Part of it is down to the ’90s revival, part if it is the utility trend and part of it is down to a relaxing of the slim-fit trouser and shorts styles that have dominated menswear for a near two decades. Cargo shorts are back, in other words. The obvious summer alternative, they have been enjoying a surge of popularity but, without getting too philosophical about it, what makes a cargo short a cargo short?
Springing up in the 1980s and marketed towards outdoorsy types, a cargo short will have two bulky pockets on the side of each leg which, making it easier to get stuff in and out of. For the most part, they are cut out of a thick, hardwearing cotton but are less tailored than bog-standard chino shorts.
They’ve always been practical. Now they’re trending, too.
The Dos And Don’ts Of Wearing Cargo Shorts
Don’t Be Tempted By The Length
Cargo shorts are cut a little longer than chino shorts and a lot lengthier than swim shorts, but still, use the around-the-knee-area as a sweet spot. Any longer and your legs will be drowning in fabric which kind of misses the point of shorts, and makes you look shorter.
Don’t Over Use The Pockets
Cramming a fortune in pennies in those side pockets will weigh them down and stretch out the fabric and shape, making your brand new cargo shorts look old before their time. You’ll also have the silhouette of a teenage shoplifter.
Don’t Wear Them With A Blazer
Cargo shorts are smart casual at best, so pairing them with smart staples like a blazer or tie is a step too far out of its comfort zone. You’re not Pharrell.
Do Pair With Workwear Staples
Although a descendant of military uniform, the multiple pockets make the cargo shorts a natural bedfellow with utilitarian workwear. The deep navy and khaki tones of workwear work well with cargo shorts as do staples like thick over-shirts. Relaxed and loose skatewear is also a great fit so look to pair with interesting graphic tees and oversized hoodies.
The Best Brands For
The in-house brand at one of the coolest department stores in the world, Beams Plus is high fashion inspired by the store’s large arsenal of brands with a neat Japanese twist.
Its cargo shorts tap into Japan’s workwear sensibilities with a wider fit around the hem, a utilitarian rip-stop fabric, and a whopping six pockets. Six pockets? That’s insane, Jeremy.
LA-based designer Rick Owens has always had a knack for turning expectations on their head and his take on the cargo short is no different.
There’s a touch of the extra-terrestrial in the frightening beasts created by the dark overlord of fashion, from monstrous ridged pockets to long billowing fits like something a hi-tech ninja might high-kick his way around town in, this is edgy fashion you’ve got to be careful you don’t cut yourself on.
No one defines fashion for all quite like high street bulwark Gap. Its cargo shorts are cut classic and easy to wear, sitting around the lower waist for a relaxed, slouchier style, usually in a durable cotton twill and a dazzling range of shades.
Dressing stylishly on a budget has never been easier, and it’s Japanese high street chain turned global monolith Uniqlo that is really leading the way. It’s all about the details when it comes to its cargo shorts, with deliberate puckering around the stitches to add an old-school worn look and nifty boxed edging around the front pockets.
A unique fusion of Americana workwear and Japanese style all stirred in a pot with a British seasoning is the basic recipe for 21st-century high street mainstay, Superdry.
Its cargo shorts are as hardwearing as the rest of its reliable, long-lasting range with a touch more of a military look than other high street options on this list.
Without British brand and cult 90s label Maharishi there would have been no cargo trouser plucked out of obscurity from army surplus stores.
The brand’s mastery of the combat trouser translates into the cut-off version well, with easy entry pockets and long flowing straps down the side for some welcome drama and pizzaz.
Part of the American denim triumvirate along with Levi’s and Lee, Wrangler takes the same approach to quality and stand-up sustainability on its cargo shorts as it does on its top grade jeans.
Made out of 100 per cent organic cotton, there’s a pleasant weathered look to its cargo shorts which are cut in a slightly slimmer leg with very deep pockets on the side to keep all your cash in.
Italian brand C.P. Company has always been at the cutting edge of fashion so if you’re a menswear piece getting the C.P. treatment you’re doing something right.
On the surface, its cargo shorts are fairly safe, cut with a straight leg in easy to wear navy and dark khaki. The point of interest comes in the brands signature goggle lens stuck on the lower pocket, a design accent for fellow fashion nerds out there to spot.
A leader in stylish outerwear, Timberland is a good shout for hardwearing wardrobe staples beyond its iconic big yellow boot.
These cargo shorts are cut shorter and slimmer giving them a smarter appearance, and in all shades of neutral, you should be able to pair them nicely with a cotton-button down for relaxed evening wear.
A masterfully dab hand at preppy style, Tommy Hilfiger was always going to move the cargo short along from its military origins.
There are some summer beach vibes in its navy option which is cut out of a lighter cotton than traditional cargo shorts and comes with a matching belt complete with the signature Tommy Hilfiger tricolor.