I’m hardly someone who dresses for utility. Feminine midi dresses are my kryptonite and the way I feel about heeled boots, mules, and slingbacks is akin to a sneakerhead’s lust for the latest Nike release. After eight years living in New York City, I just acquired my first pair of lug-sole boots for winter — wearing them literally felt like I was walking in someone else’s shoes. This is all to say that I have no idea how to wear cargo pants, even though I accept that they are a full-blown trend at this point. I’m talking about those multi-pocketed, loosely cut, combat-ready bottoms you probably loved in the early aughts, and said you’d sworn off completely since then. Well style celebrities like Gigi and Bella Hadid, Kaia Gerber, and Kim Kardashian have all recently been spotted wearing cargos, and damnit, now I want to wear them, too.
Fun fact, cargo pants were created in World War II. But this year, designers like Balenciaga, Givenchy, Prabal Gurung, and Jonathan Simkhai brought out new interpretations, from sporty-luxe leather styles to superfluously pocketed boyfriend jeans and even sleek, high-waist silhouettes. I tried them all to put the cargo pants trend to the test. Scroll on to see my outfit ideas, ahead.
I started my cargo journey with a pair of comfortable boyfriend jeans by Stella McCartney (these sold out after being epically marked down on Net-a-Porter; find a similar pair here). This style came with relatively low-key pockets — two zippered pouches positioned just over the knees. While I would normally balance out this voluminous silhouette with heels, the ‘90s-style acid wash made me want to go comfy-cool for a weekend day. I layered two color-blocked sweaters (a turtleneck from Veronica Beard and cardigan from PH5) underneath my Helmut Lang coat (my first-ever purchase from The RealReal!) with a similarly utilitarian Chloé bag and Nike Air Force 1 ’07 sneakers (an unexpectedly heroic pair I’m obsessed with now that I’ve become a sneaker person).
I like to refer to my second cargo look as “utility-luxe”, centering around a pair of cargo pants in camouflage twill from RE/DONE. With classic flap pockets on the sides of each leg, these felt true to the utilitarian aesthetic (the print helps, too). For contrast, I went with a striped turtleneck from Tory Sport, a shearling-adorned denim jacket by Khaite, and glittery heels from Malone Souliers (these are a couple seasons old; new styles here). My tan leather cross-body bag from J.W. Anderson tied everything together.
This is where things got real…practical. I started off with a high-rise pair of utility trousers from emerging brand Jean Atelier. I resisted the urge to polish these up and instead I paired them with lug-sole boots from Aldo and felt like the most stylish park ranger you’ve ever seen. I went with a cropped plisse top from Tibi, crazy-soft faux-fur coat by Blank Denim, and a striped Bisset bag from Staud. Truly, I could have hiked a trail in this ensemble.
By this point wearing voluminous, tapered cargo pants felt like a walk in the park. This pair by Tom Ford was another Net-A-Porter sellout; find a similar pair here. I tucked in a checked turtleneck by Rokh and layered a tonal plaid coat by Twenty Tees. To liven up my monochromatic separates, I chose an electric-yellow mini bag by Wandler and optic white boots from Aldo. This print-on-print look is polished enough for many workplaces.
For my cargo pant finale, I went big. Check out these extra-long crinkled faux-leather, wide-leg pants from one of my favorite designers, Rejina Pyo. With a sleek, flap pocket on each leg, this pant is all about exaggerated proportions. For contrast, I put on a fitted, bustier-style top from Orseund Iris and my favorite ‘90s-style mules from ASKA. A mini floral bag by Hayward and a Dries Van Noten coat contributed to the thoroughly alternative-rock era look. At week’s end, I had one hand in my pocket, and the other one was giving a high five to a trend well done.
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