Hard to believe, but cargo pants for men are in the midst of a comeba—actually, you know what, guys? If it’s all right with you, I’m going to skip the hard sell on cargo pants being back in style this time out. It’s really not that hard to believe. In fact, we’ve been delivering the same impassioned declaration that Cargoes Hath Returned every single year since at least 2011. You get it already. If you aren’t on board by now, you never will be.
For those of you who are on board, we’ve got plenty of good stuff to talk about. Designers, as we pointed out, have been pushing this cargo renaissance for the better part of a decade, and they’ve really come into their own of late. The pants they’re making in 2021 fit better than ever, use radder materials than usual, and experiment with pocket placement and size in all kinds of clever, stylish ways. We’ve said it many times before, and we will most definitely say it again: Cargo pants for men are back. From everyday casual cargo pants to off-the-wall designer numbers, these 22 pairs prove it.
The Best Cargo Pants, Period
When Todd Snyder established his namesake menswear line back in 2011, he did it with the kinds of better-than-basic pieces that stylish guys and clueless men alike could get behind—like these cargo pants. At first glance they don’t appear radically different from the basic versions you can find in any big box store but like many of Snyder’s wares, the difference is in the details. The side pockets come slightly larger than usual, on a silhouette that’s more like a well-tailored dress pant and less like the baggy camo versions you’re apt to find in surplus shops (not to mention the trim leg opening looks equally good with sneakers, oxfords, or your favorite shit kickers). The fabric itself isn’t field-ready ripstop but instead a soft cotton herringbone cloth that offers up a similar vibe but in a package that’s better for every occasion out there, from casual Fridays at the office to raiding the cereal aisle at the supermarket on the weekend.
The Best Cheap Cargo Pants
Dickies first introduced the 874 work pant all the way back in 1967 and it’s been the brand’s best seller ever since. The workwear-approved construction and hardy twill fabric stood up at 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 2000s Abercrombie-era cargo pants you’re trying not to remember, these are pared back and almost minimalist, giving them a ton of range to play in any style whether you’re wearing sneakers, loafers or boots.
The Best Designer Cargos
Balenciaga’s heady explorations of fashion draw on ideas that are both meta and memetic. Designer Demna Gvasalia constantly turns “ugly” design on its head and re-contextualizes it in new and innovative ways—like the deepfake fashion show he pulled off for Spring 2022. So when it came to reinterpreting cargo pants, Gvasalia embraced and exaggerated the tropes of the mid-2000s Aeropostale trousers that every teen in every mall in America once owned. Massive JNCO-esque fit? Check. Zip-off legs? Check. Denim? Check.
The Best Cargo Pants/Shorts
Is there anything more gorpcore than a pair of hiking cargo pants that transform into hiking cargo shorts? These convertible Swoosh joints are as practical as they are handsome: they’ve been field-tested in the trying terrains of the Pacific Northwest and are replete with nifty features like hidden zip pockets (inside the cargo pockets!), drawstring hems for keeping out the elements, a built-in nylon belt, and a crotch gusset for ease of movement. For extra feel-good points, the water-repellent, nylon-elastic fabric is made with recycled material. Sure, they’ll look great with a pair of trail shoes and a hiking backpack, but you could just as easily kick back in ’em with a hoodie and sandals like you’re getting snapped in an NBA tunnel.
The Best Cargo Pants for Getting the Job Done
When you need a cargo pant built for tough labor, these Patagonia numbers are for you. You probably know the brand more for its range of outdoorsy clothes and gear, but these utility pants prove that Patagonia can hold its own when it comes to real-deal workwear. They’re cut in a relaxed fit from a duck canvas fabric that’s super abrasion-resistant and breathable thanks to the heavy dose of hemp. They’ve also got reinforcements and triple-needle stitching up the wazoo, so you can be sure they’ll get the job done (…and the next job…and the one after that). It’s easy to pair these with a denim shirt and burly boots for a full-on workwear fit, but don’t be afraid to swerve away from that and slip them on with a pair of wavy socks and Birkenstocks.