We Fear Cargo Pants Aren't Going Away, So Might As Well Learn To Style Them

We hate to be the ones to break it to you, but the reintroduction of cargo pants we hoped was just a blip in the fashion matrix? It wasn't. Yep, cargo pants are back — and they're here to stay. So, as unwillingly as it may be, it's time to get on the cargo renaissance train. You've probably seen these pants all over TikTok and Instagram thanks to the young fashion influencers of the world, and their resurgence has been put down to a rise in our needs for comfort by some. 

"It comes as no surprise that cargo pants have made a comeback given the increase in hybrid workers, since lockdown. Cargo pants are versatile, loose-fitting, and a great casual alternative to jeans hence suitable for working from home," creator of The Lifestyle Collective and stylist Natalie Robinson told Women & Home. But we have a question. How the heck do you style cargo pants without looking like we're stuck in our disastrous late '90s to early '00s fashion era when we last thought we looked oh so cool in them? (Spoiler: we didn't.)

Well, don't worry if you're a little resistant to don the pants once again, because we've got you covered. We here at Women.com have rounded up 11 different ways to wear cargo pants with a 2023 twist — and these upgrades will wipe away those tragic memories of the way we wore them back in the day. We promise.

Cargo and cardigan

One of the ways you've probably seen the most around Instagram and TikTok when it comes to styling cargo pants, it's oh so on trend right now to pair your pants with a cardigan. There are a number of different ways to style the two together, but one of our favorites is to wear a cardigan on the thinner side with delicate buttons or a tie in the center. Influencer Isabel Campos showed us how to do it elegantly in gold and black, as she opted for a longer cardigan with a crop top, but you could go sans the flash of skin with a fully buttoned-up cardigan.

Crop that top

We know, we know. We said the 2023 version of cargo pants would be different from their original run, but hear us out. A cute, more modern way to rock this look is with high-waisted bottoms, which is more flattering for the majority of shapes and sizes. Crop tops tend to be more form-fitting, which allows for a more up-to-date silhouette. It's also recommended you go for something plainer on your top half to let the pants do the talking. "Proportion is key," stylist Courtney Joe told Stuff of modern cargo styling. "To balance out a voluminous leg, opt for form-fitting tops — make the cargos your statement and pair them with pieces that are minimal and fuss-free."

Pair denim with your cargo pants and boost your look with a blazer

For those on the apprehensive side of the cargo pants trend, a way to make them feel more familiar and comfortable is to opt for denim. Denim cargo pants can be styled more like baggy jeans, opening up a whole world of different possible outfit choices. You could rock them with a whole host of different tops and shoes, but we can't get enough of this chic matching stone tank-and-blazer number, which, as neutrals, keeps the focus on the pants. The look goes along with advice stylist Sarah Stuart gave Stuff, as she suggested, "Overcompensate the casualness by wearing something more formal such as a blazer and adding cute strappy heels for juxtaposition."

Dress up in black cargos

Don't think cargo pants are just for the daytime anymore. Oh, no. The contemporary version of the classic pants can actually now be dressed up to create a super cute evening look, particularly if you get them in a dark color like black. As TikToker @chelsearushworthx proved, simple black cargos can be paired with a fancy top for a more evening-appropriate style. This chic look can be made even more dressy with a pair of strappy black heels (though there are plenty of shoe options with wide-legged pants like these), so you're ready for a night on the town — and comfy at the same time.

Sequin so chic

Yeah, we went there. Sequins. Because, why not? As we mentioned, cargo pants are no longer confined to daytime, so we'd recommend getting your hands on a sequin pair to really elevate things. As cargos are still somewhat out there themselves, you'll probably want to stick to a darker color to make them that much easier to style and opt for a simpler top to let the pants have their moment. We adore the way TikTok fashion blogger @iammckenzierose went super sassy with a leather-look crop top, keeping the color the same but changing up textures. If you're not quite feeling sequin pants, though, you could get a similar effect by putting black cargos with a sparkly bag.

Swear by a sweater and cargos

One of the quickest and easiest ways to dress in cargo pants is to throw a casual sweater over the top. We'd recommend going for something a little more slim-fitting to work against the baggy bottoms, and Instagram fashion influencer @reginaa.jay showed us how you can actually turn your top into a crop to give a better silhouette. With this look, you can turn the top up as high as you feel comfortable with, and, if you'd rather not show off too much of your middle, opt for high-waisted bottoms like these to give just a peek at your gorgeous body.

Light it up in a leather jacket

Another way to style your cargo pants is by breaking out a band t-shirt and a leather jacket to show off your cool and edgy style. Over on TikTok, @lux_island sported her black cargos with her biker jacket and an oversized Nirvana shirt with unique silver sneakers. Just like here, we'd recommend tucking an oversized shirt into your bottoms to create a more cinched silhouette to juxtapose the bagginess of the pants. Not only is an all-black look instantly stylish, but the mix of textures stops your outfit from being too monotone.

Bring in a bodysuit

"Wear something more fitted on your top half to balance out the silhouette," stylist Sarah Stuart recommended to Stuff. And a bodysuit is the perfect way to do that. As bodysuits tend to be more form fitting, they're ideal for balancing out the wide leg of the pant and giving yourself a more modern outline. We'd recommend keeping the prints to a minimum when you're wearing something as out there as cargo pants, so a plain black bodysuit is perfect to go with traditional khaki-green cargos like these. This look also gives you the option to change up your sleeve length depending on the weather, and you can also pair it with flats or heels.

Mix it up with monochrome

Monochrome dressing is one of the easiest ways to make sure you're on trend and matching without having to do a whole lot of thinking about your outfit, which makes it ideal for those looking to rock the cargo pants. If you want to recreate the original looks we rocked in the '90s and '00s, then opt for something bright like an orange or a blue. If you want to bring this look into the modern day, though, we'd recommend opting for something more similar to this one-color ensemble and going for something darker and more chic, like the classic army green, this dark gray ensemble, or even black.

Throw on a jacket

Cargo pants are super versatile, as we've already seen, which makes them perfect for transitional dressing because they go so well with jackets. If you're looking to walk the streets like they're runways in cargos in the colder months, then we'd recommend pairing your cargo pants with a cropped jacket over a simple long-sleeved top. A slightly cropped jacket that hits you at the waist works really well, particularly if it finishes around the same point as where your bottoms start. That way, you'll be highlighting that gorgeous figure without drowning it with too many loose-fitting garments.

Lingerie isn't just for the bedroom

This one's a little daring, but trust us. It won't be for everyone, and that's absolutely fine, but for our bold outfit lovers out there, why not add a little sexiness to your cargos with a little lingerie? Of course, lingerie-style tops have been a part of many a daily wardrobe for a while now, and it turns out they go pretty well with cargos, too. That's because they offer an opposing silhouette and style to the pants, clinging to the body while they hang. As they say, though, opposites attract! For this look, only show as much skin as you feel comfortable, and we'd suggest matching your lingerie top or bodysuit to the color of the pants to avoid having too much going on. You could also pair it with a cute blazer to cover up a little more and still look super chic.