11 Different Types Of Cargo Pants

Cargo pants are not just your average pair of trousers. With their utilitarian design featuring multiple large pockets, cargo pants are valued for their versatility, durability, and functionality. Though originally designed for soldiers and workers who needed ample storage options, cargo pants have crossed over into mainstream fashion.

From high-end designer cargo pants on the runway to everyday pairs worn for casual comfort, cargo pants now come in a wide variety of styles, colors, and fabrics. There is a cargo pant option suitable for any occasion and aesthetic.

To help you discover the cargo pants that best suit your needs and preferences, here is an in-depth guide to the different types of cargo pants available.

A Brief History Of Cargo Pants

Before diving into the various cargo pant styles, let’s first take a quick look at the origins of this practical garment.

Military Beginnings

Cargo pants were initially designed in 1938 for British military personnel. Soldiers needed ample pocket space to carry ammunition, maps, medical supplies and other gear essential for combat and survival.

The signature side cargo pockets on the thighs provided quick and convenient access to these crucial items. Through the ensuing decades, cargo pants became standard issue for military forces around the world.

Transition To Workwear

After World War II, cargo pants expanded beyond military use into the civilian workwear market. Laborers, tradesmen and outdoorsmen appreciated the durability and storage capacity of cargo pants.

By the 1970s, cargo pants had become common attire for construction workers, farmers, electricians, and other manual laborers. The extra pockets were perfect for stashing tools, gloves, and other job site necessities.

Rise Of Casual Fashion

In the 1990s, cargo pants began to migrate into mainstream fashion. Skateboarders and hip hop artists helped popularize cargo pants as casual streetwear. Brands like Carhartt and Dickies marketed cargo pants to younger consumers.

Soon cargo pants were ubiquitous in malls and classrooms across America. While some decried cargos as the epitome of sloppy fashion, most appreciated their laidback comfort.

Today cargo pants are a modern fashion basic available in an ever-expanding array of colors, prints and silhouettes. Let’s examine some of the most popular modern cargo pant varieties.

Types Of Cargo Pants

1. Classic/Traditional

The classic cargo pant style features a straight or wide leg silhouette, mid to low rise, and roomy fit through the hips and thighs. Traditional cargo pants have large bellowed pockets on the thighs with flap closures. Most classic cargos are made of sturdy cotton or cotton-blend fabrics.

Classic cargo pants come in military-inspired solid colors like olive drab, navy, khaki, or black. They can be dressed up or down for work, casual hangouts or rugged activities.

2. Denim

Denim cargo pants offer a jeans-inspired twist on the classic cargo style. Popularized in the 1990s, denim cargo pants are usually made of sturdy 100% cotton denim in shades of blue, black or white.

The denim cargo silhouette mirrors jeans with a straight or slim leg and five-pocket styling. Large snap-flap cargo pockets are added to the front thighs. Denim cargos have become a staple look for casual days.


3. Tactical/Combat

Tactical cargo pants are designed for military personnel, law enforcement, emergency medical services and other protective service professions.

Made of durable ripstop fabrics like cotton duck cloth, tactical cargos feature multiple large bellowed pockets for gear storage. Other special features include kneepad slots, D-ring straps and hidden back-waist pockets.

Popular tactical cargo colors include olive, navy, charcoal and camouflage prints. The pants have a loose fit to allow free range of motion.


4. Hiking/Outdoor

Hiking and outdoor cargo pants are optimized for rugged activities and extreme conditions. The fabric is thick, abrasion-resistant and treated to repel water, dirt and stains.

Articulated knees allow flexibility and mobility. Multiple large pockets hold trail supplies and other equipment. Popular features include DWR coating, UPF sun protection and ventilation zippers.

These technical cargo pants come in earthy solids like brown, olive and khaki. Brands like The North Face, Patagonia and Columbia offer stellar hiking cargo options.

5. Joggers

Cargo joggers fuse athletic jogger styling with cargo pant utility. Made of lightweight, breathable knit or woven fabrics, cargo joggers have an elastic waistband with adjustable drawstring or cord.

The tapered leg has elasticized ribbed cuffs that sit above the ankle. Side cargo pockets offer storage when you’re on the go. These active cargo pants are perfect for travel days, hitting the gym or running errands.

6. Slim Fit/Skinny

Slim and skinny cargo pants offer a more tailored, streamlined take on the classic cargo silhouette. Made of stretch-infused fabrics, these pants slim through the hip and thigh with a skinny leg.

The signature snap-flap cargo pockets are scaled down but still offer ample storage. Slim fit cargos provide a bit more polish for casual workplaces or nights out.

7. Cropped

Cropped cargo pants end a few inches above the ankle for an of-the-moment style. The cropped length spotlights statement shoes and socks. Otherwise, cropped cargos have all the usual cargo elements like oversized thigh pockets and a relaxed fit.

Crop your favorite pair of classic cargos or opt for stylish ready-made cropped options. Wear them with flats, heels or sneakers.


8. Printed/Patterned

Today you can find cargo pants splashed with vibrant prints and cool graphic patterns. From camo and botanical prints to tie dye swirls, printed cargo pants add an artistic flair to a normally utilitarian garment.

Prints and patterns keep standard olive, tan and black cargo pants from looking too drab and monotonous. Have fun expressing your personal style.

9. Linen & Cotton

Lightweight linen and cotton fabrics put a breezy spring and summery spin on cargo’s typically rugged vibe.

Linen cargo pants have a casual wrinkled texture and come in tan, army green and navy shades. Cotton cargos are soft with a bit of stretch for comfort. Both linen and cotton feel cooler in warm weather.

10. Dressy/Designer

High-end designers like Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Burberry have crafted luxury takes on the humble cargo pant. Made of fine materials like silk and cashmere, some designer cargo pants retail for over $1000!

Silhouettes range from classic to modern, incorporating special touches like bold hardware, velvet detailing and upscale textures. Dressy cargo pants can elevate to bring function and flair to the office or a night out.

11. Gender Neutral

Today many cargo pant styles are marketed as gender neutral or unisex. Women, men and non-binary individuals can all enjoy the utilitarian perks of cargo pants.

Neutral cargo styles feature a roomy fit through the hip and thigh suited for broader women’s hips and narrower men’s hips. Anybody can wear well-designed gender neutral cargo pants in comfort.

Key Considerations When Selecting Cargo Pants

With so many types of cargo pants available, keep these factors in mind when choosing a pair tailored to your needs:

Intended Use

Think about when and where you plan to wear your cargo pants. For outdoor activities, choose durable fabrics with moisture-wicking technology and UPF sun protection. If you’ll be wearing them to the office, pick polished linen or cotton styles. Make sure the cargo pants suit your lifestyle.

Fit & Style

Consider your usual pant fit and silhouette preferences. Do you like a loose straight fit through the hips and thighs or a more contoured slim style? Determine your ideal rise, length and leg opening. Also, decide if you want standard flap cargo pockets or discreet hidden pockets.

Fabric & Features

Fabric selection largely depends on the intended activity. Look at water-resistance, breathability, stretch, and abrasion-resistance. Seek UV protection and reinforced knees if you’ll be in the wilderness. Pick soft natural fibers like cotton and linen for laidback weekends. Features like drawstrings, zips and adjustable leg openings also enhance comfort and wearability.

Color & Prints

Cargo pants now come in every color, camo pattern, and graphic print imaginable. From classic khaki to funky tie-dye, select hues and patterns that appeal to your personal taste. Dark neutrals like olive, navy or black offer unmatched versatility.


Cargo pants range greatly in price from discount brands under $50 to designer labels over $500. Determine what you can reasonably afford to spend. Remember pricier options may offer better quality construction and materials. Sales can help you score designer cargo pants at a more accessible price point.

How To Wear Cargo Pants

The beauty of cargo pants lies in their versatility. Here are some stylish ideas for wearing cargo pants in everyday settings:

At The Office

Swapping stiff trousers for breathable linen or cotton cargos instantly relaxes any office outfit. Choose a tailored slim or skinny cargo silhouette in a dark neutral or black. Pair with a button-down shirt, blazer and loafers for an effortlessly chic work look.

Daytime Outings

Embrace cargo comfort for casual daytime activities like meeting friends for brunch or perusing the farmer’s market. Wear classic cotton or denim cargo pants with a graphic tee, sneakers and a baseball cap for laidback weekend vibes.

Night Out

Dress up cotton, linen or twill cargo pants for dinner dates and evening fun. Choose a cropped, tapered or slim cargo silhouette and pair with heels and a silky cami or flowy blouse. Statement jewelry and a leather clutch polish the look.

Travel Days

Cargo pants are built for travel with their comfort and stash-worthy pockets. Wear breathable joggers or soft cotton cargos paired with a sweatshirt or flannel shirt, plus slip-on sneakers for easy airport outfit. Stash your essentials in the pockets for security checks.

Outdoor Activities

Head out on the trails or tackle yardwork with durable hiking/outdoor or classic cotton cargo pants specially equipped with protective features and pockets galore to hold gear and gadgets within quick reach.

Casual Weekends

Cargo pants make weekend errands, lounging and leisurely activities feel laidback. Pair loose classic cotton or denim cargos with a graphic tee and slip-on Vans or Converse sneakers for quintessential off-duty style.

Key Takeaways

  • Cargo pants originated as military and workwear garments but are now a mainstream fashion staple available in endless styles.
  • From hardy outdoor pants to polished linen styles, there’s a cargo pant ideally suited for every occasion and activity.
  • Consider details like intended use, fit, fabric, color and features when selecting cargos for your needs.
  • Cargo pants can be styled casually for weekends, dressed up for evening or kept professional for the office.
  • The abundant pockets make cargo pants extra functional for travel, hiking, work and everyday wear.

So don’t relegate cargo pants to just yardwork and rugged adventures. Take advantage of the many options now available to add this practical and stylish piece into your regular wardrobe rotation.

Cargo pants have evolved well beyond their utilitarian roots without losing that signature usefulness. With options spanning from basic khakis to upscale designer, you’re sure to find the ideal cargo pants to complement your personal style.

We hope this comprehensive guide gave you ideas and inspiration for incorporating cargo pants into your wardrobe. What’s your favorite cargo pant style? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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