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If nothing else, the past couple years have proven that we must be prepared for anything. Which is why it’s a fitting time for cargo pants to make its return to your wardrobes. Designed for utility, the style that is built to endure whatever life throws at you. And while the baggy, excessively-pocketed iterations of yore have given cargo pants a bad rap, the latest examples from the likes of Brunello Cucinelli, Stone Island, Thom Sweeney and more prove that the best cargo pants for men can be both rugged and refined.
As you might expect, cargo pants—also known as combat pants—are rooted in the military. Initially used by British forces in 1938, the large pockets were designed to hold field gear, maps and other battlefield essentials. (The US Paratroopers would adopt them to allow for K rations and ammunition.) In 2023, those plentiful pockets are ideally suited to the modern man’s needs: phone, wallet, headphones, hand sanitizer and, for frequent flyers, a pretty convenient place to keep your passport.
Moreover, with options ranging from tailored to technical, cargo pants offer all-important smart-casual versatility. They’re a natural fit with T-shirts and sneakers but can also add a casual attitude to a blazer and brogues. Adding a pair to your rotation affords ample opportunities to experiment across seasons. Here are some of our favorite cargo pants to suit any style.
Thom Sweeney Tapered Twill Cargo Trousers
Best Overall Cargo Pants
Business casual is a no-brainer in this elegant take on cargo pants from Savile Row’s Thom Sweeney. The slim, tapered fit will flatter your physique while easily pairing with your arsenal of button-ups and tees. An ideal choice if you want the military influence to whisper.
Materials: Lycra, cotton and elastane.
John Elliot Back Sateen Cargo Pants
Best Drawstring Cargo Pants
John Elliot attracts leagues of sartorially-savvy gentlemen to their simple but elevated menswear. The LA-based label’s take on the cargo pant combines laidback ease (a drawstring waist and ample pockets) with polish (a fine sateen cotton). What more could you want in a pair of wear-everywhere trousers?
Carhartt WIP Keyto Cargo Pants
Most Durable Cargo Pants
Carhartt is the standard-bearer of heavy-duty pants, creating the kinds of styles that can take a good beating. The brand’s WIP line, as any discerning gent knows, however, offers more streamlined fits with a tremendous amount of street cred. And these cargos in rich ale hue is a great example of this sentiment.
RRL Surplus Poplin Cargo Pant
Most Rugged Cargo Pants
Harking back to the cargo pant’s military origins, RRL’s pair is about as good as you could ever hope to find at an army-navy surplus store (and a whole lot more luxe). Take a cue from Ralph’s Western playbook and pair them with a denim shirt for effortless cool.
Materials: Cotton poplin.
Incotex Straight-Leg Pleated Stretch-Cotton Cargo Trousers
Best Everyday Cargo Pants
Some styles are meant for the Great Outdoors. Others are so sleek that they are better suited for an office setting. Incotex, however, has managed to create cargo pants that’ll work in just about any scenario. It’s made of durable cotton and a touch of elastane, and features straight legs that fall between fitted and relaxed. It is definitely one of the most versatile styles on this list.
Materials: Cotton and elastane.
Kenzo Cargo Pants
Best Oversized Cargo Pants
The cool kids are all fawning over Kenzo and its new designer Nigo, a man that combines Eastern and Western styles effortlessly. And these cargo pants, which juxtaposes a tailored waist and crotch and loose legs with drawstring hems—is a great example of how he’s reimagining stalwarts. Oversized wool cargos with drawstring hems? Now that’s really something!
Rhude Linen Cargo Pants
Best Linen Cargo Pants
Like Nigo, Rhude’s Rhuigi Villaseñor has captured fashion fans by reinventing tried-and-true styles. Case in point: The man has created linen cargo pants with a drawstring hem, a breezy option for when the weather gets warmer. Pair them with a structured blazer and simple tee, and consider yourself minted.
Stone Island Slim-Fit Garment-Dyed Cotton-Blend Twill Cargo Trousers
Most Ergonomic Cargo Pants
Stone Island has been at the forefront of modish techwear since what feels like immemorial, and these cargo pants display their mastery of the category. Made of cotton with a small percentage of stretch, these garment-dyed trousers perfectly meanders between playful and professional.
Materials: Cotton and elastane.
Brunello Cucinelli Cotton-Corduroy Cargo Trousers
Best Corduroy Cargo Pants
If you’re worried cargo pants are too casual for your tastes, might we point you to this understated pair from the king of casual luxury? Teamed with a gray checked blazer and a dress shirt, this velvety corduroy pair can go from relaxed business meetings to date night.
Banana Republic Traveler Cargo Pants
Best Travel-Ready Cargo Pants
As we mentioned, the pockets that cargo pants provide are great for jetsetters. Banana Republic takes this a step further by making its pair out of soft high-stretch blended fabric that’s cut to taper along the legs. It’s essentially the best thing to wear while coursing through terminals and sitting on a flight for hours on end.
Materials: Organic cotton, modal, polyester and elastane.
Scotch & Soda Wool-Blended Cargo Trousers
Most Professional Cargo Pants
With pronounced pockets and a relaxed silhouette, cargo pants usually fall on the casual end of the style spectrum—not the best for a professional environment. But the pair offered by Scotch & Soda—made of wool and featuring front pleats and a slim cut—is primed for the boardroom.
Materials: Recycled wool and polyester.
Bottega Veneta Relaxed-Fit Shell Cargo Trousers
Most Unique Cargo Pants
Bottega Veneta’s pants strike a very of-the-moment tech-sport note. Made of a cotton-nylon twill, pronounced pockets with hard-to-miss silver zippers— perfect for storing essentials.
Materials: Polyamide with cotton lining.
Amiri Leather Flare Cargo Pants
Best Leather Cargo Pants
Leather pants aren’t for everyone, suffice it to say. But if you’re the kind of man who digs the sleek surface and shine, Mike Amiri, a designer who practically embodies LA swagger, has a floor-sweeping flared pair that’ll make you the toast of Tinseltown.
Fit: Slim and flared.
Valentino Straight-Leg Tailored Cargo Trousers
Most Elegant Cargo Pants
The trim, slightly cropped cut gives Valentino’s cargo pants a sleek appeal—more fashion than fatigues. Thanks to the mid-weight black cotton this is a pair that’s endlessly wearable.
Materials: Virgin wool and elastane with cupro lining.
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Wales Bonner Spirit Cargo Pants
Most Relaxed Cargo Pants
This is you on a yacht in the Caribbean, nursing a cocktail while Slim Aarons adjusts his shutter-speed. Wales Bonner’s relaxed vision of cargo pants feature a roomy, straight leg cut and drawstring, inspired by the sun-baked glamour of mid-century Havana. An ideal choice for your next vacation (or just dressing the part).