No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. Controversial 90s pants really are back en vogue, and like the overalls before them, the best cargo pants for men are a common sight out in the fashion wilds.
Cargo pants. They’re back. Again. For some odd reason, people seem to think that cargo pants are never and will never be in style. But we’re here to strike down those notions, as the multi-pocket pants are in demand more than ever. Sure, they may have lost their appeal a few years back, but with the rise of streetwear, casual dressing and the Y2K fashion trend, cargo pants have become a staple piece in many men’s wardrobes.
If you’re here reading this, then we’re guessing you’re hoping to add some cargo pants to your own wardrobe. To help you out, we’ve gathered the best cargo pants for men from brands like Carhartt, Bonobos and Polo Ralph Lauren. We’ve also got some information on this cyclical nature of the cargo pants trend.
Who Invented the Cargo Pant?
Originally designed for military use, they first were worn by the British Armed Forces, and then by the US military during WWII. Issued to paratroopers, they could stuff their pockets full of extra weapons, food, and what have you before they leaped from planes onto the battlefields. Eventually, these combat pants were issued in a range of styles to each military branch. Surplus goods found their way to Army/Navy stores where hikers and campers became fans of them. As more civilians wore them, the name changed from combat pants to cargo pants.
By the 1990s, cargo pants had become fashionable, and by the aughts, they were very much on their way out. Don’t get us wrong, cargo pants were still ubiquitous during the Y2K fashion era, but they were quickly becoming insufferable. Sometime around 2010, they faded into the background.
Now, as Gen Z embraces ’90s and Y2K fashions, cargo pants for men are back, and at least for the Fall/Winter fashion season, they aren’t going away.
What Are Cargo Pants?
The basic cargo pant silhouette is a pant that has front, back and side pockets. Cargo pants can have a line of pockets going down the leg. Another version is a side pocket and a zippered compartment. Lastly, there is the slim leg cargo pant that has a tiny and useless pocket on the side of the leg. As for pant leg width, they mimic jean trends. If jeans are skinny, cargo pants are skinny. The pendulum is swinging away from skinny to straight leg, relaxed, and yes, baggy cargo pants.
Types of Cargo Pants
Cargo pants also go by the name utility pants. Back in the day when cargo pants were a workwear option, they had numerous deep pockets and padded knees. As they evolved into a fashion item, they lost the hammer loop and other utility options, and the “utility” designation was dropped. It wasn’t until designers started tinkering with the layout that hammer loops, knee padding, and zippered pockets were added back to the cargo pant, that they started calling them utility pants again. Some people feel that if any pant has side pockets, then they are cargo pants. If they have more than one side pocket, they’re a utility pant. And some people feel that cargo pant and utility pant are interchangeable terms.
Due to the rise of the athleisurewear trend, sweatpants styles got an upgrade. The silhouette went from billowy to flattering, and with side pockets sewn to the leg. Voila! The birth of the cargo jogger. Just like we’ve seen with chino joggers, the cargo jogger is a more laid-back approach to this pant style, and because of this particular trend, the pockets on modern cargo are becoming smaller and more subtle with every season.
The tailored version of the straight-leg cargo pant is known as the cargo trouser. Sleekly designed, they fit in office environments and nice restaurants. Try them with a sweater, Chelsea boots ,blazer and a button-down.
Loose-fit cargo pants for men are great for kicking back during the weekend, or at work.
Cargo pants are like jeans; they can be paired with a graphic tee and sneakers or dressed up with button up shirt and lace-up oxfords. Check out our picks for the best cargo pants for men this fall and winter
1. The North Face M66 Cargo Pants
The North Face’s reputation for parkas and cold-weather gear is outstanding. They use the same diligence when it comes to their more casual clothing. These handsome-looking cargo pants are made from organic cotton. They’re designed to be worn on the trail and in the office. They’ve got subtle details like adjustable back waist tabs, and a drawcord hem. The side pockets are deep enough to hold wallet, phone, and compass, but lay sleekly against the leg.
2. Lee Wyoming Relaxed Fit Cargo Pant
For the price, you could pick up these relaxed-fit, straight-leg cargo pants in all their colors, and still have money to spare. These cotton blend cargo pants are triple needle stitched along the seams, so they’ll last quite a few years. They have smart details like a cellphone pocket on top of one the cargo pockets. Pair them with combat boots and a fisherman sweater for work or hitting the pub.
3. Carhartt Ripstop Cargo Work Pant
Carhartt’s been making workwear that lasts generations for, well, generations. Whether you’re working on the land, strolling down the streets, shifting boxes during your move, these men’s cargo pants are a great blend of utility pants, durability, and style. On the side of the leg is a hammer loop, deep front slash pockets, back pockets, and cargo pockets that have been divvied into two compartments that lay against the leg. Try them with a long sleeve tee and dad sneakers.
Related: The Official SPY Guide To Carhartt
4. Bonobos Stretch Cargo Pant
Wear these athleisurewear-styled cargo pants anywhere because they look so cool. Really. Hit the gym, go out for a beer, talk a walk…no matter where you go in them, they and you will look good. These cargo pants are water-repellant, have an elasticated waist, and a drawcord hem at the cuff. The stretch cargo pant also comes in other shades too.
5. Polo Ralph Lauren Stretch Cotton Twill Cargo Drawstring Trousers
BEST AFFORDABLE DESIGNER
Ralph Lauren has always neatly tied classic menswear designs with contemporary styling. These trousers are a perfect example of his workmanship. The cotton twill fabric has a touch of stretch in it, so they move with the body. They have a tapered relaxed cut that ends neatly at the hem. The pockets are unobtrusive, but usable. Pair these men’s cargo pants with a blazer or chore jacket for days when you must be slightly dressed up. Throw on a hoodie, your favorite sneakers and this men’s cargo pant, and your off-duty days just got a tad snazzier.
6. L.L. Bean Tropic Weight Cargo Pants Classic Fit
BEST ALL YEAR ‘ROUND
Looking for pants that have the versatility of a chino pant and the smarts of a utility work pant? This pant does it all. Made by a company that’s clad outdoorsmen for ages, this cargo pant could be paired with a shacket, sneaker boot and shirt for the office or whenever you must dress up. It also looks good with a puffer vest, sweater, and hiking boots. L.L. Bean uses pigment dyed 100% cotton for these cargo pants. As they age, the color will weather beautifully. These straight-leg cargo jeans can manage any weather. One reviewer stated that they wore them year ‘round in Vermont.
7. Puma Essentials Cargo Pants
Reviewers stated that these are the comfiest pants they have ever owned, so we had to give them that superlative. They are a little bit sweatpants and a little bit cargo jogger. The result is a pair of great-fitting and great-looking cargo joggers. They have an elasticated waistband and cuff. They also come in navy and black.
8. Gap Relaxed Taper Easy Ripstop Cargo Pants with GapFlex
Gap is everyone’s go-to for good-looking jeans. Now you have another excuse to check them out. They have a ton of cargo pants for fall. Narrowing the selection to one pair for this roundup was hard. They’re all great looking and have great prices. We went with this woven cotton cargo pant because it oozes style. Cut relaxed through hip and thigh, the leg tapers to the hem. The elasticated waistband has hidden drawcords.
9. Alo Yoga Highline Cargo Sweatpant
For athletic cargo pants for men, we turn to Alo Yoga. The Alo Yoga Highline Cargo Sweatpants are made from a soft diagonal French terry for next-level comfort. They’re a regular fit, but because of the jogger style, the pants will look well-fitted on you. These pants are perfect for rolling around town in style or hitting the gym for the ultimate workout. They even feature knee pads and a webbing loop with D-ring to keep your keys on you. You’ll find the pants to have plenty of storage space with front slash pockets, side flap cargo pockets, and zipper back pocket.
10. Amazon Essentials Straight Fit Stretch Cargo Pant
You can’t hate on a collaboration — especially when the collab’s between two of fashion’s most iconic brands. Recently, Todd Snyder and Champion have united to drop a slew of looks we never knew we needed, and within this drop included the brand-new Utility Cargo Sweatpant. These pants merge the jogger and cargo aesthetic together into one of the coziest, best-looking sweats of the year. They’re made from a 16oz reverse weave that outperforms the make of numerous sweatpants today. Also, expect a vintage look that diminishes the potential for shrinkage. You can grab a pair of these cargo sweatpants in one of 14 colors.
11. Wrangler Authentics Premium Relaxed Fit Straight Leg Cargo Pant
TIED FOR BEST VALUE
Go ahead, and store everything you need inthis cargo pants stacked pockets. They cut with a relaxed fit that is slightly full in the butt and then, and then has a straight leg to hem. These cotton cargos have a huge fan base; we’re talking over 16k rave reviews. One reviewer wrote, “They look and feel like dress pants…” Another wrote, “I have six pair of these pants.” And lastly, “Great loose comfortable everyday casual trousers.” They come in three other colors.
12. Rothco Relaxed Fit Cargo Pant
These cargo pants offer on-trend style at an affordable price tag. Slightly retro, you can envision a ‘90s kid skateboarding in them. They have a seamed seat, pleated cargo pockets and a full straight leg.
13. Abercrombie & Fitch Cargo Pants
MOST LAID BACK
The A&F of your high school years got a shot or two of sophisticated, contemporary styling and design. These cargo pants are sharp and urbane looking. They used rigid twill fabric that has a nicely faded/worn in loo. The cargo pockets are nicely sized. There are cool knee tuck details and interior drawcords. They also come in camo.
14. DICKIES Slim Straight Flex Cargo Pants
These size-inclusive cargo pants go to size 38 waist. Made with brushed twill with a touch of stretch, they’re light, durable and move with you. Best of all the fabric is wrinkle resistant and has easy care stain release. Above one of the cargo pockets is a slit pocket for your phone. They come in six other colors.
Related: Celebrating 100 Years of DICKIES
15. Eddie Bauer Altimeter Cargo Pants
BEST FOR HIKING
Don’t worry about branches wreaking havoc with these cargo pants, as they’re made with durable cotton. They do have stretch and a reinforced seat and articulated knees so you and your pants can stand up to anything on the trail. Eddie Bauer claims that the cargo pockets are large enough to stow all your essentials. They have an adjustable waistband and drawcords at the hem.
16. Levi’s XX Standard Taper Men’s Cargo Pants
BEST JEANS ALTERNATIVE
Levi’s jeans are iconic. Of course, their cargo pants would be just as cool as their denim. When you want to switch of jeans, wear these tapered-leg cargo pants with your favorite tee and go. They’re cut to sit below the waist. The cargo pockets are slightly angled, and they have front slash pockets and two back pockets. They also come in three other colors.
Read More: The Best Baggy Jeans for 2022