When you type ‘cargo shorts’ into Google, here’s what you find:
1) Dodgy looking websites selling various, ill fitted, pastel colours of cargo shorts and 2) smarmy fashion writers talking the humble fabric ensemble down.
For years, cargo shorts have been the butt of internet jokes, associated with divorced dads, men’s rights activists, and basement-dwelling, crumb-covered gamers. According to The Guardian, Cargo shorts are ‘ridiculous’ and only useful for debating how bad they are. Business Insider goes a few steps further: “if you're covering your knees, you're not bold enough to be a man in shorts in the first place.”
Now look, I’m all for free expression, despite how wrong such opinions are. But I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to suggest such statements from established media companies leer shockingly close to hate speech. Our brave boys did not die in the Brit Pop fashion wars of the ‘90s so that fellow men brave enough to follow in their footsteps could be belittled.
I’ve been wearing cargo shorts since I was 14 years old. Back then, they were part of the wave of California-based fashion brands like Hollister and Abercrombie making their way to the UK. While they were less well placed in rainy England, the humble cargo short offered so much more than just a covering for your lower body. The cargo short itself was a work of genius – a fabric that combined practicality and minimalism, while achieving something few bits of clothing could do: creating a product that could unify all kinds of men, regardless of age, body type and class. Indeed, the cargo short might be just the thing that saves masculinity from itself.
So, as is my civic duty to you all, here is my defence of cargo shorts, the piece of clothing that, despite all the shit you give it, has always, and will always, be there for you.
THEY ARE RIDICULOUSLY FUNCTIONAL
Just throwing this out here, lads, but actually pockets are good. You can put so much stuff in there! But here’s the thing about men’s trousers generally: the pockets aren’t actually that useful. I think we’ve all had that time when we’re in some sort of queue and as we’re reaching for some coins to buy Diet Coke, everything falls out with them. And as you get on your knees and scramble to shove everything back inside your tiny pockets, you end up making everyone else even more pissed off.
Would this happen with cargo shorts? Of course it would not. Cargo shorts have plenty of pockets to keep things neat, keep things organised. And more importantly, the pockets of cargo shorts are deep. You can fit so much in. Wallets, phones, books, magazines – all in just one of four pockets the cargo short offers. You don’t need fancy Apple Watches or contactless cards to make your day easier and quicker: all you need is a pair of cargo shorts.
THEY’RE ACTUALLY A GOOD FOR BODY ACCEPTANCE
Personal story here: I haven’t always been very confident with the way I look. There comes a point in most young men’s lives where we spend a great deal of time in short shorts – usually when being forced to play school rugby, or to go swimming. Then, in the summer, you’re invited to beach parties or, in my case anyway, BBQs with larger than usual paddling pools. “Get in your trunks!” is a phrase that haunts most of my nightmares – and that’s mainly because I, like plenty of other men, have always been self conscious when it comes to my lower body. Being a shorter and stockier man without athletic features in my teens, normal shorts that would fit loosely on most scrawny boys would end up clinging onto my thighs, making me appear more dumpy than I’d ideally like.
And that’s where cargo shorts became a kind of saving grace. They offered a way to engage in these awkward social situations without too much of a fuss, while at the same time providing a type of clothing that, with a looser fit, offered more breathing room in the, er, areas that mattered. To me, cargo shorts offered a form of emancipation from judgement and, ultimately, it was through them that I could finally feel less self conscious.
I wear normal shorts now, but would that ever have been possible had it not been for my humble, three-quarter length Khakis? No it would not.
THEY ARE A ‘FUCK YOU’ TO CAPITALISM
OK, so let me lay this out there: ‘smart casual’ is trash and will ruin our society. It’s something that should have never existed. ‘Smart casual’ might be the standard uniform of the New City Worker – the people who work in social media marketing, in forward-thinking companies companies that say wearing suits is a ‘thing of the past’ while shrugging off the idea of pension plans – but the consequence of the ‘smart casual’ trend has ultimately been its association with work, and the subsequent destruction of very concept of leisure wear. Thanks to smart casual “every day is a work day”.
But have you ever seen someone in an office wearing cargo shorts? No, you haven’t. And there’s a reason for this: cargo shorts are designed, markedly, as leisure wear. When a man wears cargo shorts, he’s not just making a statement to his boss when asked to work on a Saturday – he’s making a statement against the entire system. By wearing cargo shorts, you have reclaimed your out-of-work time. You’re going fishing. You’re going hiking. Maybe you’re going to do some DIY, which is work, but work for you. Hell, if you’re just going to sit in your house, watching Netflix and eating Doritos, you’d do in your cargo shorts.
Whatever you do in them, you are very much in control of your life. If that’s not empowering, I’m not sure what is.