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Yep, cargo pants are back in style, and these picks give off an effortless, cool-girl vibe.
I have been wanting to write about cargo pants ever since I began my fashion journalism career. Why? Well, 11 years ago I purchased my very first pair — from the men’s section of all places — because baggy clothes were hard to come by for young girls at the time. I fell in love with that original pair, and since then my cargo pants collection has grown significantly. I find comfort in their oversized silhouettes whether I'm lounging at home traipsing around at fashion week.
The appeal of cargo pants lies in how laid back they make you look. Way before people started dressing like Kim Possible, cargo pants were worn as workwear for their mobility and ample pockets to carry tools. Fashionably, they became popular in the 90s in the hip hop and skater scenes. Nowadays, you can find renewed and reimagined versions of the cargo pants all over the world — but you don’t need to go far to find some of the top styles. We compiled a list of the 12 best cargo pants currently available. Read on for our favorites.
Asos Stradivarius Straight Leg Cargo Pants
What We Love: The 100% cotton material is very comfortable.
What We Don’t Love: They’re labeled as high-rise, but look to sit a bit lower depending on the size.
Since we just mentioned Kim Possible, we may as well bring forth the pants that most resemble the iconic character’s uniform. These pants are long enough to bunch up at the bottom, which give it that relaxed appeal. When it comes to cargo pants, you want as much space around your legs for ample movement and comfort, and these deliver.
In the front and the back you’ll find two oversized pockets stitched into the pants, with the waistline coming up to around your stomach. The brand calls this a high-rise cut, but in some of the pictures it appears to be low-rise on the models. Ultimately, the size you select will determine where the pants sit (if you want a baggier, low-rise look, go up one size, otherwise stick to your normal measurements).
At under $50, we’re pleasantly surprised to report that these pants don't skimp out on quality, as they’re made of 100 percent cotton. And as an added bonus, they are offered in quite a few colors including khaki, stone, and black. Whether you’re out on a butt-kickery mission or not, these pants will serve you style and comfort all day long.
Price at time of publish: $46
Material: Cotton | Size Range: US 0—US 12 | Colors: 5 | Rise: High
Cider Solid Low Waist Knotted Cargo Pant
What We Love: There are drawstrings on the waist and ankles, allowing you to adjust for size.
What We Don’t Love: The material has a bit of a windbreaker feel to it, which may or may not be something you’re looking for.
Ahhh, drawstrings. They may be an underrated feature in many garments, but we can’t get enough of their convenience, especially when it comes to cargo pants. This pair features drawstrings around the waist and ankles, which allow you to adjust not just the size, but also how the pants look around your legs. The ankle strings help adjust the style to go with any shoes — when wearing heels you can easily tighten them to avoid trips and slips, but you can loosen them when wearing sneakers for a more laid back vibe.
On top of the two large side pockets, you’ll find an accent seam stitched around the sides. This adds a visual appeal to the pants and gives them a little more form. Just know that these don’t have that typical soft cotton feel, but rather a windbreaker texture to them. If that’s something you want, then great! If not, let’s move on to the next option.
Price at time of publish: $34
Material: Polyester, spandex | Size Range: XS—XL | Colors: 1 | Rise: Low
Off-White Straight Leg Cargo Pants
What We Love: The multitude of statement pockets make this piece stand out from the bunch.
What We Don’t Love: Because they’re made in Italy, the sizing is a bit confusing.
Pockets are a must-have when it comes to cargo pants, and there’s no shortage of them here. While it doesn’t state exactly how many, I’m counting about nine, including the slit pockets on the back. Just be warned that you may have a hard time remembering which pocket you stored your keys and phone in (fumbling around your pants for five minutes in front of your entrance is ensured).
These pants are high-waisted, and have elongated legs that are tailored into a straight fit. They’re made in Italy, so the provided size range might be a little confusing at first glance. Click into the size guide and it will translate the range into a U.S. equivalent.
Bear in mind that these pants are a statement on their own and should not be outdone by any loud accessories or tops. Keep it simple with some mules and a white tank top to truly let these have their moment.
Price at time of publish: $1,280
Material: Cotton, polyamide | Size Range: IT 36—IT 48 | Colors: 1 | Rise: High
Pretty Little Thing Triple Pocket Straight Leg Cargo Pants
What We Love: The wide legs fall straight down, making these have an effortless appeal to them.
What We Don’t Love: They are quite long and might drag on the floor if you wear sneakers.
I love everything about these cargo pants — the wide leg, the high waist, and the large pockets at the front. It has everything you need in a cargo pant, without looking too much like workwear. Instead, they have an effortless, high-end aesthetic to them without the price tag to match. We’re just as impressed with the size range: From Pretty Little Thing’s plus-size line, these pants are offered up to a size 5X, making them very accessible to a range of body types.
We will mention that the pants do look to be quite long – the model is five foot six inches and is wearing sneakers, and the pants fall over the shoes. Expect these pants to drag on the floor a little unless you plan on getting them hemmed.
Price at time of publish: $48
Material: Cotton, polyester | Size Range: L—5XL | Colors: 2 | Rise: High
Helsa Tech Gabardine Trousers
What We Love: The bright green is unique for cargo pants — we appreciate the pop of color.
What We Don’t Love: These are very long, so you’ll most likely need to get them hemmed.
Scandinavian brand Helsa has been catching my attention lately, and they’ve also been under the radar for Halle’ Berry’s style director, Lindsay Flores, who listed these pants under her favorites. Unfortunately, the black version has a tendency to sell out quickly, but the green hue is just as noteworthy, and adds a fun pop to traditionally neutral cargo pants.
While these pants are overall quite minimalist, with a straight cut extending into long legs that bunch up at the bottom, the two large pockets on either side of the leg add that cargo detail we’re here for. These are definitely intended for our long legged ladies (the brand is from Sweden, land of the impossibly tall, after all). Personally, I love a hem that drops all the way to the floor, but it does make them more prone to getting dirty. Hemming them should be an easy task, but if you like the super long look, these are also machine washable.
Price at time of publish: $268
Material: Cotton, polyester, recycled polyester | Size Range: XXS—XL | Colors: 2 | Rise: High
Hayley Bridget the Riley Pant
What We Love: They fall just around the ankles for petite women — no hemming needed.
What We Don’t Love: These have a very limited size range.
If you fit into this category, you should know about label Hayley Bridget: A brand that creates designs specially for petite women. Pants can be difficult to shop for if you’re petite – not everyone has the budget to get every pair tailored. The model pictured here is five foot two inches, and the pants fall perfectly around her ankles.
These come in that classic cargo khaki color with two large pockets on both sides of the legs. Without being too oversized, the pants fit loosely around your thighs but button and sit high on your waist. Wear them casually with sneakers and a white T-shirt or slip into some heels and a form fitting top for a night out. The one downside? They only come in three sizes, with their largest size being a medium.
Price at time of publish: $285
Material: Cotton | Size Range: XS—M | Colors: 1 | Rise: High
Local European Parachute Pants
What We Love: They’re more lightweight and baggy than your typical cargo pants.
What We Don’t Love: All sale items, including this, are final sale.
We’ve seen some serious celebs, including Hailey Bieber and Jordyn Woods strutting around in these parachute pants. Yes, theoretically there is a difference between parachute pants and cargo pants. Parachute pants are a little baggier, more lightweight, and less structured. I was really hoping to put you onto these cargo pants that had the internet in a frenzy, but as you can see, they are sold out at the moment (although I can confirm they will be in stock soon).
These parachute pants still have many of the same features, including wide legs and cargo pockets. And since low-rise is making a huge comeback, these have drawstrings holding the pants up right where your waist begins. Just make sure to triple check the size guide as all sale items are final sale.
Price at time of publish: $83 (originally $110)
Material: Polyester, cotton | Size Range: XS—XL | Colors: 3 | Rise: Low
Outdoor Voices Zip Off Pants
What We Love: Not only can you zip off three sections of these pants, but they are water- and wind-resistant as well.
What We Don’t Love: They’re not the best option for everyday life.
Onto some functional cargo pants: This zip off option sections off into three lengths – long, three quarters, and shorts — and are intended for trekking. Add in the water- and wind-resistant material, and you’ve got pants for all temperatures and weathers. They even comes with a removable belt for better size adjustment (although you probably won’t have too much trouble finding your size in their XXS to 3XL offerings).
The pants are a little more form-fitted than your typical cargo pants, but you can still find tons of pockets (I’m counting at least five) scattered around the legs. And if you were wondering where to put the zipped off pieces, the brand recommends folding them into the big cargo pocket on the left leg. Naturally, these might not be the best option for an everyday fashion statement, but if you were looking for cargo pants to be used in actual activity, then these are the ones for you.
Price at time of publish: $118
Material: Nylon, elastane | Size Range: XXS-3XL | Colors: 4 | Rise: Mid
Rumored Union Cargo Pants
What We Love: There’s no shortage of oversized cargo pockets on these pants.
What We Don’t Love: They’re quite long, and therefore perhaps not the best option for petite women.
Talk about pockets galore: These cargo pants have a number of oversized pockets adorning the baggy silhouette. As a matter of fact, some of the pockets have another pocket stitched on top of them (pocket inception?).
The loose fit paired with the large cargo pockets give these an extra oversized appeal that leans into the classic 90s aesthetic. You’ll find that it comes in four classic cargo colors, including olive (khaki), black, brown, and beige. It honestly wouldn’t hurt to get these in multiple colors because they check off everything you want in a good pair of cargo pants: Appeal, comfort, and tons of storage. They do look to be quite long, however, so if you’re on the petite side make sure to check the size guide before purchasing.
Price at time of publish: $104
Material: Cotton | Size Range: XXS—L | Colors: 4 | Rise: Mid
Nicholas Pippin Vegan Leather Cargo Pant
What We Love: These come with a removable belt.
What We Don’t Love: There isn’t much information on how the interior lining feels.
Leather absolutely never fails to elevate any piece, and cargo pants are no exception. This pair comes with a belt, which if you don’t like, can be removed (which I most likely would). Belt or not, the waistline sits snugly around your belly in these high-rise pants. The leg portion curves out to give you a little shape, and then falls into a hem that can be buttoned tighter around your ankle. You can find trusty big pockets on these as well — a signature of cargo pants. I would be curious to know how the interior lining feels, however, as there isn’t much description surrounding this.
Price at time of publish: $277 (originally $395)
Material: Polyurethane, viscose, polyester | Size Range: 0—12 | Colors: 1 | Rise: High
House of CB Daria Cargo Satin Trousers
What We Love: These feel luxuriously soft on skin.
What We Don’t Love: As with anything made of satin, these wrinkle easily.
House of CB has a cult-like following on Instagram due to their feminine and flattering silhouettes. The combination of a more masculine item of clothing made in a silky material hits a certain sweet spot that just feels satisfying, in my opinion. And when you then serve it in a color like pink (although yes, there is a black version as well) it becomes an extremely eye-catching piece worthy of everyone’s attention.
These aren’t made of silk, which helps drive the price down a little bit. Instead, the polyester and elastane come together to create a satiny finish that looks and feels luxurious. Just be aware that this type of material is prone to wrinkling — I would hang rather than fold these pants when storing them away.
Price at time of publish: $149
Material: Polyester, elastane | Size Range: XS—XL | Colors: 2 | Rise: Mid
Source Unknown Workwear Cargo jeans
What We Love: It has a borrowed-from-the-boys appeal.
What We Don’t Love: These are very low rise, so be weary of what you wear underneath.
Last but not least we have the denim cargo pants: These embrace the 90s appeal in all the right ways — the low-rise cut, the extremely oversized legs, and the plethora of pockets lining the pants. The two seams stitched down the front also add a visual element worth noting.
I’ve always loved the borrowed-from-the-boys appeal, and these are a great example of that. I will say however that they are almost too low rise. If you like to wear leggings under your pants in colder weather (baggy pants = breezy) or just prefer high-rise undergarments, then you’ll probably have a hard time finding ones that don’t show from the top.
Price at time of publish: $148
Material: Cotton | Size Range: S—L | Colors: 1 | Rise: Low
What to Keep in Mind
Cargo pants are all about the style and fit. As this is a style that’s been borrowed from the boys, a classic cargo pant will fall in either low or mid rise, have ample pockets, and sit quite loosely around your legs. Modern times offer a wider range of styles, as the cargo pants have been revised and reimagined to fit more bodies and aesthetics. For example, there are the slimmed down versions, such as the Off-White Straight Leg Cargo Pants, which may be more appropriate for work settings or a night out. You might find something toned down with a straight cut, like in the Helsa Tech Gabardine Trousers, or exaggerated and oversized like the Local European Parachute Pants. However, they should always have a good number of pockets to be considered cargo pants.
The classic cargo colors are as follows: Khaki/olive, beige, and black. If this is your first cargo pants purchase, then we recommend opting for any of these colors. However, navy and brown are fantastic options as well, and all of these will go with just about anything in your closet. If you’re looking to spruce things up a little bit, the House of CB Daria Cargo Satin Trousers come in a soft pink color, which playfully contrasts the more masculine style of the pants. The Helsa Tech Gabardine Trousers also feature a bright green hue, which offers a surprising pop of color on otherwise neutral cargo pants. Lately, camo styles are coming back in as well, and can easily be incorporated into your wardrobe.
Your Questions, Answered
How do you style cargo pants?
Flores recommends “pairing [cargo] pants with a fitted top, especially if the pants are super baggy, to accentuate the waistline.” You can even keep it very minimalist and pair it with a sports bra or bra top as well, as she did on Halle Berry. While a fitted top on a loose bottom is always a sweet go-to, keeping it baggy from top to bottom is also a stylist-favorite. New York City-based stylist Britt Theodora prefers this look because it’s “super casual.” She recommends pairing cargo pants with a basic white T-shirt and sneakers, and accessorizing with chunky beaded necklaces. “This makes anyone look relaxed and effortless,” she says.
If you’re looking for some inspiration, many brands showcase some of their favorite outfits, styled by everyday people, on the product page of the pants. Local European and Outdoor voices are two brands that do so. Overall, long sleeves, button downs, sweater vests and tube tops are all fair game when it comes to styling cargo pants.
What shoes pair well with cargo pants?
There are two shoes that pair best with cargo pants, and those are heels and sneakers. While sandals, chelsea boots, or loafers might not be an optimal choice, you can easily keep it casual with some sneakers. New York City-based stylist Ashleigh Ashton prefers pairing cargo pants with these Zadig Voltaire sneakers, but chunky dad sneakers, like these ones from Alex Arigato, are a great option as well.
Cargo pants make for a great day to night outfit, just by switching up your shoes. When the night rolls around, Ashton recommends slipping into some open-toed shoes. I pair my cargo pants with some classic black high heels as well.
Why Shop with Us
Bianca Kratky is a commerce writer for InStyle with two years of experience covering fashion and lifestyle products. Her favorite style of pants happens to be cargo pants, and she currently has four in her rotation. In order to write this article, she purchased and tried several of the listed cargo pants herself and consulted celebrity stylists (Ashleigh Ashton, Britt Theodora, and Lindsay Flores ) to get an insider scoop on what to consider and how to style cargo pants.
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