Back in the mid-2000s, I owned a pair of Abercrombie & Fitch camouflage cargo pants that I absolutely loved. They were from the mens’ department and perfectly worn in with thick ties at the ankle — and the pockets! So many pockets! But after a decade-long vendetta against the baggy, shapeless pant — in 2013, I told my sister that the khaki cargos she packed for a trip to Africa probably shouldn’t be worn for anything other than a safari — I'm once again contemplating which multi-pocket style to purchase and what to wear with said cargo pants now that they're back in style.
And sure, cargo pants are polarizing. But we learned to love fanny packs, mom jeans, scrunchies, and dad sneakers again, so let’s keep an open mind. Just look to top models and celebrities for proof. Gigi Hadid, Kaia Gerber, and Elsa Hosk are just a few of the trendsetters championing the cargo comeback, along with a slew of Instagram influencers and street-style stars. The appearance of utilitarian trousers in the Spring/Summer 2019 runway collections — in hot pink at Prabal Gurung; white linen and lace at Jonathan Simkhai; tailored and modern at Givenchy; sporty heritage vibes at Ralph Lauren, languid and relaxed at Sies Marjan — only further solidifies the style as an official trend.
(From left: Prabal Gurung, Jonathan Simkhai, Givenchy, Ralph Lauren, Sies Marjan)
If their return comes as equal parts shocking and terrifying, consider easing into the idea with a pared-down option, like wide-leg trousers with flat patch pockets. If you're into athleisure, opt for track and jogger styles featuring sporty details, like chunky zippers, reflective accents, and clip-buckle belts that will seamlessly blend with your streetwear wardrobe. Or, if you’re a purist, stick to the classic workwear look: slouchy and relaxed in rugged khaki or camo canvas, with plenty of functional compartments. From there, it all comes down to styling in a way that balances the utilitarian aspect and elevates the overall look. To that end, here are a few ideas for how to wear cargo pants, should you be so inclined.
Denim Cargos + Puff-Sleeve Blouse
Jeans make for a nice entry point to the cargo trend; they're an easy, familiar starting point to work from. Choose a pair with lots of pockets and flaps, in a fit that’s slim — but not skinny. A feminine puff-sleeve blouse and statement heels are the perfect pairing to offset utilitarian denim.
If you’re all about le chic sportif, look for athletic cargo styles that will seamlessly blend with your streetwear wardrobe. A ripstop nylon tracksuit with side flap pockets and sporty snaps, zips, and cinchers should be well within any your comfort zone. Complete the look with a matching jacket, then accessorize with heeled booties and some ‘90s-inspired shades.
Camo Pants + Button Down
If you have it in your head that camouflage can’t be sophisticated, think again. There are few things that can’t be made more elegant by adding a crisp, white button-down, and cargo pants are no exception.
Workwear Pants + Luxe Jacket
Balance baggy workwear bottoms by going rich and refined on top. A silky camisole and sumptuous shearling jacket lend instant luxury to practical khaki pants. Bring in a bit of shine with a couple delicate gold chains around your neck, then let your jacket slip off your shoulder for the full effortless cool-girl effect.
Wide Leg Cargo + Chunky Knit
Too timid to tackle the utilitarian look in its fullest concept? Consider this cargo lite. Sleek, wide-leg trousers with understated side pockets offer a taste of the trend without the fear factor. An outdoorsy jacket and a chunky knit help ground the look in its rugged roots in a way that’s still palatably subtle.
'90s Cargos + Coordinated Top
Give your cargos the Yeezy treatment à la Kim Kardashian by selecting a slouchy style with a high, nipped-in waist, elasticized cuffs, and all-over 3D pockets. Wear it with a curve-hugging bodysuit layered under an oversized work shit — all in a single, muted hue. Then step into a pair of (what else?) heeled sock boots to complete your Calabasas uniform.
Trousers With Pockets + Colorful Sweater
Loose, white trousers have such a clean, sleek look about them that you’ll hardly even notice a few simple pockets along the legs. This is another excellent entry-level option for those looking to start in the shallow end of the trend. Pair with a slim-fitting, graphic sweater for a bold contrast. (This also helps take some of the focus away from your pants, if you’re really feeling self-conscious about this fashion risk.)
Army Green Cargos + Leopard
As every fashionable woman knows, leopard functions as a neutral — a very stylish neutral. When worn with army green cargo pants, the resulting look is equal parts utilitarian casual and posh glamour.