While some women never stopped wearing them, others have just recently dipped a toe in the trend pond. And yes, we could be talking about more than one of-the-moment must this season. But we’re specifically referring to cargos, which are unofficially the coolest pants on the planet right now.
Want proof? Not only have Tom Ford and Balmain turned out high-fashion iterations of the multi-pocketed pants, they’ve also been spotted on the likes of Zendaya, Emily Ratajowski, and even the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton. Street style superstars Hailey Bieber and Bella Hadid, meanwhile, seem to wear them about as often as jeans. So, what gives?
Well, this time around, green cargo pants are both chic and utilitarian as well as surprisingly versatile. Whereas camo cargo pants for women in the late ‘90s and noughties tended to be very baggy and at times costume-like, cargos today are more of a modern wardrobe mainstay. Think of them as the pants you’d wear running errands—or out on a date.
How Different Women Wear Them
As mentioned above, a number of famous and ultra-stylish women have embraced cargos. Zendaya, for one, made it high fashion with a fluid, strap-embellished pair hot off the runway teamed with a dressy gold tank for a red carpet event. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Kate Middleton was glimpsed in skinny olive cargos and white trainers, worn on a royal trip to Belize.
But say you’re just headed out, or meeting up casually with friends? Then you’ll probably style your cargos more like Bella Hadid, who’s been known to wear hers with both cropped leather and baggy quilted jackets, plus the requisite tight-fitting tee and sneakers. More often than not, celebs have opted for roomier camo cargo pants for women and figure-hugging tops that balance the silhouette and sometimes show a little skin, tapping into yet another trend.
History of Cargo Pants
So, knowing how women are wearing them right this minute, how have cargo pants evolved from their roots as military gear? To start, these pants were initially only ever worn for function, not fashion. (Those large side pockets stored ammunition and radios.) Part of the British military uniform by the late 1930s, cargos were adopted by American military personnel in the next decade.
Still, it really wasn’t some 50 years later that cargo pants officially became hip, appearing on civilians—including famous artists and musicians—by the mid-to-late 1990s. Once cargo pants gained fashion traction with celebrities, they were quickly embraced by the mainstream and sought out for their comfort and cool factor.
How to Style Them
Once worn almost exclusively by men, cargo pants are currently one of the most coveted styles for women. And though wearers today probably aren’t using all of those pockets, utility still remains top of mind. That, and cargos’ ability to adapt almost chameleon-like to multiple occasions with the change of a shoe, top, or jacket. Crucially, designers have also been able to adapt camo cargo pants for women for dressier occasions, creating variations in silk and leather.
For those occasions, adding a strappy shoe or heeled boots not only adds length to your silhouette, but also makes your ensemble instantly more polished. Swapping a silky tank or a cashmere sweater for more laidback sweatshirts and tees elevates your cargos for evening. Generally speaking, cargos look great with cropped and fitted tees and leather jackets that lend your look a sense of natural proportion. When it comes to shoe pairings, you can’t go wrong with sneakers for day and a pair of pointy stilettos or boots for night.
Why Camo Remains a Classic
As noted, cargo pants have been around for some time, and camo variations have enjoyed widespread popularity, especially among artists and celebs. And while camo was initially used to conceal the person wearing them, in civilian contexts the opposite might be said. When camo was first worn by civilians in the early 1970s, it was largely by members of the counterculture who wanted to make an ironic statement.
Camo gained in popularity into the 1980s, when it was embraced by both punk and especially, hip hop artists. Perceived as “cool,” by their fans and younger fashion followers, camo was sought after at army surplus stores before it made its way to the mall, courtesy of big-name designers and more mainstream brands. For many, camo cargo pants for women have been a staple practically ever since.
How to Wear Different Camo Colors & Patterns
Depending upon the print and color, camo can function more or less like a neutral—or not unlike a favorite pair of jeans. Muted prints in shades of olive, tan, and gray are more apt to blend in—and pair perfectly with existing wardrobe staples like denim jackets, black tees, or white sneakers.
If you choose to wear camo cargos in a bright color like red, pink, or blue, balance the overall look by teaming it with something in white, black, or navy. This way, the focus will remain on your cargos. But, if you prefer to mix it up—perhaps quite literally—with two different types of camo, ensure that your outfit stays on point by wearing a print that’s lighter or smaller, and another that’s bolder. Keeping that contrast will draw the eye while guaranteeing greater aesthetic appeal.
Not into Cargo Pants? Here’s What Else to Wear
So, maybe you’ve determined that cargo pants aren’t your thing, after all. Totally fair! When it comes to staying on trend however, you’ve definitely got options. Generally speaking, baggy silhouettes—from denim to chinos to cargos—are hottest right now. Ditto anything lower rise, including pants with strategic cutouts. If the aforementioned styles aren’t to your liking, sporty, jogger-style pants in nylon materials are a still-solid bet.
Linen and cotton voile trousers are perfect for warmer weather, while stretchy knit flared styles will take you from summer into fall. Wide-leg, higher-waisted styles in a range of fabrics will still feel fresh as the seasons start changing. Options abound!