The History of Cargo Pants

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The History of Cargo Pants

Cargo pants might be a standard basic item in many people’s wardrobes. They are not only comfortable but also famous for their usability. With their multiple pockets, this clothing can hold essentials for hiking, gardening, professional work, and other situations.

Cargos are not just a utility item, but they are also a fashion statement. For the past four decades, they’ve been adopted by anyone from skaters to artists and breakdancers. So, how did cargo pants become such a phenomenon? This article will explore their origins and how they still impact trends today.

01-The beginning of cargo pants

02-The power of the cargos

03-The elevation to functional streetwear

04-Dickies’ range of cargo pants

05-How to wear cargo pants

01The beginning of cargo pants

This type of trousers was invented in the 1930s when the British Army needed a pair of trousers that could be both useful and functional, but could also serve as a uniform for soldiers.

Previous uniform pants focused on being presentable. However, this innovation allowed soldiers to carry their folded maps, medicines, and other essential tools. It also offered a more comfortable fit, which helped them move around quickly.

Moving to the US, American parachuters appreciated the added functionality of large pockets, which allowed them to be more prepared for their flights.

Soldiers often came home with their utility or cargo pants because they were functional in daily life too. This is when workwear started becoming a part of the off-work lifestyle.

02The power of the cargos

In later decades, cargo trousers became popular with the general population. Thanks to military surplus and secondhand sellers, people outside the army could recognise the utility of this garment.

For instance, it began creating interest among people who enjoyed outdoor activities such as fishing, climbing, hunting, and more. Others decided to adopt the cargo as their workwear, whether they were mechanics, construction workers, or workers in other manual labour industries.

All of these people recognised the three main benefits of cargos:
  • Durability. The standard material for cargos was thick, with a woven pattern. It was made from cotton for breathability, or nylon, to be water-resistant. But either way, the reinforced material made it immune to ripping (also known as RipStop).
  • Comfort. At that time, cargos had a loose fit, which allowed for a greater range of motion. This also created better airflow, great for both work and outdoor hobbies.
  • Practicality. As previously mentioned, the many pockets made the pants a real asset for people needing to carry tools and equipment.

03The elevation to functional streetwear

It took some time, but by the 1980s, people started wearing cargos more for their looks than their usability. This trend originated when skaters and breakdancers discovered the ripstop fabric and how it could withstand their tricks and manoeuvres. Soon enough, it became a staple of streetwear, adopted by hip-hop artists and the underground music scene.

The pants even made an appearance in high fashion during a DKNY runway show in 1997. The designers showcased how to style a pair of cargo pants for going out and sophisticated events.

It’s interesting to see how the iconic Dickies followed a similar path to the cargo pants. When the company created the Original 874, it was made for trade people. It had a durable fabric meant to look professional while withstanding scrapes.

In the 1980s, rappers and musicians discovered the pants and made it into their trademark. The West Coast counterculture increased the popularity of the garment around the world. Around that time, Dickies also decided to add utility pockets to their signature trousers. The two styles became recognisable and beloved in artist communities as wardrobe essentials.

04Dickies’ range of cargo pants

Nowadays, there’s a variety of options when it comes to cargos. Some are more fitted, while others remain baggy. There are different styles for all genders, as well as men’s and women’s cargo shorts. For those wondering what cargo shorts are, they are the same as the trousers, pocket and all, but cut above the knee for warmer climates.

At Dickies, we decided to keep the original cargo trousers, with the Eagle Bend cargos for men and the Hooper Bay cargos for women. Both have a looser fit, details of the original utility pockets, and cotton ripstop fabric.
However, there are also other new and exciting designs:
  • Johnson. This style has a regular fit and ties at the bottom of the pants to create an interesting look.
  • Millerville. This is a slim-fit version with the original cotton ripstop.
  • Jackson. This has a loose fit and is made out of nylon, giving the pants a parachute look. This design is also available for women.
The last two also have a version in men’s cargo shorts, which can fit women just as well. In addition, each season, new, unique styles are introduced in new arrivals.

05How to wear cargo pants

There are endless ways to style cargo because they’re incredibly versatile, working in casual and more professional situations. Styling suggestions below…

The baggier the better? (yes)

Wide and baggy silhouettes have been popular since the 80s. You can wear baggy cargos with a comfy hoodie or sweatshirt and trainers, for an ultra-baggy, ultra-comfy fit that’s going to keep you warm.

Preppy at the office

If your job has a smart-casual dress code, you can easily smarten things up with a black t-shirt or a shirt and make your outfit more preppy. Loafers will smarten up any outfit, and pairing them with cargo makes for a smarter but still very comfortable style.

Big pants, little top

With a wide, baggy silhouette on the bottom, pairing cargos with a smaller top like a vest or baby tee can create a super sleek silhouette for women. It’s effortless and so easy to style. Add a denim jacket for warmth and another material.

How to style cargo shorts

Cargo shorts never have and (we don’t think) ever will go out of style. Perfect for summer, pair with a white t-shirt or button-up for a Y2K style.

For women, pair it with a top and light knitwear. If it’s getting a little warm, tie the knitwear around your shoulders to make for a more comfortable but casual look.

Find the best style and fit for you

Now that you understand the backstory of the cargo pants, you might want to add one (or more) to your wardrobe. You can browse Dickies’ range of cargo trousers to discover the different styles and colours, so that you can create interesting outfits for the office, hanging out with friends, and other occasions.

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