Now that school is starting back up, you’ve probably picked out your outfits for the first week or so of school, right? Maybe not, but likely your first day (I did).
If you’re hanging out with college age friends as often as I am, you’re almost guaranteed to hear about someone getting ribbed over their wardrobe choice, especially if they’re going out on the weekend.
A common complaint I’ve been hearing is of pure hatred toward cargo shorts from some (more often the ladies) and indifference from other (more often the dudes). The seemingly innocuous attire has some people up in arms about it’s less-than-trendy appeal.
Cargo shorts are derived from cargo pants just as jean shorts are derived from jeans (genius, I know). Cargo pants were first worn by British Military members in 1938 with more pockets for holding ammunition and radios — the apparel was brought to the U.S. during World War II. While most civilians don’t actually carry much cargo with them at all times, the shorts were popular a decade ago.
Best basketball player ever, Michael Jordan, has even made headlines about cargo shorts. He was kicked off of La Gorce Country Club’s golf course in Miami in late 2012 for refusing to take off his cargo shorts and the club asked him to never come back.
When even Michael Jordan, an undoubtedly cool dude, can’t get away with wearing cargo shorts, there must be something horribly, miserably wrong with these “frumpy” shorts. Part of might just be that there are people who really hate them, while others are just lukewarm on them and don’t have too strong of an opinion.
To be honest, I used to wear them quite often and I’m not as cool as Michael Jordan. For a few years they were really popular if they were plaid. Not now. It’s all about slim-fitting chino shorts with no pattern. A cursory look on Twitter dug up a bunch of opinions on the shorts. So why are cargo shorts now causing a kerfuffle around college campuses and elsewhere? I researched the topic and found numerous forum questions regarding the topic from Vogue to Bodybuilding.com to Reddit. Then, I went out and talked to a few people about their opinions on the fashion.
“This summer I was told that they are no longer ‘in’ so currently working them out [of my wardrobe] but I have no problem with a good pair,” Mark Magelssen, 21, said when asked what he thought about cargoes.
But Mark just heard that they were no longer “in” he didn’t necessarily choose not to wear them because of his own choice.
“They make you look bulky and bottom heavy and they’re not cute” Meg Snyder, 21, said.
“What are you putting in those pockets? It’s just distracting, it’s so bulky.” Lydia Quint, 20, said.
“I think it depends on what they’re styled with.” Nandu Ganesh, 19, said when asked about the appropriate time to wear them.
Women on Twitter were really tearing them apart, even noticing the hate towards cargo shorts. I encourage you to see what people are saying.
“Cargo shorts can hold everything except a conversation with a woman” by @marymargaret9 was easily the most popular with 83 favorites.
“Going away to school and witnessing instances of people being judged more for wearing cargo shorts than doing hard drugs” by @jh00die shows how bad it can be.
“Boys that wear cargo shorts still, are you still in middle school or?” by @Sam_Joyner and many others are examples of the apparent hate on the fashion, while other users were mainly asking why there is so much hate.
Not everyone outright hates them or has really thought about it as a fashion faux pas, though.
“They’re okay in my book,” Natalie Kay, 21, said. “Unless they have too many pockets or if they’re camo.”
“I think cargo shorts provide comfortable wear with the ability for storage, but I don’t wear them.” Connor Wipli, 21, said. “I just wear golf shorts.”
“I guess they’re fine by me” Melissa Bownik, 23, said.
“I’d say they’re pretty groovy if you need to hold things in your shorts,” Jake Schulzetenberg, 22, said.
In my favorite answer, Schulzetenberg also sarcastically added that it would be a bad idea to wear them “when swimming if you have bricks in your pockets.” It is actually a really bad idea.
“I think it’s more of a trend on how Cargo shorts just look god awful,” Reddit user DrugReeference said, echoing the sentiments of many other users. “I came from an area where it was alright to wear cargo [shorts] in elementary school but after that it just looked ridiculous. People in /r/malefashionadvice explain it pretty well. I think when it comes down to it, a lot of fraternities try to form an image of young-professional men who plan on being successful when their older and usually when you imagine successful people, you imagine them as clean cut and cargo [shorts] simply don’t fit that image. Wear what you want, I just think cargo shorts look ridiculous. They’re too long, have too many pockets, and generally do not look good on people.”
I can see both sides of this argument: the practicality of the extra pockets, and the slim, clean look that comes when you take them away.
This topic has also been quite divisive. GQ even wrote about how cargo pants are coming back a bit (then again, it was Chris Paul wearing them) and I found another article vehemently defending the wardrobe choice [warning: vulgarity].
I can also imagine a few scenarios for when it might be more appropriate to wear them, although according to some it would never be. When is it okay to wear cargo shorts? I would say on a hike, at the airport, in the military (pants), as a child or at a factory or warehouse job. Just refrain from wearing them on a date or interview. Or refer to this terrific flowchart I happened upon during my research. If you’d like other advice, ask those with more fashion sense than you.
“I think that [cargo shorts] are fine, but in a dulled-down version,” Courtney Steeves, 19, who has her own fashion blog said. “A person does not need that many pockets. Basically just buy khaki shorts.”
I would wear them when I worked in a factory for things like a box-cutter or tape. For hikers or travelers, it doesn’t matter what you look like as long as you get where you’re going comfortably. Same goes for children, we want them to look nice, but no one is really judging harshly.
I think cargoes will be around because of their practicality, but won’t be high-fashion by any means. I think they’ll eventually come back around just like every style seems to do every few decades.