It´s easy to gauge what you´re thinking; cargo trousers again; (you must remember those baggy trousers with actual pockets on them?) Well, the fact of the matter is cargo trousers, those divisive utilitarian style trousers first worn by the British Armed Forces in the 1930´s, (which were then adopted by teenagers and reality TV stars a few decades later), are slowly but surely making a comeback onto the contemporary menswear fashion scene. This is thanks to the likes of Hardy Amies and several other designer brands that are determined to revive the military stalwart.
Cargo trousers have been something of a trend for the past several seasons now; and it really is one that works for some people and not for others. If you get it right, and you’ve got a look that’s part streetwear, part military and all style. However, if you get it wrong, you´ll easily look like an off duty Putin. With this in mind, here´s how to wear cargo´s with confidence;
Wear Them Well
Like many military turned civilian menswear pieces, styling out cargo trousers is all in the deployment. If the trousers have more of a tailored silhouette, opt for a slim-fit smart shirt and a chunky Derby shoe. But, for cargo trousers with more volume, you can accentuate the relaxed feel with an oversized sweatshirt or jumper, or even layer up with a neoprene hoodie for more visual interest.
However, don´t kid yourself into thinking a pair of cargo trousers are anything smarter than smart-casual. Be careful if you’re looking to wear cargo pants in a formal outfit as smart button down shirts are difficult to style them with. Another good law to observe is always stick to the tried and tested traditional colours when going for a cargo pant; olive, black and navy will always win your prizes.
The most important thing to consider when selecting a pair of cargo trousers is the pocket size and positioning. The key is to get the proportion right. According to legendary designer Paul Smith, how big cargo trousers’ pockets are and where they fall, can play a big part in whether they simply nod to the military, or straight-up style. Cargo trousers tend to make your legs look more bulky due to the pocket detail, so the fit needs to complement your body shape.
Large pockets that sag under the weight of their own material and sit near your knees are faithful to the original cargo design, which is fine if you look like you’re built for armed combat, but less so if the only cargo you’re used to shifting is the odd Tesco bag. If this is the case, then you should opt for neater, more tailored pockets placed closer to your hips than your knees.
As with everything in fashion, the fit is everything. This is especially true when it comes to cargo trousers. However, unlike tailoring, it’s not all about a tailored fit. Certainly, you can pull on a modern pair of cargo trousers: slim, tapered and fine of fabric; but it’s only the slightly bulkier, straight-leg variant that can lay claim to the more authentic style status that has been tried and tested for the past 80 plus years.
It is difficult to have faith in variations such as the cargo jean or cargo jogger, because a cargo pant by name and nature was always meant to be used as a piece of clothing which was intended to carry multiple items, so the idea of a skinny pant or a fleece cargo jogger pant seems to completely defeat any notion of the original purpose.
You can however, comfortably, aim for the middle ground with a straighter leg style you’ve rolled yourself (taking care to land the roll just right). Being careful with the length of the roll is key, because too far and you’re edging towards the territory of the Capri pant. If you keep this style to just above the ankle, it will allow you to show off a little bit of sock and trainer but no more.