Urban Combat: The return of the cargo pants

Dress with military precision this summer with the help of this utilitarian chic staple.

Source: Grosescu Alberto Mihai/Shutterstock

It’s the trend that’s taking Tik Tok by storm and the new must-haves that style icons Hailey Bieber, Kylie Jenner, Rihanna and Bella Hadid have been seen sporting. Yes, cargo pants are back baby and this time around, they’ve had a major fashion overhaul.

Dubbed by stylist Aja Barber as the ‘Jennifer Aniston pants’, cargo trousers were at the height of their popularity in the 1990s with the likes of All Saints, TLC and Gwen Stefani giving the battledress staple some serious street cred. Cargos would remain the ‘IT trouser’ well into the early noughties with punk princess Avril Lavigne - and her baggy cargos adorned with military straps and chainmail belt - spawning a mass of copycat skater girls everywhere you turned.

Avril Lavigne at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards Source: Matt Baron/BEI/Shutterstock

It would appear that cargos are coming back with a vengeance, with Google searches for cargo pants reaching an all-time high this year and resale clothing app Depop reporting that cargo trousers are the third most searched item on their platform in the UK. Why the sudden popularity though? Journalist Helen Barrett believes that our current obsession with Y2K fashion is an escapism from the bleak times that we have all been facing. In her article for the Financial Times, ‘Cyclical Fashion: the attraction of Y2K Innocence’, Barrett suggests that the appeal of nostalgic garments like cargo pants is an unconscious attempt to live in an existence before pandemics, financial struggles and social media.

Whatever the reason may be, we can all agree on how versatile, comfortable and breathable these trousers are, making them a perfect wardrobe addition, particularly for navigating the unpredictability of British weather. Although classic wide leg pairs with low-rise cuts are still popular amongst Millenial and Gen Z shoppers, the 2022 cargo pant has evolved from its tomboy roots and is now embracing a much more girlie look.

Cargos were spotted heading down the runway recently with designers like Tom Ford, Dolce & Gabbana and Balmain dressing their models in their own unique takes on the trouser style – think ultra-luxe green satin, cropped editions coupled with glitter belts and sparkly fringe boots, and desert hues with flowing military straps. Cargo specialist Dion Lee has upped their game with the label’s current collection which includes a flared belted pair in baby pink and tapered parachute trousers, a sibling of the cargo pants that is also enjoying a revival.

Tom Ford S/S 22 Source: Filippo Fior /

Retailers, both online and offline, are also getting on board, with stores like River Island, New Look and Boohoo cashing in on the new trend. Along with the standard models you’d expect to see in neutral colours like beige, khaki and black, you’ll also find gorgeous variations in pretty pastel colours like lilac and mint as well as feminine takes on camouflage and tie-dye.

With legendary pre-teen retailer Tammy Girl now joining ranks with ASOS, you’ll find plenty of inspiration for what to pair your cargos with – whether it be a graphic tee, crop top or bandeau for ultimate Y2K vibes. Finish with some chunky white trainers and you’ll be ready to take on the streets.

Get The Look:

£55 – River Island

£27.99 – New Look

£40 – Tammy Girl at ASOS

£130 – Peachy Den

£35 – Tammy Girl at ASOS

£55 – River Island

£55 - River Island

£29.50 – M&S