo jeans would just be a simple top and a pair of cool shades,” she describes, reminding you that more isn’t always best, especially when it comes to the inherently statement-making bottoms. To ensure your look remains visually intriguing, opt for an unexpected wash — like ‘80s-era acid wash, which is staging its own comeback, by the way.
Make 2023 the year you lean into the unexpected. In a fashion sense, this might look like pairing contrasting aesthetics together — utilitarian meets polished and preppy, for instance. Becker, for one, cosigns a clashing look. “Juxtaposition is my favorite style cue,” she says. “I love cargo jeans styled to a beautifully cut top or a chic knit, punctuated with a heel, and pearl jewelry — it’s a formula for an easy yet interesting outfit!”
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