Part of it is the ’90s revival, part of it is the utility trend, and part of it comes down to a relaxation of the slim-fit trousers and shorts styles that have dominated menswear for a near two decades. The best men’s cargo shorts are back, in other words. The obvious summer alternative, they have been enjoying a surge of popularity but, without getting too philosophical about it, what makes a cargo short a cargo short?
Springing up in the 1980s and marketed towards outdoorsy types, a cargo short will have two bulky pockets on the side of each leg, making it easier to get stuff in and out of. For the most part, they are cut out of thick, hard-wearing cotton but are less tailored than bog-standard chino shorts.
They’ve always been practical. Now they’re trending, too.
If you’re on the hunt for the best men’s cargo shorts, here are some top brands to find them from.
Our Top Picks
European brand Closed pulls out all the stops when it comes to ingenious designs and sleek craftsmanship. Born in Germany and fusing Italian and French style elements, this brand makes clothes that scream, “I’m too cool to care, but still look good as hell.”
Closed cargos are a welcome addition to any man’s summer wardrobe, with a minimalist silhouette and ultra-breathable linen-cotton blend. The fit is more flattering than your typical baggy cargo shorts and makes for a solid entry-level piece for anyone interested in exploring workwear fashion with an upscale twist. Pair them with a white t-shirt and Converse high tops for maximum style points.
Material: 50% Linen, 44% Cotton | Sizes Available: 27 – 38 | Color Options: Dried Basil
The in-house brand at one of the coolest department stores in the world, Beams Plus is high fashion inspired by the store’s large arsenal of brands with a neat Japanese twist.
Its the best men’s cargo shorts tap into Japan’s workwear sensibilities with a wider fit around the hem, a utilitarian rip-stop fabric, and a whopping six pockets. Six pockets? That’s insane, Jeremy. Lean into the workwear look by pairing these shorts with a flannel or canvas overshirt, with a pair of Tims or dad sneakers.
Material: 100% Ripstop Cotton | Sizes Available: S – XL | Color Options: Navy, Khaki
As one of the most practical workwear brands in the world, it’s surprising what a strong chokehold Dickies has on the fashion community. Budget staples are the name of the game and Dickies never falls short of the mark. Keep your eyes open because you’ll see these shorts everywhere.
In the best men’s cargo shorts department, Dickies goes the comfortable route with flexible fabric and a flattering straight leg cut. Don’t forget about the expandable cargo flap pockets and a bonus multi-use pocket, making them a top pick when it comes to the best cargo shorts for men. It’s easy to match these cargos with what you already have in your wardrobe. Dress them up with a polo or oxford, or go for a more parred back look with a t-shirt and pair of clean sneakers.
Material: 65% Polyester, 35% Cotton | Sizes Available: 30 – 44 | Color Options: Black, Dark Navy, Desert Sand
LA-based designer Rick Owens has always had a knack for turning expectations on their head and his take on the best men’s cargo shorts are no different.
There’s a touch of the extra-terrestrial in the frightening beasts created by the dark overlord of fashion, from monstrous ridged pockets to long billowing fits like something a hi-tech ninja might high-kick his way around town in. This is edgy fashion you’ve got to be careful you don’t cut yourself on, whether you pair them with an oversized hoodie for a street style look, or a collared shirt for the ultimate Y2K outfit.
Material: 100% Cotton | Sizes Available: S – XL | Color Options: Dust, Black
No one defines fashion for all quite like the world-famous retailer Gap. Dominating the scene since the late ‘60s, this brand is tried and true for all things basic (in the truest sense of the word).
The best men’s cargo shorts are cut classic and easy to wear with closet staples, sitting around the lower waist for a relaxed, slouchier style, usually in durable cotton twill and a dazzling range of shades. Pair them with a crewneck and sneakers for an athletic look or a plain white tee for a classic style.
Material: 98% Cotton, 2% Lycra | Sizes Available: 28 – 42 | Color Options: Peppercorn, Blue River, Camo, Sand, Moonless Night, Palomino, Surplus
Dressing stylishly on a budget has never been easier, and it’s the Japanese chain turned global monolith Uniqlo that is really leading the way.
It’s all about the details when it comes to its cargo shorts, with deliberate puckering around the stitches to add an old-school worn look and nifty boxed edging around the front pockets. Plus, five color options at a budget price make it tempting to get a pair in every hue. Lean into the old school vibes of these shorts by wearing them with a polo and white leather sneakers.
Material: 100% Nylon | Sizes Available: XS – 3XL | Color Options: Black, Dark Orange, Beige, Olive, Blue
Ralph Lauren and prep go hand in hand, which is why it may come as a surprise that they make some of the best cargo shorts for men. But doubt not, as this American powerhouse has always excelled in summer fashion and has worthy contenders when it comes to the world’s most practical shorts.
Leaning heavily into utility, these Ralph Lauren cargos have a denim blue wash, minus the rigid construction. Instead, the lightweight material and relaxed fit make them the ideal warm weather statement piece, thanks to the six flap pockets and drawstrings at the hems. Match them with a white cotton t-shirt or linen button-down with boat shoes for an effortless look.
Material: 100% Ripstop Cotton | Sizes Available: 30 – 38 | Color Options: Blue Denim
A unique fusion of Americana workwear and new minimalist design all stirred in a pot with a British seasoning is the basic recipe for 21st-century high street mainstay, Norse Projects.
Okay, so the Norse Projects cargo shorts are about as minimalist as you can go but the color and cropped style may be the refreshing take the classic cargo needs. Since they’re slightly boxier than other cargos, wear them with a more form fitting top to create some dimension.
Material: 100% Ripstop Cotton | Sizes Available: 28 – 36 | Color Options: Black
Without British brand and cult 90s label Maharishi there would have been no cargo trouser plucked out of obscurity from army surplus stores.
The brand’s mastery of the combat trouser translates into the cut-off version well, with easy entry pockets and long flowing straps down the side for some welcome drama and pizzaz. They look best with simple tops like t-shirts, polos, and overshirts, and are especially striking when paired with a pair of basketball sneakers.
Material: 100% Cotton | Sizes Available: S – XL | Color Options: Olive, Black
Part of the American denim triumvirate, along with Levi’s and Lee, Wrangler takes the same approach to quality and stand-up sustainability on its cargo shorts as it does on its top-grade jeans.
Made out of cotton twill, there’s a pleasant weathered look to its cargo shorts which are cut in a slightly slimmer leg with very deep pockets on the side to keep all your cash in. The colorway makes them easy to pass as khakis, and you can even get away with pairing them with derbies and a button-down shirt if you feel like dressing the shorts up.
Material: 98% Cotton, 2% Spandex | Sizes Available: 30 – 54 | Color Options: Elm, Gunmetal, Kangaroo, Olive, Anthracite Camo, Carmel, Camo, Dark Putty
Royalty in the denim world, Levis never misses the mark when it comes to men’s bottoms. With some of the most timeless designs on the market, this ageless brand has been around for more than 150 years and still has plenty to bring to the table.
Their Carrier Cargo Shorts are some of the best available, with ripstop fabric and a relaxed fit. While they’re pretty parred back as far as the design goes, they’ll match anything already in your closet, including t-shirts, button-downs, and even your favorite hoodie for an effortless summer look.
Material: 100% Cotton | Sizes Available: 28 – 54 | Color Options: Black, Graphite, Monument, Navy, Dark Camo, Chino, Apple Butter, Cougar, Dress Blues, Khaki
While cargos have roots in workwear, leave it to Nike to give them an athletic twist. This sportswear powerhouse was not going to bypass an opportunity to join in on the cargo game, as evident with their twist on this summer fashion statement.
Who knew that sweat shorts could look so good, let alone with the inclusion of a cargo pocket. These knee-length fleece shorts are the most comfortable of the bunch, but should probably be limited to gym or couchwear due to their casual nature.
Material: 80% Cotton, 20% Polyester | Sizes Available: XS – 2XL | Color Options: Grey, Rough Green, Navy, Black, Marina Blue, Limestone, Red
Italian brand C.P. Company has always been at the cutting edge of fashion so if you’re a menswear piece getting the C.P. treatment, you’re doing something right.
On the surface, its cargo shorts are fairly safe, cut with a straight leg in easy to wear navy and black. The point of interest comes in the brand’s signature goggle lens stuck on the lower pocket, a design accent for fellow fashion nerds out there to spot. Wear them with a colorful hoodie or bright sneakers to bring some life into these dark bottoms.
Material: 100% Cotton | Sizes Available: 2 – XXL | Color Options: Black, Navy
A leader in fashionable outerwear, Timberland is a good shout for hardwearing wardrobe staples beyond its iconic big yellow boot.
These cargo shorts are cut slightly shorter in the signature tan color and crafted from water-resistant nylon for any warm weather adventures in store. Pair them with a bold t-shirt and high-top kicks for maximum style points.
Material: 100% Nylon | Sizes Available: S – 2XL | Color Options: Wheat Tan, Black
A masterfully dab hand at preppy style, Tommy Hilfiger was always going to move the cargo short along from its military origins.
There are some summer beach vibes in its bright white option, which is cut out of lighter cotton than traditional cargo shorts. Match it with the signature Tommy Hilfiger tricolor belt and a polo for the ultimate summer look.
Material: 100% cotton | Sizes Available: 28 – 42 | Color Options: Bright White, Stone, Chino, Black, Grey, Night Sky
You didn’t think we’d leave Carhartt out of an article about workwear, now did you? Synonymous with rugged and tough, this American brand has no shortage of cargo options, which are designed to withstand whatever life throws at them.
These particular cargo shorts have a small dose of spandex for an ounce of stretch, and a relaxed fit to support any kind of activity. The cargo pockets are slightly larger than other shorts on the market, making them ideal for work, but the fit is neat enough to wear them out and about, too, replacing your favorite pair of khaki pants for hotter months.
Material: 98% Cotton, 2% Spandex Canvas | Sizes Available: 28 – 54 | Color Options: Shadow, Basil Camo, Dark Khaki, Tarmac, Bluestone, Navy, Black, Tan, Burnt Olive Camo
What To Look For In The Best Men’s Cargo Shorts
While it may seem easy to count cargo shorts out in the fashion world, you might be surprised to know that they’ve made a comeback of epic proportions. No, you won’t be laughed out of the room if you show up in cargo shorts, rather, you may have all eyes on you, green with envy for the courage and tenacity to rock this work-wear staple.
Here are the main considerations to keep in mind when it comes to choosing the perfect pair of cargo shorts:
First thing’s first: it’s unlikely you’ll ever come across a pair of shorts that are as comfortable as cargos. Loose fitting, decent length, and a lighter material make cargo shorts a prime bottom to reach for in the warmer months.
For ultimate comfort, opt for a pair made from ripstop nylon with a drawstring waist. These go especially well with a plain tee and a fresh pair of kicks.
Then comes functionality. The best men’s cargo shorts are best known for their plethora of pockets, which only adds to the practicality of these shorts. Whether you wear them to the bar or the beach, you’ll always have enough space to fit your belongings… and then some.
It also pays to choose a durable material as this makes cargo shorts a practical option for a huge range of scenarios, including finally getting around to mowing the lawn or those long awaited home renovations. They are the ultimate work-wear staple, with good reason.
Finally, it pays to consider the style of the best men’s cargo shorts you choose. While a longer, baggy pair is prime for putting in work, a straight leg or slim fit makes for a fashionable warm weather staple, without sacrificing those precious cargo pockets.
Fabric also plays into the style of cargo pants and you’ll generally be faced with two options: cotton or a lightweight ripstop material, generally nylon. A good pair of cotton cargo shorts can pass for khakis, making them an easy choice for heading out and about. Ripstop nylon is more practical if you plan on hitting trails, rather than the bar. And whatever you do, keep them out of the office.
The good news is the best men’s cargo shorts are likely to already match several pieces in your closet, making them easy to integrate into a summer wardrobe. Not only do cargo shorts look stellar with a solid colored polo, but work with skate-wear, bold logo tees, hoodies, or even an Oxford.
In the simplest terms, cargos are shorts with additional pockets at the thigh level, generally with a flap opening. Cargo shorts also generally include typical slash pockets and back pockets, allowing wearers to carry even more belongings or precious cargo.
How to style cargo shorts isn’t as hard as it seems. For an edgier look, pair cargo shorts with a bold logo tee, an oversized hoodie, and a fresh pair of Converse high tops. For a more polished look try out a light blue button down shirt with khaki colored cargos and loafers.
When it comes to how to wear cargo shorts, keep in mind the following: choose cargos that fall at knee length or higher, don’t overdo it with the cargo pockets (6 is the magic number), and please don’t wear them with a blazer or necktie.
If you’re wondering if cargo shorts are out of style in 2022, you’ll be pleased to know that they’re back in full force. With the resurgence of 1990s and early 2000s style, cargos have taken center stage. That said, classic cargo shorts have always been a timeless summer staple, thanks to their solid roots in workwear – a good lesson to always remember where you came from.
Cargo shorts are supposed to be baggy if they’re a relaxed or specified baggy fit. However, baggy is in the true nature of cargo shorts, so some brands may have factored this into their design. If you hope to avoid baggy cargo shorts, look for straight leg or slim fits which will look more like standard khaki shorts.