huffpost.com
SHOPPING
Cargo And Work Pants That Are Actually Stylish
Cargo, carpenter or painter — add utility-wear into your daily style.
By 
Griffin Wynne
10/22/2021 12:16pm EDT
URBAN OUTFITTERS, GAP, SHEIN
Left to right: Urban Outfitters low-rise seamed skate jean, Gap utility carpenter pants, Shein high waist flap pocket whip stitch cargo jeans
If you thought wide-fit, all-weather, surplus-pocket pants were only for under-showered middle school boys that like to mansplain “prog rock,” think again. Whether they be cargo, carpenter, painter or general utility, work pants are having a serious moment.
For Nate Stern, assistant designer at Perry Ellis, the resurrection of cargo pants runs deeper than what’s cool on TikTok. “The return of cargo and ‘work’ pants shows how consumers are gravitating towards more utilitarian and durable goods,” Stern told HuffPost. “We’re moving away from the minimalistic, sleek look of the 2010s.”
New York-based clothing designer Kohlman Harshbarger said the birth of Instagram in October 2010 created a sort of #ootd culture, where a hyper-fixation was placed on snagging things from “it” brands and jumping on ephemeral trends. He describes the resurgence of work gear as a “Normcore 2.0” where genderless, unpretentious, even standardized clothes reign supreme.
“Instead of that special piece [of which] there were only five, that’s only sold at that one shop — utility wear is something that you can get everywhere,” he said. “We’ve moved from, ‘My clothing is special, so now you know I’m special,’ to ‘I’m so special that I can just wear a white tee and carpenter pants.’”
AN ESSENTIAL DAILY GUIDE TO ACHIEVING THE GOOD LIFE
Subscribe to our lifestyle email.
However, just because workwear is functional, durable and often widely available doesn’t mean it’s not also trendy. Sure, cargo pants can hold your wallet, keys, phone, headphones and backup charging block. And the strong fabric means no untimely rips while you’re rushing to the subway or cleaning up after your dog. Yet, utility pants and their vintage-inspired cuts also look effortlessly cool. They’re roomy and breezy, but still structured. They’re rugged and refined at the same time. Basically, they’re a pant for every sort of occasion. The endless spring of pockets is just a bonus.
“I like vintage and unique clothes, but I also like to look clean, put together and kind of minimalist,” graphic designer Emma Hansson said. “Workwear fits that look.”
For musician TJ Stevenson, cargo pants and cargo-style joggers are a better-looking and more comfortable alternative to bootcut jeans or slim-cut sweats. “I look for like durability, I hate buying pants,” they say. “And the pockets are so useful.” Queer writer Gabrielle Kassel expressed the affirming value of workwear — especially cargo pants. “They make me feel like my dyke self,” she said. “Like the hot carpenter that Bette cheats on Tina within The L Word.”
Dana Savage, founder of pleasure company Tango, told HuffPost utility wear makes her feel powerful. “I always feel like I can move and breathe in work pants,” she said. “As someone who is femme but deeply invested in my strength, wearing clothes that can move with me to be strong feels amazing.”
GETTY
New York Fashion Week models in cargo pants during fall 2021.
Yet both Stern and Harshbarger describe the complexities that accompany the sudden stylization of workwear. “With this trend, there’s inherently been an appropriation of workwear, as blue-collar style seeps into mainstream fashion,” Stern said. “While extracting inspiration from the working class is nothing new, this has inherently blurred the hierarchy of elitist style. Don’t be surprised when you see fashion figures mixing Carhartt with Prada.”
Harshbarger added that while the rise of styles available at shops like Walmart or Bass Pro Shops makes for a sort of egalitarian era of fashion — where lower-income, working-class and rural folks can sport the same styles as big city influencers — it can create a sort of “cosplaying as poor” aesthetic, where the generally wealthy rip off the style of historically disenfranchised groups. “Workwear feels dissonant when dawned by rich artsy kids whose parents still pay their rent,” he said.
After seeing a flood of Dickies on my own Instagram, I asked my followers if, and why, they wore utility pants. Out of 310 respondents, 72% said that either they or their friends had recently gotten into workwear. When asked why they like these garments, the answered ranged from the practical (durable, comfortable, don’t show dirt, extra pockets, etc.) to affirming, (make me feel masculine, powerful, extra gay) to, of course, aesthetic. Some like the detailing and stitching. Some like how spacey, even boxy, they can look. Some like them just because they’re trendy.
When asked where they stood on the politics of cargo pants, the answers were just as varied. One called luxury brands selling workwear at high price points “sus.” Another said seeing middle-class office workers in Dickies was “annoying.” A handful of people from working-class backgrounds and/or who currently do manual labor noted they would (or frankly, could) never go out of their way to spend extra money on work pants for “style.” Another handful said they’d never thought about it, or that cargo pants are just pants.
My personal favorite response was from my friend Donny, a motorcycle mechanic and server. “The more Wrangler butts, the better,” he said. I can’t argue with that.
If you’re looking to snag some utility gear for yourself, we’ve rounded up some fun options below.
HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Every item is independently selected by the HuffPost Shopping team. Prices and availability are subject to change.
1
Utility carpenter pants
Gap
Get them from Gap for $59.
2
Lavender carpenter pants
Garage
Get them from Garage for $60.
3
Soft cargo joggers
American Eagle
Get them from American Eagle for $50.
4
Lived-in cargo pants
American Eagle
Get them from American Eagle for $60.
5
High-rise carpenter jeans
Lisa Says Gah
Get them from Lisa Says Gah for $169.
6
Twill carpenter pants
Wamart
Get them from Walmart for $19.
7
Relaxed cargo pants
OneTeaspoon
Get them from OneTeaspoon for $220.
8
Slouchy corduroy cargo pants
Anthropologie
Get them from Anthroplogie for $120.
9
Light wash carpenter jeans
Wrangler
Get them from Wrangler for $34.
10
Cropped faux leather cargo pants
Free People
Get them from Free People for $98.
11
Low-rise cargo jeans
Urban Outfitters
Get them from Urban Outfitters for $85.
12
Utility pants
Free People
Get them from Free People for $98.
13
Checkerboard work pants
The Lobby
Get them from The Lobby for $122.50.
14
Relaxed work pants
Carhartt
Get them from Carhartt for $40.
15
Parachute cargo pants
Off-White
Get them from Off-White for $805.
16
Slouchy cropped cargo pants
Anthropologie
Get them from Anthropologie for $128.
17
Duck cargo chef pants
Urban Outfitters
Get them from Urban Outfitters for $65.
18
Straight cargo pants
Amazon
Get them from Madewell for $98.
19
'80s painter pants
Garmentory
Get them from Garmentory for $146.
20
Relaxed fit carpenter jeans
Wamart
Get them from Walmart for $35.
21
Tapered utility pants
Everlane
Get then from Everlane for $88.
22
High-waisted utility pants
Old Navy
Get them from Old Navy for $40.
23
Relaxed workwear pants
Madewell
Get them from Madewell for $118.
24
Straight leg work pants
Walmart
Get them from Walmart for $25.
25
White stitch cargo pants
Shein
Get them from Shein for $24.
26
Straight-leg carpenter pants
Urban Outfitters
Get them from Urban Outfitters for $59.
27
Wide-leg carpenter pants
Anthropologie
Get them from Anthropologie for $150.
28
Comfort cargo pants
Lee's
Get them from Lee's for $48.
29
High-waited chinos
Old Navy
Get them from Old Navy for $35.
RELATED...
Shop The Royal Trend: The Perfect Quilted Jackets For Fall
Shop The Trend: The Coziest Sweaters For Fall
These Over-the-Knee Boots For Wide Calves Are Actually Cute
Wide-Legged Pants
VIEW COMMENTS
MORE:
SHOPPING
STYLE
TIKTOK
CLOTHING
PANTS
Griffin Wynne

Staff Writer
You May Also LikeAds by Yahoo
It's Time To Pack Your Holiday Wish List With These lululemon Essentials
HuffPost
Ocasio-Cortez Slams Top Democrats For Not Punishing Boebert For Islamophobic Remarks
HuffPost
The Michigan School Shooter Is Charged With Terrorism. Here's Why That's So Unusual.
HuffPost
Ammon Bundy Tells Court His Bid For Governor Should Count As Community Service
HuffPost
'High School Musical' Star Joshua Bassett Reveals Past Sexual Abuse
HuffPost
President Joe Biden Has A Cold
HuffPost
Beloved Story Of Grandma And Teen's Thanksgiving Text Is Coming To Netflix
HuffPost
‘Obscene’ GOP Blockade Stalls Dozens Of Biden Nominees
HuffPost
MORE IN SHOPPING
Need Some Alone Time Over The Holidays? These Items Will Make It Pure Bliss.
The KitchenAid Stand Mixer Everyone Covets Is 42% Off Right Now At Target
These Heels Magically Turn Into Flats For Your Holiday Party (Plus More Comfy Picks)
MORE IN LIFE
HUFFPOST-SHOPPING
27 Incredible Gifts From Black-Owned Brands
HUFFPOST-SHOPPING
Show Mom How Much You Love Her With These Thoughtful Holiday Gifts Under $50
SHOPPING
Know An Introvert? These 27 Gifts Will Be The Way To Their Heart.
HUFFPOST-SHOPPING
The Best Toys, Tools And Gifts For Kids With Sensory Processing Disorders
SHOPPING
19 Secret Santa Gifts Under $30 People Will Actually Want
SHOPPING
16 Diverse And Inclusive Kids Toys That Embrace Representation
SHOPPING
Stay On Parents’ Good Side With The Ultimate List of Kids Toys That Aren’t Loud Or Ugly
SHOPPING
10 Must-Have Holiday Baking Tools, According To A Serious Baker
NEWS
POLITICS
ENTERTAINMENT
LIFE
COMMUNITIES
HUFFPOST PERSONAL
VIDEO
NEWSLETTERS
HUFFPOST
ABOUT US
ADVERTISE
CONTACT US
RSS
FAQ
CAREERS
ARCHIVE
USER AGREEMENT
COMMENT POLICY
HUFFPOST PRESS ROOM
PRIVACY POLICY
DMCA POLICY
CONSENT PREFERENCES
DO NOT SELL MY PERSONAL INFORMATION
Part of HuffPost News. ©2021 BuzzFeed, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Huffington Post
NEWSU.S. NewsWorld NewsBusinessEnvironmentHealthCoronavirusSocial JusticePOLITICSJoe BidenCongressExtremismENTERTAINMENTCulture & ArtsMediaCelebrityTV & FilmLIFEStyle & BeautyFood & DrinkParentingTravelWellnessRelationshipsMoneyHome & LivingWork/LifeShoppingCOMMUNITIESQueer VoicesWomenBlack VoicesLatino VoicesAsian VoicesHighlineHUFFPOST PERSONALVIDEOHOROSCOPESThe Legacy Lives OnLevel Up Your GiftsNEWSLETTERSAustraliaBrazilCanadaEspañaFranceΕλλάδα (Greece)IndiaItalia日本 (Japan)한국 (Korea)QuébecU.K.U.S.TermsPrivacy Policy
Log InJoin HuffPost