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Different Types of Cargo Shorts

Learn more about the comfortable cargo shorts, how it came to be, what makes it unique, the practicality of its pockets and the different types.

Four men's shorts on a white surface.

Modern life is definitely great and all. Everything is faster, everything is easier, all your exes are on social media and you can check out what they’re doing whenever you want. You can send an email that gets read a minute later or send a text to someone without ever having to hear their voice.

But there are some drawbacks to the modern world. For one thing, there’s a lot more crap to carry. You can’t even leave your house for a few minutes without your keys, your phone, your wallet, and who knows how many other items you have to carry? Putting all your stuff in a bag just gives you one big thing you have to carry.

So what’s the solution? Cargo shorts. These shorts are the answer to one of life’s age-old problems: too much crap to carry around. There are lots of different types of Cargo shorts and lots of reasons why you should probably try them all. After all, the world is heating up. You’re going to need clothes that can help you stay cool.

The Evolution of Cargo Shorts

Shorts look and feel like a pretty modern invention. That’s why it might surprise you to learn that they were actually developed in the 14th century. Shorts were invented to help keep soldiers cooler while they were fighting in tropical, warm climates. As soon as soldiers started wearing shorts to beat the heat, civilians jumped on the trend. Shorts became popular and they’ve never really been out of the fashion spotlight since.

A man wearing shorts with camouflage pattern.

From those first shorts, the style evolved and changed and adapted to fit changing fashion trends and keep the style modern. Now, there are tons of different short styles out there and everyone has embraced them as a perfect warm-weather garment.

And from all these changes came one of the most recognizable types of shorts out there: cargo shorts. Everybody has worn a pair at least once. But how many types of cargo shorts are there? When is it okay to wear them? And are you really getting the most out of your cargos?

Defining Cargo Shorts

So what makes cargo shorts cargo shorts? As is always the case with fashion, there’s a pretty strict definition for this common clothing item. By the standard definition of classic cargo shorts, the style you probably imagine in your head when you think about cargo shorts, these are shorts that have more than four pockets. Usually, these include pockets with flap closures that are right on the leg.

Typically, cargo shorts are usually made to be long enough to cover the knees. Many people consider this to be a nice length for shorts because they come down to cover the knee but they don’t come down too low. You can still keep your legs cool in cargo shorts, which is the whole point of wearing shorts in the first place.

A close look at a pair of khaki cargo shorts.

Cargo shirts are usually made to be somewhat loose, even baggy, which makes them very comfortable to wear. The main feature of cargo shorts is, of course, the pockets. Cargo shorts almost always have pockets right on the legs and those pockets are almost always large and expandable, so they can hold a lot of items. Cargo shorts are sometimes also called combat shorts.

Usually, cargo shorts are made with cotton or a cotton/poly blend that wears well. Cargo shorts are made to be durable and machine-washable because these are considered casual shorts that can be worn for everything from camping to hiking to yard work to a grocery store run.

Because cargo shorts are made to be comfortable and durable and because they’re made to hold lots of different items, these shorts are ideal for outdoor activities of all kinds. They’re also useful as day-to-day wear because these days everyone’s got a lot of stuff to carry whether they’re out running errands or they’re out running around the lake looking for a great fishing spot.

Cargo shorts can be worn with or without a belt, depending on the design. However, it’s usually more practical to wear these shorts with a belt. If you’re going to be carrying a lot of stuff in your pockets, it makes good sense to have a belt that can keep those shorts up around your waist. Some cargo shorts come with a drawstring waist for just this reason, though a belt can work just as well.

It’s All About the Pockets

A close look at a man putting his phone into the pocket of his cargo shorts.

The main feature of cargo shorts is, as always, the pockets. It’s the pockets that truly make cargo shorts what they are and it’s the pockets that make these shorts stand out among all the others. But are you using all of your available cargo pocket space?

Many cargo shorts are made with cargo pockets. These are large pockets on the leg of the shorts that are expandable. This means they’re made with extra fabric and sewn in a specific way so that as the pocket fills up, it expands outward to accommodate items. But often, cargo pockets have another feature: an additional pocket.

Sometimes, there’s a smaller pocket inside the cargo pocket or right on the outside of the pocket. This gives you an additional pocket so you can get to essential items right when you need them. This extra little spot is great for a pocket knife, for example.

Cargo shorts typically also have the four standard pockets that you find in many pants and short styles: two hip pockets below the waist and two back pockets on the back of the shorts. Most cargo shorts have at least six pockets with the four standard pockets and dual leg cargo pockets.

However, some cargo shorts designs have additional pockets to add even more storage space. Some types of cargo shorts have double cargo pockets on the leg, one that appears higher up the leg and another that’s positioned a little lower down. Cargo pockets have flap closures to keep the stuff inside the pockets inside.

A woman wearing a pair of dark cargo shorts.

You can find cargo shorts in all colors and patterns made from all different kinds of fabric. Though they’re often made to be baggy, some cargo short styles are made to be more streamlined and close-fitting. Cargo shorts can be made from both lightweight or heavier fabrics, such as canvas.

They can be made from anything, but you usually won’t find cargo shorts made out of denim. This is because denim is a heavier fabric and you’re going to be adding enough weight to your cargo shorts with the stuff you store in the pockets, so you don’t want to add a lot of weight with the fabric the shorts are made from.

Whatever type of cargo shorts suits you best, whether you want a lightweight fabric or one that’s a little tougher, whether you need 10 pockets or you can get by with fewer, these are a great go-to no matter what you’re doing when the weather is warmer outside. Find your cargo shorts style and find out how great it feels to carry stuff around in your pockets instead of in your hands.