Classic Cargo Pants get a high-fashion upgrade

Cargo pants have historically been a divisive trend, but this season they’re making a comeback in a new way. According to Olivers, this style dates back to the British military uniforms of the 1930s. They were developed as a way to allow soldiers to carry extra ammunition and essential supplies on the battlefield, but this military staple, once considered purely utilitarian, has been taken over by fashion pioneers. The pocket design hit big in the 1990s and early 2000s and has seen a recent surge in popularity along with the Y2K fashion comeback.

The cargo pant silhouette is popular with everyone from backpackers to streetwear influencers these days. Pockets add a fun, decorative twist to traditional trousers, and a long military history helps bring a masculine edge to even the most feminine of outfits. This season, however, designers are moving away from the slinky, stolen-from-your-friend-closet look that took hold in the ’90s in favor of a more experimental, structured approach.

Structured suggestions

In the past, the streetwear iteration of cargo pants were often worn loose and low on the hips as a contrast to the more buttoned-up military look they were commonly associated with. However, now the uniform atmosphere is coming back into fashion. After the last few years of sharp suiting and professional meets casual looks, it’s no surprise that cargo pants are just another item to get a tailored makeover. The once-rebellious skater style might even go so far as to dive into business casual, putting a new twist on the classic workplace-appropriate pant.

Non-traditional fabrics and colors

Designers may be returning to a more traditional, military-inspired interpretation of cargo pants, but they’re still having fun with fabric and color choices. In addition to classic khakis, you can expect bold colors like pink (thanks, Valentino), satin finishes and luxurious organza. Utilitarian glam may seem like an oxymoron, but it’s hitting the runways in a big way and will likely hit the shelves of your favorite stores in the coming months. Try wearing cargo pants for the evening; luxurious fabrics provide a great contrast to their masculine silhouette.

Pockets and zippers

Straps and zips abound as utility fashion continues to rise in popularity, and cargo pants are the perfect canvas for designers to play with functional accents. A typical cargo pant has one or two extra pockets along the thigh, but look out for designs with zips to adjust the fit, large pockets lower down the leg and seams to reinforce weak points. If you want the hiker to look down a bit, try pairing it with a piece on top that reads more club than trail.

Matching sets

Adding a matching jacket or top to your pants is by far the easiest way to create a cohesive outfit, and cargo pants are no exception. Off-White, Valentino, and Act Nº1 have all matched their recent runway looks, so if you’re planning to follow along, you’ll likely see a few pocket coats and cargo sets hit shelves soon. Keep it simple with a basic tank underneath and boots, or amp it up with glam accents like pointed-toe heels to balance out the utilitarian date night vibe.

Jogger silhouettes

Cargo pants in a range of silhouettes are making an appearance on the runway this season, but the most unexpected is the modest jogger. This style – loose all the way down the leg, tight at the ankle – has seen quite the transformation from casual sweatpants to elevated part of our wardrobes. This design is a little less formal than classic wide-leg or tapered trousers, so keep it in your comfort zone for an off-duty airport look, or dress it up for evening with heels and a structured top to elevate it.

Lots of denim

Just when you thought they ran out of new ideas to transform the classic jeans, along comes denim cargo pants. But instead of the comically wide legs and massive pockets of JNCO jeans of yesteryear, think more comfortably and get inspired by vintage. Distressed, distressed fabrics, complete with a collection of pockets, offer a casual and approachable take on the trend – the perfect way to elevate a classic white t-shirt and jeans look for the coming season.

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