How To Wear Cargo Pants With Your Tiny Shirts


We are at a time when the big pants and little shirt combo reigns supreme. And for that, we have our 90s/Y2K aesthetic founding mothers to thank: Aaliyah, Christina Aguilera, and Jennifer Affleck (née Lopez).

The big pants of the day that take up the closets of many New York villains and their dads? Cargo pants. Definition: “loose casual trousers with large patch pockets on the thighs”. But for me, cargo pants are defined as such: any pants, many pockets.

I bought my first pair last winter at L Train Vintage in the East Village of Little Donkey Andy. It’s safe to say these babies have never seen a ride as they’ve been carried on my body, but they’ve been the subject of envy in many cafes around town. They fit like a glove, are incredibly insulated, and make my butt look like a set of perfectly inflated balloons. I usually pair them with a plain cropped shirt and platform boots.

I had long been an enemy of cargo pants/cargo shorts. I thought they were ugly. I had no excuse. They’re practical with their plethora of storage pockets, comfortable thanks to their loose fit, and nostalgic in the way they remind me of my dad (a good thing for some, a bad thing for others).

At some point over the past year, I developed a taste and became a fan of cargo pants. Or maybe I got sick of my fingers and hands hurting because for years we women rightly complained about the lack of pockets in our clothes and rejoiced when stylish items contained it: “Look! It has pockets! As a result, we’ve become increasingly adept at holding 8 million things in our precious hands (think: that photo of Dakota Johnson holding two coffees, her phone, her wallet, a set of keys, a bag of food, and some other unidentified drink with bare hands). Never again! Instead, thanks to our new collective love for cargo pants, we’ll have far too many pockets to fill and our hands free for more important things, like holding someone else or making ceramics.

India Roby, fashion editor at Nylon, likes the phenomenon because of the space: “I think people are into the cargo pants trend because no one wants to feel limited, whether it’s physically with clothes, especially since it’s so hot outside, or even in other aspects of life.” When she feels like spicing things up, she usually pairs her Hollister favorites with a blouse and a pair of platform shoes.

My personal preference for cargo pants is that they should be pre-owned if possible. With cyclical, nostalgic trends like this, quality pieces are likely already in circulation at your local thrift stores and on Etsy, Depop, thredUP, or Poshmark. If you’re looking to cast your net a little wider, here are some options we support.

Ryan cargo pants

I have never laid eyes on cargo pants better looking than these. Our beauty editor, Asia Milia Ware, recommended these to me, and I’d do (almost) anything to own a pair.

Printed Wide Leg Cargo Pants

These are fun and funky, as is the custom at Collina Strada, and are made entirely of cotton. Comfort and chaos! We like to see it.

Crispy nylon pleated cargo pants

Yes, these are only available in black, but they make a splash due to their taffeta material. Imagine how fascinating these would be in motion.

Ecru parachute cargo pants

These are sure to grab your attention simply because of their sheer bulk. The bigger the pants, the bigger the icon.

Black Cargo Pockets Lounge Pants

From Maison Margiela and at an extreme discount: 100% cotton and an elastic waistband. I’m not sure it’s better or classier than that.

Ferima pleated cotton tapered pants

Another markdown goodie coming to you through Isabel Marant, recommended to me by senior writer Sangeeta Singh-Kurtz, who just bought them because she likes to “dress exclusively like Lara Croft “. Aren’t we all?

Maesa Pleated Woven Wide Leg Cargo Pants

A beautiful marriage between the trend of wide tailored pants and cargo pants.

Le Cargo Pants

Our shopping editor Chinea Rodriguez opts for this set with an adjustable waist and cuffs, calling it the “perfect oversized fit.”

Khaki String Fatigue Pants

What you see is what you get with these pants, a favorite of shopping editor Bianca Nieves, who wore them so much she accidentally left them in the laundromat. (If anyone finds them, do the right thing and contact them.)

Rothco Army Style BDU Cargo Pants in Olive Drab

Our associate editor, Joanna Nikas, opts for those from Dave’s New York. They have an adjustable waist and cuffs, which we love, and are probably tough enough to get you through an apocalypse.

Women's Convertible Stretch Pants Quick Dry Zippered Hiking Pants

This is the pair that started it all for me. They are waterproof, but thanks to the heavier material, I recommend saving them for colder temperatures.

Stradivari cargo pants

The big pants diary in action.

It Girl Pants

I just know that I could climb a rock face, a mountain or a very steep staircase with no problem in this pair.

Edge pants

Beauty Editor at She Margaux Anbouba swears by these Kim Possible-style waterproof pants. “I wear them when it rains with my dress or outfit underneath,” she said, “and take them off at the bar because they pack up really small.”

Bailey High-Waisted Utility Pant

I’d wear them to the movies every time: 100% cotton and multiple pockets ready to be stuffed with sneaky snacks.


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