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How to style cargo pants (outfit ideas)

Cargo pants are a distinct type of pants that have been worn as everything from military gear to workwear to casual looks to high fashion styles. But when you reach for your cargo pants, do you immediately start to struggle to find something to wear with them? There are many ways to create great looks using these iconic pants. Start with some strong outfit ideas and soon, you’ll be styling your cargo pants just like a pro.

Man sitting wearing cargo pants

How to Style Cargo Pants

Cargo pants are one of those items that always looks great on TV and online when you see them in pictures. They’re fun and fashionable and stylish and when you try to look the same way with your own cargo pants…well. Fashion isn’t always easy. Sometimes, it feels impossible. But all it takes is a few good ideas and you can create a lot of great outfits.

Business Casual

Business casual looks are perfect for Fridays at the office, for informal lunch meetings or for a day date or any outing with loved ones. Business casual means that you’re casual, but you still look like a pro. To get the look, try pairing cargo trousers with a button-down, collared shirt, and a pair of loafers or oxfords. A brown or black belt finishes off the look. You can top this look with a blazer to add a sophisticated touch. A nice watch won’t hurt, either.

Dickies Men's Loose-Fit Cargo Work Pant, Black, 38W x 32L

L.L. Bean is famous for making good-looking clothing that can be professional. Their selection of cargo pants will definitely put you on the right track when you want to create a business casual look that will make you look like a real pro. If you have an important interview coming up, a pair of these pants won’t do you any harm. 


Create a classic cargo pant look by pairing your pants with a button-up shirt or blouse with the sleeves rolled up to three-quarter length. This creates a nice casual look that can go anywhere. It has an easy, breezy, simple look to it that speaks of elegant and casual style. This look can be finished off with simple sneakers, such as canvas tennis shoes, loafers, oxfords, flats or low high heels. A white sneaker or canvas tennis shoe really pops against khaki cargo pant styles. This is a great look for running errands or attending an outdoor event, such as a company picnic or a golf game. 

Wrangler Authentics Men's Premium Relaxed Fit Straight Leg Cargo Pant, Anthracite Twill, 36W X 30L

For classic style, head to Timberland. There’s a big selection of cargo pants here and all of them have a classic good look and more traditional styling. The clothing here is affordable and very well-made, which gives it durability and gives it a high-quality look.


Cargo pants have a reputation for being worn as work pants. They’re also worn as somewhat nicer pants to don when out on a date or when you want to look more professional. But you can actually make cargo pants look cool and edgy with a few style options. Top cargo pants with a tank top or a graphic T-shirt and a black leather jacket to create a cool, edgy vibe. Black combat boots, ankle boots or a motorcycle boot design will complete that cool style.

AOWEER Womens High Waisted Cargo Pants Pockets Casual Loose Combat Twill Trousers Girls # Black L

To create an edgy cargo pant look, look to Aeropostale. This website is always right on the edge of the latest fashions, offering the coolest styles and hippest looks. 

High Fashion

Cargo pants have appeared on the high fashion runways, featuring in the hottest looks from the trendiest designers. The classic style of cargo pants has been seen on fashion runways at events like Spring Week. But when it comes to wearing high fashion, most people just can’t afford it. You can, however, still copy the look. To create a high-fashion look without spending the high-fashion price, start with a pair of skinny cargo pants. Skinny capri cargo pants, or cuffed cargo pants, work very nicely for this.

Lee Women’s Relaxed Fit All Day Straight Leg Pant, 12, Black

Add a cropped T-shirt or sleeveless top in a colorful design, a belt and a cropped jacket. Finish the outfit with stylish will work great finish the outfit with stylish sneakers, high heels or loafers with no socks (or invisible socks). A silk tank also works well for creating a high-fashion look. Black cargo pants are easy to style with other pieces and different types of footwear. White sneakers create cute contrast with black pants.

Shop for high-fashion looks at Just Hype. The clothes here are trendy and in keeping with current styles but they don’t cost the big bucks that actual designer clothes demand. You can get clothes that look designer at very reasonable prices.


Cargo pants are great for creating a military-inspired look. A simple T-shirt in a neutral shade, such as gray or green, immediately creates a military vibe. You can also wear a military jacket and combat boots to really complete the look. Camo cargo pants and cargos in shades of khaki, green and black are great for creating military looks.

Dickies Men's Regular Straight Stretch Twill Cargo Pant, Hunter Green Camo, 44 32

Look for stylish military looks at Revolve. This website has trendy fashions and many military-inspired designs that make it easy to capture this style and put your own cool twist on military fashion. 


Cargo pants are meant to be rugged, go-anywhere pants. That means you can use them to style any number of outdoor outfits that are perfect for hiking, camping, fishing and outside activities of all types. Get yourself ready for outdoor activities with a pair of sturdy hiking boots or shoes, a durable belt and a standard T-shirt. Add another button-up shirt to serve as a second layer, such as a flannel shirt or a work shirt made in durable material. This will keep you ready for changing weather conditions. You may also want a backpack or a carryall that can hold bottles of water, snacks and any other gear you may need.

Wrangler Riggs Workwear Men's Ranger Pant,Dark Brown,36x36

When you need tough cargo pants for outdoor wear, try Lands’ End. This company is known for making durable clothing that can take on the elements. You can find cargo pants in multiple colors and styles here to have outfit ideas for all types of different outdoor activities.


If you want to create a sexy look with cargo pants, it is possible. Low-rise cargo pants and a crop top will show off a little skin. A tank top or sleeveless top that is form-fitting will also add a sexy touch. Form-fitting clothing is always a good way to achieve a sexy look. Finish off a sexy cargo pant look with high heels or canvas shoes with no socks to create a casual, relaxed vibe. Feeling comfortable in your skin boosts your confidence and nothing is sexier than being confident. Keep the cargo pockets relatively free of items to give your legs a sleek, streamlined look and really amplify that sexy style. Capri and cropped cargo pants are a good way to show off your sexy footwear, like the cute low-heel strappy sandals you’ve been waiting to wear!

Women's Travel Utility Casual Military Cargo Work Pants with Pocket (Black, US 12-14(Tag 38))

Find form-fitting, capri and low-cut sexy styles of cargo pants at TJ Maxx. This store is known for having the latest fashions at affordable prices. There are always new items coming in so you can always go to the storefront to get a look a the latest fashions.

Smart Casual

Smart casual attire is usually worn for office work. This is a polished, professional look. To be smart casual, wear a polo shirt or a button-up shirt with your cargo pants. Flats, loafers or oxfords are a good shoe choice for this professional look. Always wear closed toe shoes and no sneakers when you’re trying to look smart casual. Always wear neutral and soft colors with a smart casual look and not too much jewelry. Classic jewelry made out of metal is best for this look. Leave the statement pieces for another time and stick to simple, elegant pieces.

Carhartt Men's Relaxed Fit Washed Twill Dungaree Pant, Army Green, 32W X 32L

Shop smart casual cargo pants at StyleWe. This site has affordable looks that look more expensive than they are, which is always something you want in good fashion. It’s easy to get lots of pants here so you have a starting point for many different outfits.


Streetwear is the look that’s hot right now, in this moment, whichever moment you happen to be in. It’s what people are out there wearing as they g about their day-to-day business and it’s all the hottest looks that are being shared on social media. To create a great streetwear look using khaki cargo pants, get on social media to get a look at what’s hot and on trend in everyday fashion. Streetwear looks often set the tone for the high fashion world, and not the other way around. 

DIDK Women's High Waisted Flap Pocket Solid Jogger Cargo Pants with Chain Black L

Get cool streetwear fashion at Urban Outfitters. This trendy store always has the latest looks and simply by looking at the website, you can get a good idea of what people out there are wearing.


Styling cargo pants for winter is not difficult. The key is always to dress in layers. Wear long underwear or tall socks under your cargo pants in order to add some insulation for your legs. Don’t forget an undershirt. A close-fitting T-shirt or thermal shirt will keep you warm and add a layer of insulation on even the coldest of days. A thick sweater will help hold that body heat in and block the cold air. A thick jacket or coat that’s insulated will add even more warmth. A knit cap will keep your head warm and help keep your natural body heat inside your body. 

Wrangler Authentics Men's Fleece Lined Cargo Pant, British Khaki Twill, 36W x 32L

 Shop the HBX storefront when you want a winter look that will wear well and look great. They have a big selection of durable cargo pants here that are made to take on the weather and help you stay warm on those chilly days. 


Cargo pants are truly ideal for work. They have extra storage space compared to other types of pants thanks to the large pockets, they’re made to be tough and they’re comfortable to wear. Top your cargo pants off with a tough T, a durable button-down or a business-ready polo shirt. You’ll be ready to work and you’ll look totally stylish and fashionable. Avoid white cargo pants for work looks, as they can be hard to keep clean and even a little bit of dirt will make you look less professional. The only exception is painting. If you’re painting for work, you can definitely wear white cargo pants.

CARWORNIC Gear Men's Tactical Military Cargo Pants SWAT Stretch Cotton Outdoor Hiking Airsoft Trousers with Multi-Function Pockets Khaki

Find work-ready cargo pants at the North Face. this company is known for making rugged clothing that can take on multiple harsh environments, so cargo pants from here are a solid choice for any workwear style. You want work clothes that are durable, washable, comfortable to wear and good-looking. That’s exactly what you’re going to get here.


Still have questions about stying your cargo pants to create all sorts of different fashion looks? We’ve got the answer to all the most frequently asked questions about cargo pant style. 

When were cargo pants invented?

Cargo pants were invented by the British military in 1938. They began as soldiers’ pants with a utilitarian vibe that were included with BDUs, battle dress uniforms. These are the fatigues that soldiers are known for wearing. In the first design, cargo pants had just one large leg cargo pocket and one hip pocket. The U.S. adopted cargo pants for their military uniforms in the 1940s. At first, only paratroopers wore cargo pants with side pockets. This gave them a place to put their radios. 

Can cargo pants be altered?

Like most pairs of pants, cargo pants can be altered up to a point. They can be hammed to be shorter if they are too long and sometimes, the waist can be let out a little or taken in a little to become lightly tighter or looser. However, because of the many pockets on cargo pants, major alterations cannot be made. Too many alterations can change where and how the pockets sit and even make them less functional, which defeats the purpose of cargo pants. 

If many alterations are needed to make your pants fit, consider buying new pants that fit better instead. This will look a lot better and you’ll feel much or comfortable in pants that fit.

Can you wear cargo pants in the summer?

Cargo pants are made with all different fabrics in different thicknesses and weights. There are many styles of cargo pants that are specifically designed for summer weather because they’re made with lightweight, breathable fabrics. Some cargo pants can be worn even on hot summer days because they’re designed with such lightweight fabric. 

Will cargo pants shrink in the washer and dryer?

Some types of fabric will shrink in the washer and dryer if they are washed with hot water and/or dried with hot air. Heat can make cotton shrink. So if your cargo pants contain any cotton at all, even a small amount, heat can potentially make your cargo pants shrink and probably will. Check the label for the instructions and for the fabric composition. When in doubt, simply wash your cargo pants in cold water and dry them with cool air. This should prevent any shrinkage. 

How should cargo pants fit?

When pants fit your body well, they are going to look much better and feel much better. Pants should fit comfortably around the waist or below the waist, depending on the rise of the pants. They should also fit around the hips. The fit should be close to the skin but not tight on your hips. You should have a full and complete range of movement. The pants should also fit through the legs, with enough room for you to walk, sit and squat with ease. If your pants don’t fit ell, get a new pair! Even the best cargo pants aren’t meant to be worn for ever.

Who designed the first cargo pants?

The very first cargo pant styles were created by military clothing designers. The roomy pants that had extra storage space were perfect for soldiers, who have a lot of gear to carry. The pants were worn by both the British and U.S. militaries for many decades but cargo pants didn’t hit mainstream fashion until the 1980s. Until then, they were mostly only available at military surplus and secondhand stores, former soldiers’ pants. 

Cargo pants were seen on the streets more and more in the 1980s and in the 1990s, they really hit their stride. Manufacturers like Old Navy, American Eagle, Gap and Abercrombie & Fitch introduced their own cargo pant styles, making them widely available to consumers for the first time. The pants practically flew off the shelves, an instant hit. Cargo pants have been a part of popular fashion ever since. They are also still worn by soldiers.

Can you wear cargo pants at formal events?

Cargo pants are excellent workwear, stylish casual wear and they can even be worn to semi-formal and professional events, when you choose the right style and wear them with the right clothing. However, cargo pants are too casual to wear to any formal events, such as weddings or religious ceremonies or fancy dinners. For those occasions, stick to some nice pleated pants. Save the cargo pants for the weekend.


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