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Cargo Shorts vs Bermuda Shorts

Cargo shorts are made to carry stuff, as their name suggests, making them ideal for summer activities like hiking, fishing, and camping. They're also known as walk shorts and are made to be worn as loose-fitting casual clothing. Bermuda shorts are best worn in the summer, preferably on the beach or anywhere hot and humid. Continue reading to determine what is best for you.

Women wearing two different shorts, cargo and bermuda shorts.

Ever taken your in-laws on holiday? Well, with most countries lifting COVID-19 travel restrictions and re-opening resorts, Wifey and I are booked to go to the Bahamas -with her parents! After what’s been happening with COVID, she has become kinda attached to her folks and won’t let them out of her sight.

Being the understanding hubby that I am, I sorta understand where she is coming from, but it has got us arguing…. interestingly enough, not about her parents coming on our holiday, but rather about whether I should buy cargo shorts or Bermuda shorts!

You see, since we’ll be holidaying in the Caribbean, Wifey thinks I should get Bermuda shorts. I, on the other hand, being very well-endowed, don’t think it right and decent to be prancing around on the beach wearing Bermuda shorts in front of my in-laws, especially my mother-in-law.

In case some of you don’t know what cargo shorts and Bermuda shorts are and still don’t understand what they have to do with holidaying with my in-laws, let me explain by comparing the two types of shorts.

What are Cargo Shorts?

As their name suggests, Cargo shorts are primarily designed to carry things, making them perfect for summer activities like hiking, fishing, and camping. Targeted, therefore, for the outdoorsman, they have often had a leaning towards military gear and its sturdy quality, making them more for men than for women or children.

Around since the late 1990s and early 2000s, Cargo shorts originally had a heavy to breathable cotton-blend construction. However, two decades later, they are also being made from more lightweight, sporty materials like nylon-perfect for the warm weather.

What are Bermuda Shorts?

Gray and darl green bermuda shorts in a white background.

Bermuda shorts are a type of casual shorts worn by men, women, and children. Also known as walk shorts, they are designed to be worn as loose-fitting casual clothes. As such, Bermuda shorts are best worn during summer and ideally on the beach or somewhere very hot and humid. Their name is derived from where they originated Bermuda. Today they come in all sizes and colors.

Related: What are Bermuda Shorts?

Design Features

Cargo Shorts

Summer cargo short for men isolated in a white background.

Until recently, in addition to the durable heavyweight cotton or camouflage material, Cargo shorts typically had three distinguishing features.

(i) belt buckles around the waist, at times accompanied by a drawstring. While others like the Over and Out Cargo shorts feature no buckles but have button-down, asymmetrical pocket placements, and velcro patches. Some like the Shell Gear Carmo Belted Cargo shorts have elasticized waists with a front belt. Yet others, like the, Abisko Cargo shorts have punk-like zips and buckles around the waist.

(ii) two front-facing pockets, two back pockets, two sides, and two lap/ thigh pockets. Conversely, others like the Over and Out Cargo shorts above mentioned had asymmetrical pocket placements, while Shell Gear Carmo Belted and Abisko Cargo shorts have huge wraparound pockets on both sides. More recently, akin to the Shell Gear Carmo Belted, Nike ACG Cargo shorts also come with an elasticized waist and belt, but small velcroed pockets on top of bigger ones.

(iii) and were available in a variety of colors and sizes. Examples of “old-school/traditional look” Cargo shorts include Garment-washed Cargo shorts. Coming just below/above the knee, these camp-friendly shorts feature a total of eight pockets.

Those of us familiar with the late-1990s and 2000s might remember the classic Aviation Camouflage Print Cotton Ripstop Cargo shorts. Inspired by military fabric, these baggy, old school cargo shorts with a multitude of visible and “invisible” are the real deal.

However, over time, while some have retained their “old-school/traditional look”, the design features of Cargo shorts have steadily altered. Today, some Cargo shorts are not as bulky as they once were. They have instead become branded, slimmer, sleeker, sportingly stylish in outlook, and cut from tech fabrics. In such cases, they have no visible pockets. Take, for instance, the lightweight nylon Union Cargo Shorts with only two pockets and the Cargo Volley shorts.

Lately, the waists of some cargo shorts are fitted with just a self-belt and/or an adjustable drawstring. All of which are accompanied by the traditional multiple pockets.

 Some have a zip-off, four-pocket design with reinforced rivets. The right cargo pocket usually has a button closure and a belt loop, while the left cargo pocket has a button closure and a side opening.

Other Cargo shorts also have a button fly and/or button waist. The waistband is fitted with an elastic drawstring.

Good examples of cargo shorts epitomizing the latest design trends are the High-Waisted Cargo shorts and  Logo Print Cargo Shorts that are of a slimmer cut and slightly longer with small, stylish, rather than utility pockets towards the side edges. Some go beyond the knees, while others stay just above it.

Related: Different Types of Cargo Shorts

Bermuda Shorts

Khaki colored shorts isolated in a white bacground.

Unlike Cargo shorts, Bermuda shorts typically reach just above the knee. Although some might argue that the latter is actually shorter in length than the former.  Initially, meant to be semi-casual wear, they have since become totally casual wear.  Classic Bermuda shorts were actually considered short trousers whose hem had been cuffed or uncuffed about an inch (2.5-centimeters) above the knee and had back and front pockets. Though not as many as those of Cargo shorts!

While Cargo shorts may be a comparable length, they are characteristically baggy and more stylish. Whereas original Bermuda shorts were tailored, they have since become less so.

Over the years, the design features of Bermuda shorts have somewhat evolved. While they have retained their length, some have eliminated all pockets completely,  whilst others have retained just the front pockets or one back pocket.

However, one thing that has totally changed about Bermuda shorts, is the material from which they are made.


Cargo Shorts

Initially, Cargo shorts were made from rather heavyweight, sturdy cotton fabric. However, as they have become slimmer, sleeker, and more stylish, they are being made of more tech fabrics, such as nylon. For example, the Adventure Mesh Trimmed Nylon Drawstring Cargo shorts are.

Other Cargo shorts have, in a bind to retain some of their cottony feel, blended with other materials like fleece to come up with, for example, the Sportswear Club Wide-Leg Fleece-Back Cotton-Blend Jersey Cargo shorts with one/two thigh pockets .

Bermuda Shorts

Two denim colored bermuda shorts clip outside.

Originally made of suit material, nowadays Bermuda shorts are often made of cotton, polyester, or a blend of both. More recently, Bermuda shorts are also coming in denim and leatherette/synthetic leather materials.


Cargo Shorts

Although traditional/classic Cargo shorts were made of durable cotton, canvas/camouflage material, today their durability is largely dependent on the material they are made from.

Bermuda Shorts

Akin to Cargo shorts, whilst in their original suit material, Bermuda shorts might have been more durable, now found in cotton, polyester, or a blend of both, their durability (like those of Cargo shorts), is now also dependent on the material they have been made from.

Cost Differences

Cargo Shorts

On average, it appears the price of cargo shorts depends on the material, design features, and whether it is branded or not. As such, prices range from as little as $40 to as much as $900. For instance, Logo- Print Cargo Shorts are high-end and among the most expensive at $800.

Bermuda Shorts

Similar to Cargo Pants, it appears the price of Bermuda is also dependent on material, design features, style, and fashionability/trendiness. They retail from just below $15 and can also cost as much as $1000.

Benefits of Each

Cargo Shorts

Wet beige cargo shorts clipped and hanged.

Lately, Cargo shorts are comfortable but less stylish than they were previously. The utility of their pockets and their durability were at one time their greatest selling points.

Bermuda Shorts

Bermuda shorts are the quintessential summertime staple. This is because Bermuda shorts are a shorter length than other shorts.  They are lightweight and can be worn all day without feeling hot. Making them the perfect length for a summer day, more so, since they can be worn with a variety of tops.

Brief History

Cargo Shorts

First worn by members of the British infantry in 1938, Cargo shorts were introduced to American soldiers when the US entered World War Two in 1941. Their popularity, however, came 39 years later, when, during the 1980s, the then khaki Cargo shorts with oversized utility pockets were marketed to “aspiring outdoorsy types and at-home handymen.” In 2016, Cargo shorts reportedly made more than $700 million in sales.

Bermuda Shorts

The invention of Bermuda shorts is attributed to a native Bermudian and teashop owner Nathaniel Coxon who in 1914 hemmed the uniform pants of his employees to allow for more comfort in the heat. The British army stationed in Bermuda at the time then adopted for wear in tropical and desert climes. They became popular sportswear in the 1920s and 1930s and soon became associated with leisure and tropical vacations. Vogue first used the term “Bermuda shorts” in 1948. They have since evolved.


Originally and up to today, some Bermuda shorts were considered appropriate business attire for both men and women.

 Previously worn with knee-length socks, dress shirt, tie, and blazer, some in the Tropics still put them on formally.


 FYI, I ended up buying Bermuda shorts. Mind you, not just to make Wifey happy, but also for practical and logical reasons. For starters, I have to admit that I would have looked like a total freak commando wearing cargo shorts in the Caribbean. Besides, in addition to the Bermuda shorts, Wifey also bought me some tight strappy mini-briefs to keep the family jewels firmly strapped down-uncomfortable as that made my holiday-ouch.