This might be news for some, but cargo pants for men are experiencing a kind of renaissa-…you know what? Never mind. We’re gonna skip the hard sell on “cargo pants are back”; it’s really not that hard to believe. We’ve been delivering the same impassioned “Cargos Have Returned” spiel every single year since at least 2011. They’re here. You’re here. You get it. You’re here because you get it. And at this point, if you remain unsold on cargos, that’s okay. (Feel free to wander over to our best men’s chinos department. Afterward, we’ll all rendezvous in the essential shoes article. Talk soon!)
The Best Cargo Pants Shopping Guide
Now that all the anti-cargo pants folks have left the page, let’s get to the goods. Designers may have been pushing the cargo pants agenda for the better part of a decade, but they’ve really come into their own of late. Recent arrivals fit better than ever, use cooler materials, and get way more creative with the cargo pocket placement. From everyday casual men’s pants to off-the-wall high-fashion renditions, these 17 pairs available online and in-store prove that cargo pants are off the comeback trail, and here for good.
The Best Obsessively Authentic Cargo Pants
Cargos aren’t technically American—they were invented by the British armed forces in the 1930s—but they’ve been absorbed into the Americana fashion canon. And where do you go for painstakingly-recreated Americana? Japan. Orslow, the brainchild of Japanese designer Ichiro Nakatsu, crafts cargos with a fit for today and details from yesteryear. Check out the standard-issue military details, like an adjustable waist and durable cotton ripstop fabric, which promises to hold up just as well as your favorite pair of jeans.
The Best Cheap Cargo Pants
Dickies first introduced the 874 work pant way back in 1967 and it’s been the brand’s best seller ever since. The workwear-approved construction and hardy twill fabric took over countless job sites before going on to dominate skate parks and, eventually, the fashion scene. These cargo-pocketed versions offer the same build quality and always-stylish straight-leg silhouette as the original 874s, easily warranting a place in anyone’s wardrobe. And unlike the military-tinged cotton khaki style, these are blue collar simple, giving them a ton of range. Sneakers, loafers, boots (steel toe or otherwise)—they’re all welcome here.
The Best Brawny Cargo Pants
Given Patagonia built its rep on clothing for the outdoorsiest among us, it’s maybe not too surprising that they’ve got a sub-brand built for a hard day’s work. This pair’s cut in a relaxed fit from an abrasion-resistant duck canvas made breathable thanks to a heavy dose of hemp. Reinforcements and triple-needle stitching will keep you from ripping a seam out in the field (a.k.a., squatting to pick up a dropped phone). It’s easy to pair these with a denim shirt and burly boots for a full-on workwear fit, but it’s just as fun to run in the other direction with a pair of wavy socks and some Birkenstocks.
The Best ’90s Throwback Cargo Pants
If you haven’t heard, the biggest cargo pants from the ’90s are back and better than ever. A&F’s reissued cargos are made from sturdy cotton cut in an updated fit: slightly loose and then gradually tapering, with a hem hitting just below the ankle. The resulting silhouette is just the right amount of casual without getting too messy, meaning you could lock in your favorite polo with the removable D-ring belt before heading off to drinks or a date. (We’d probably avoid these for work in favor of sleeker cargos, unless your office dress code leans heavily toward the “no shirt no shoes no service.”) Available in a range of neutral tones (with some camo in the mix as well), these are one of the few Y2K comebacks we don’t regret.
The Best Warm-Weather Cargo Pants
Cargos have come a long way from the battlefields. These brown cargos from Banana Republic are what we call “rugged elegance,” with a slim-but-not-skinny shape and the warm-weather grace of linen. Sure, you can top them with a tee or polo, but the trim silhoutte and fabric mean you can team them up with a sweater, cardigan, button-front shirt, or several of the above—the more fun and funky, the better.
The Best Dress Cargo Pants
Cargos absolutely deserve a slot in your dress pant rotation, and this pair shows just how they pull off a more high-pressure situation. Pleats (including subtly at the knees), a gentle crease, and slightly lustrous cotton gabardine team up with barely-there cargo pockets for a knife-edge sharpness. And black makes pairing them with anything else in your closet—from dress shirts to sport coats—that much easier.
The Best Fashion Cargo Pants
When capital-F fashion designers get their hands on cargos, they tend to get trippy (scroll down to our bonus picks for proof). But what we love about these black cargos from the dark lord himself, Rick Owens, is that they bring his IYKYK aesthetic without veering into art project territory or candy raver insanity. The slightly ballooned leg and relaxed hem look killer with tees, slim hoodies, and oversized sweatshirts—but those clean lines can be quickly tuned up with an oversized sport coat or button-front. If you’re looking for cargos that will have you feeling like the main character in every room, then you’re in the right place.