What Are Cargo Shorts?

By UNIONBAY Admin on

What Are Cargo Shorts?

It’s a wardrobe staple you’ll surely see when the summer and spring season hits: the ubiquitous pair known as cargo shortsOnce revered by men as the gold standard of everyday casual wear, more and more women are beginning to add these shorts into their wardrobe as well. So what are cargo shorts, and why do men (and women) love them so much?

What Are Cargo Shorts

Cargo shorts, also called combat shorts, are short pants with cargo pockets on either side near the knee. These pockets are usually secured with a Velcro flap, button or magnet. People love cargo shorts because they’re one of the most comfortable pieces of clothing ever devised. It’s just a bonus that it allows them to bring lots of stuff without having to carry a bag.


Cargo shorts are a great marriage of style and function, and a vital part of an active lifestyle. The best way to make your cargo shorts a stand-out fashion piece in your wardrobe is to pick the right ones that complement your unique personal style. Will you go for a longer pair of shorts with a relaxed fit, or a more classically vintage and clean-cut fit? Whatever you're looking for, the good news is that Unionbay cargo shorts come in an assortment of styles, cuts, and colors. That's a lot of choices! But don't worry—cargo shorts are a very versatile option that go well with plenty of casual wear ideas, so styling them is pretty hard to mess up.

A Short History

Cargo shorts are a breezy and comfortable fashion choice today, but they actually started as a functional piece of clothing. They evolved from the cargo pants used by the U.S. military in the 1940s during World War II. The reason behind their design is simple—in a warzone, you need all the pockets you can get! It's useful for storing supplies, ammunition, even the occasional cigarette, which was a luxury back in those days.

Sometime in the 1980s, someone had the idea of shortening these cargo pants then marketing it to sports enthusiasts and fishermen. It was great for storing supplies while in the great outdoors, and it was an instant hit. The 1990s saw the cargo short shot into popularity thanks to some hunky and half naked models from some well-known clothing brands of the era. That caused the cross from function to fashion, and the shorts quickly became a hit with the male population. And thus started short cargo shorts's dominance over men’s fashion.

Cargo Shorts vs. Cargo Pants

In terms of use and flexibility, cargo shorts are king. They are much more versatile style-wise than your general pair of shorts. That's because they can be easily paired with any casual wear. Shirts, polo, sweaters—you name it, it can go well with a pair of cargo shorts. They are also just crazy comfortable. Cargo pants are just as comfortable as their short counterparts. However, they're not as flexible as cargo shorts. They can also give the impression of a military uniform, rather than casual outdoor wear.

Are Cargo Shorts in Style

Cargo shorts have become a wardrobe essential not just for men, but for women as well. It’s rare for clothes to serve both a fashionable and practical purpose, and the pair ticks both of these boxes, making them a must-have summer staple. Even as cargo shorts have been “taking it in the shorts" recently with declining sales, they're still wildly popular, especially during summer. It just goes to show the staying power of these pairs of shorts. The biggest secret with making cargo shorts work is having the perfect fit. Most of the fashion mishaps with these shorts are people wearing them two sizes too big. If they fit right, cargo shorts can be fantastic and comfortable. Take our Alfie Twill Cargo Short, for example. It's a cargo-style short that takes those utility pockets but combines it with a shorter and more fitted cut for a sleek and flattering fit. Or the Cordova Messenger Short, which has a drawstring hem, making the fit even more versatile! The position and size of the pockets also matter depending on your style preference. Our Alfie Twill Cargo Shorts have slimmer pockets located nearer the hip, which creates a more classic look. Larger pockets at knee height are trendier, as with our pair of Survivor Cargo Shorts.

How to Best Wear Cargo Shorts

Versatility is the name of the game with cargo shorts and pants. You can pair them up with virtually any casual top and they would most likely look fantastic. Our San Juan Belted Cargo Messenger shorts are an awesome pairing with our Boardwalk Woven Shirt, which comes in different eye-catching print styles. The body fit of the shirt works well to contrast the longer length of the cargo pants. Or maybe go with the Camo Pocket Tee top paired with our Survivor Cargo Shorts in military color. Together with the top’s camo print pattern, you’ll look like a total badass who just stepped off a battleship! Women can also easily pull off a winning cargo-pants-and-casual-top OOTD. Pair up a beige Lilah Convertible Cargo with a Persian blue Angie Yarn Sweater for a comfortable and classic get up. 

The bottom line is that cargo shorts and pants are an essential part of your casual wardrobe. And the best way to wear them is with a Unionbay pair! Browse our collection today or check out our vast selection of other mens shorts and mens pants, We promise you'll never run out of outfit ideas!