5 Outfit Pairings: How to Style Cargo Pants the Right Way

Cargo pants are 2022’s must-have pants style: This extremely versatile design can be casual, dressed-up, or unexpectedly chic. (Remember Kim K during those early days with Pete in a pair of satiny silver cargos? That’s what we mean.) And while we love green cargo pants, why stop there? Browns of all shades are everywhere this year, as are grays, whites, and unexpected hues like pink, orange, red and blue.

Made in a variety of materials and cuts—including straight, skinny, baggy and more—cargo pants are flattering on every body shape. The bonus? They’re so, so comfortable, and the handy, oversized pockets that define them make it easy to carry your phone for quick and easy social media snaps. Here are our tips for how to style cargo pants.

What Makes Pants “Cargo” Pants?

You may find it confusing to differentiate between cargo pants, khaki pants, and chinos, for good reason. They come from the same trouser family—borne in lightweight twill materials and originally available in only basic browns and greens. What makes cargo pants different is where they carry their “cargo,” quite literally oversized pockets that were originally made to hold tools.

Now you’ll find cargo pants with large pockets on the sides and rear, as well as some with extra utility pockets along the side of the pantleg. It doesn’t matter how many pockets the pants have, or where they are: The categorization comes from the pocket size. While this is a functional perk, we don’t recommend overloading your utility pockets: It can add bulk that misshapes your silhouette or drags your pants down with weight. Go ahead and stow your phone and lip balm in there, but maybe put your keys, wallet, and any additional extras in your bag instead.

What Can You Style With Cargo Pants?

Before you decide what to wear with cargo pants, decide what you’re going for. If you want a 90s-inspired style, go for baggy or oversized cargo pants. For a more tailored look, consider a skinny silhouette. Try straight-cut cargo pants for a look that can be easily dressed up or down.

Once you’ve got your cargo pants of choice, move on to the rest of your look. Your favorite heels will go with cargo pants just as easily as a flatbed sandal, and platform sneakers are a great way to nod to the style of hip hop icons like Tupac, who made the look mainstream. Think about your vibe as you get dressed, and add each element accordingly.

How Do You Style Wide Leg Cargo Pants?

Wide leg cargo pants bring maximum comfort and come with a bunch of style choices. They can be slouchy, lounge-inspired, or sophisticated. Add a feminine edge to oversized cargo pants with a fitted top—a tee, tank, or sweater. Pair the look with your favorite sandals or flats. Or, keep your style cozy-chic with a slouchy sweatshirt and a pair of sneakers.

How Do You Style Straight Cut Cargo Pants?

Straight cut cargo pants can go from the office to dinner without missing a beat or feeling too stuffy. So how do you style these cargo pants? Right now, we love the look of a tapered straight leg in a jogger style paired with a sophisticated heel. Finish the ensemble with a silky top that’s office-ready, or add edge with a cropped jacket to hit the town.

What Do I Wear With Black Cargo Pants?

Want to know how to style your favorite black cargo pants? Take a page from Olivia Rodrigo, who wore hers with a cropped tee and trucker hat for a day at Disney. Or, add mixed materials to break up the style: Try your favorite denim jacket over a fitted button-up shirt. Black is universally flattering and the ultimate neutral: In terms of creating a look, you couldn’t be working with anything more versatile than a pair of black cargo pants. Keep it monochrome with one color, or add a popping pattern or a fresh flash of color with a buzzing neon.

Can I Wear Cargo Pants in Spring?

The spring is one of the absolute best times to wear cargo pants: They’re not as heavy as your favorite jeans and offer more coverage and warmth than your go-to denim or hiker shorts on still-chilly spring days. (This is the same reason why cargo pants are an excellent choice for your fall wear, too.) Cargo pants pair easily with a casual tee and a cropped jacket, a dressed-up blouse, or a simple sweater and your favorite sneakers.

Can I Wear Cargo Pants in the Summer?

We recommend opting for a lighter fiber, like cotton, and pairing your cargo pants with s slim-fitting tank and your favorite sandals, or a cropped tee and flip-flops when going casual. They’re perfect worn with your favorite bikini top and bare feet, too, for a bike ride to the beach. For extra airiness, cropped or capri-style cargo pants are also a great option for the warmer months of the summer. They’re light enough to wear during the day and airy enough for long summer nights. One suggestion: Opt for lighter colors that won’t attract the heat of the sun, like white, light green, pink, and baby blue.

What Kind Of Shoes Can I Wear With My Cargo Pants?

Because this style is so incredibly versatile, nearly any kind of footwear will work. Sneakers, your highest heels, and even flats and flip flops all work with cargo pants. 90s-inspired combat-style boots are also making a comeback in a big way. Boat shoes, slides, and loafers will all work with cargo pants, so choose what matches your own personal style best.

How To Style Cargo Pants In 5 Fun Ways

We promised you five ways to wear our favorite pants, and here they are. Remember: It is all about comfort, on-trend style mixed with your own unique aesthetic, and total versatility. There are absolutely no right or wrong ways to wear cargo pants, but we had fun styling out some total looks that you might love. Here’s how to style cargo pants in easy, distinct ways:

Style Your Cargo Pants, Outfit 1: Retro Cool Vibes

There’s a reason the ladies of TLC were crazy, sexy, and cool: They balanced edgy toughness with sexy, flirty, and feminine style. To achieve their ultimate 90s look, pair your wide leg cargo pants with a crop top (or even a sports bra) and your favorite pair of sneakers. Add accessories like bold bangles and sleek sunglasses and you’re ready. Just don’t go chasin’ waterfalls!

Style Your Cargo Pants, Outfit 2: Meet The Parents

Ready to meet your significant other’s family? Here’s how to style cargo pants in a way that is casual but polished. Try a simple slim cut with pant and a shirt with feminine detailing. Add a crossbody bag and step into your favorite wedges or heels. You’ll be confident in how good you look as you win them over with your sparkling personality. 

Style Your Cargo Pants, Outfit 3: Let’s Do Brunch

Before you meet your best friends for brunch, here’s how to style your cargo pants in a way that feels casual but cool. First, try an edgier pattern, like a classic camo style cargo pant. Add a bold-buckled belt or belt bag, and tuck in a fitted, flattering tank. Top it off with a fitted jean jacket in a neutral color, your brightest, boldest jewelry, and a heel in the height of your choice.

Style Your Cargo Pants, Outfit 4: Day Date

Whether it’s a first meeting over coffee or a movie date years into your relationship, you can create a look that is super sexy while still decidedly casual: Pair skinny cargo pants with a fitted t-shirt and simple slides. Grab a clutch bag and keep accessories to a few delicate essentials, like simple stud earrings and a chain bracelet. It’s an easy, everyday style that also feels special and looks easy and timelessly on trend.

Style Your Cargo Pants, Outfit 5: Office Appropriate

Elevate your office style: Jogger style cargo pants in a popping color like rich red make a statement, but the boldness is balanced by an oversized sweater in a solid color. Add smart, all-day-comfortable short booties and your favorite pair of simple hoop earrings. The new work order calls for comfort, and you’ll have it with this look, without looking slouchy or unprofessional.