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Cargo Shorts vs Khaki Shorts

Shorts with two or more extra pockets sewed on the sides are known as cargo shorts. They are considered to be some of the most comfortable and useful shorts available. While Khaki shorts are a classic pair of shorts that are frequently thought of as a dressier version of cargo shorts. Khakis are a versatile piece that can be worn with almost anything.

A cheerful man wearing cargo shorts on a train tracks.

When it comes to the debate between cargo shorts vs khaki shorts, there is going to be some whispers that cargo shorts have gone out of style. Don’t believe it. They have been around since the Second World War and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Khaki pants have just as long a history in the fabric of American fashion. I love both but would love to show you more about these iconic American wardrobe staples for your shopping pleasure.

What are Cargo Shorts?

Cargo shorts are shorts that have two or more extra pockets sewn onto the sides. They are considered to be among the most comfortable shorts to wear, and they are practical as well. You can put everything you need from your money to your phone, your ID, and everything in between in a good pair of cargo shorts.

Today they come in a wide range of colors and prints, but khaki or olive green is the most common color. They are still traditionally used by the military in many countries, and function as an excellent fashion choice today. You can wear them with anything.

Related: Cargo Shorts vs. Hiking Shorts

What are Khaki Shorts?

Adult man wearing khaki shorts and flip flops.

Khaki shorts are traditional shorts that are often considered a dressier version of cargo shorts. They also have been used by the military as khaki is a color used in defense teams all over the world. Khakis can be casual, and can easily be paired with anything as well. Khakis are khaki, and there won’t be any other color.

We love them because they are versatile, and dress up a summer day very quickly. Khakis are standard shorts that typically go to just above the knee but can be shorter depending on the designer and intent of the short. You’ll also find these a little bit lighter.

Related: What Goes with Khaki Shorts?


Features of both cargo shorts and khaki shorts that are similar include their standard cut of shorts. Both shorts tend to fall just above or at the knee but can depend on the height of the person wearing them. They are also frequently made of the same fabric, which gives them strength and durability.

Khakis typically have two pockets, and sometimes two back pockets, depending on the brand or designer. Cargo shorts will have more pockets, and of different sizes, and their extra pockets will be located on either side of each front pocket. These can be fastened with buttons or Velcro. Another prevailing feature here is comfort. These are both very durable shorts.



The fabric used for cargo shorts and khaki shorts is often very similar. It can be cotton, cotton-polyester blend, or cotton twill. In some cases, wool can be used, but the fabric is almost always a synthetic blend.

Most khakis and cargo shorts are sewn with serging and by industrial machine. This will keep the product strong and durable. A good rule of thumb for either of these shorts is that the heavier the fabric for the shorts, the longer your shorts will last. Strong sewing is needed for heavier fabrics.

Design features

The differences in design features between khaki shorts and cargo shorts are slim. Both are slim cut, but the khaki shorts are going to be the slimmer line. That is because cargo shorts have those added pockets in the front and along the sides on occasion. This is going to add bulk to the overall line, even if you didn’t put anything inside the pocket. Otherwise, most of the time they are exactly the same short.


The durability in cargo shorts is built into the name. The additional pockets give these shorts weight, strength, and durability. These shorts are going to last you a long time.

Fabric selection is where it is at with khaki shorts. Most khaki shorts are fairly durable because they were invented to be durable just as cargo shorts were. Again, the heavier the fabric, the longer they will last. Cotton blends will give you the most durable khaki shorts every time, after khaki shorts in denim.

Cost Differences

Male mannequin wearing pink polo and khaki shorts.

When it comes to fashion, the costs can be in the basement or on the moon, for any garment. You can get either khaki shorts or cargo shorts for as low as $10, or as high as $1,000 depending on who makes them.

A solid pair of either that will last for some time can be purchased at stores like The Gap or Old Navy, and you will see a good pair of shorts here start at $25, but good khakis may cost as much as $50. Obviously, designer labels are going to run you higher ranges, and there is no average here.

Khakis from Ralph Lauren may run you $300 because he sat near them once. Or something. But you may also wear them until you stop wearing shorts forever, because with designers come quality and durability.

Benefits of Each

Versatility and durability are the key benefits of both cargo shorts and khaki shorts. Each is comfortable even when they are made of heavier fabrics. Both offer good air circulation. Cargo shorts offer the practicality of being handy with those pockets.

The practical beauty in khakis lies in their ability to wear them everywhere. You can’t get away with cargo shorts at every single event, but khaki shorts can be stretched to a lot of events. They are even seen at weddings.

Brief History of Cargo Shorts and Khaki Shorts

Both cargo shorts and khaki shorts have a history that goes back to World War II. It was then that cargo shorts were introduced to be worn by the United States Air Force. Pockets were added to the military uniforms so that the soldiers could keep ammunition on their person during long flights, and when they were hiding on mountains.

Khaki shorts go back a little bit further, but in long pants style, to 1846 when khaki pants were first worn by the North West Frontier for the Corps of Guides. This was another border uniform that began with easy cotton trousers in the cold. A full khaki uniform became the norm in 1848. Twilled linen and cottons were the fabric of choice as it still is today.

The color was used then in both cargo pants and shorts so that soldiers could blend in with their environment, in both the heat and the cold. It worked. It’s a neutral that is still winning.

Cargo Shorts Are My Go-To

Side view angle of a man wearing cargo short.

I love cargo anything so cargo shorts are going to be my go-to if you are asking which way I lean. I especially love them when traveling, whether that is road tripping or even on a plane. I hate carry-ons and am not that person with 20 bags at my feet in the car on the road. With cargos, everything you need is always within arms reach and it’s still a streamlined look.

Cargo shorts are a sturdy choice because the extra pockets add weight, strength, and durability. Khakis are great, love them too, live in them all spring and summer as well. But cargo shorts are a staple that I will always recommend. You will find them more comfortable than you think.