Cargo pants (or utility pants) are a timeless, iconic classic that we see every season. And in 2023, as ‘90s fashion continues to trend strongly, they are having a fashion moment. Unlike the flat pockets of the mainstream version, fashion-forward cargo pants have exaggerated three-dimensional cargo pockets that make a dramatic statement. Some are located in unexpected areas on the leg, like by the ankles. Parachute pants are a type of super wide cargo pant that balloon out on the leg, but taper at the ankle with drawstrings.
The assortment of cargo pants this season is extensive with a lot of variety in fabrics, colours, and silhouettes. Colours, in particular, run the gamut. From the usual olives, tans, toffees, browns, blacks and greys to all sorts of whites, pastels, and a smattering of brights. Silhouettes range from straight legs and joggers, to baggy boyfriends and wide legs. Rises range from low to mid and high. Fabrics are varied, too. Some are stiff and rigid, and others soft and drapey. Some have stretch. There are the usual suspects in cottons, cotton blends, linen, and twills. There are dressier fabrics like satin, tencel, viscose, rayon, and crepes too. And wools, corduroys, velveteens, fleece, and woolly blends for colder weather.
Cargo pants can look super casual, smart casual, or quite dressy depending on the fit, fabric, and support act. You can create fun juxtapositions by wearing casual cargo pants with dressy heeled shoes, or dressier cargos with casual flat shoes. As the product photos show, almost any type of footwear can be worn with cargo and utility pants. From dressy boots, strappy heeled sandals, wedges, slingbacks, loafers, oxfords, and high-heeled pumps, to platforms, flatforms, western boots, combat boots, lug soles, ballet flats, mules, gladiators, slides, Birkenstocks, fashion sneakers, and athletic sneakers. Take your pick.
Utility pants with streamlined pockets and tapered hems are very popular with my clientele. Almost everyone has a pair in a shade of olive, tan, grey or toffee. Some have silky cargo joggers that are well loved because they are extremely comfy dressier pants. I’m unsure how the trendier, more sculptural, wider and maximal cargo pocket pants will go down, but no doubt some will find their fans. The crepe and silky versions too.
I wore casual cotton cargo pants in the late ‘90s. Baggy, tan, wide, extra long hems, and I remember NOT feeling great in the look. They were baggy on the midsection, and I didn’t like the black belt I wore them with. For footwear, I chose very heavy black and white platform sneakers that absolutely killed my feet. Worst shoes I’ve ever owned. The experience put me off, and for decades I refused to wear cargo pants. My resistance softened one year when hubs Greg bought a great pair of olive utility pants for me. I wore them with very comfortable shoes, pretty blouses, and my faith in cargo pants was restored.
Unexpectedly, last year Ralph Lauren Polo came out with a Dutch orange pair of utility pants made of a cotton tencel with white top stitching. They are wide, higher in the rise, flattering, drape like a dream, have flat pockets, and are a little cropped. They blew me away, and couldn’t be more perfect. I absolutely love them. They are Spring and Summer casual pants for me, so I wear them with white cotton sweaters, a white hoodie, a navy and white striped polo shirt, a white lace polo shirt, blue and white denim jackets, or blue denim shirts. For footwear I choose white sneakers and hi-tops, blush hi-tops, oxfords, or white loafers. For bags I choose white, orange, light blue, blush, or citron. The exact items from my wardrobe are shown in the collection below.
I might go for another pair of utility pants, one with exaggerated cargo pockets, or a dressy silky pair. In white, a bright, or in one of my pastels. I’m not sure yet. In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy my orange pants
Over to you. What’s your take on the cargo pants trend?