How to wear… cargo pants

If there’s one thing in fashion women are united on, it’s pockets. A dress with pockets is always an easier sell, and gowns with pockets tend to get everyone very excited on the red carpet, as seen recently on Margot Robbie and Ana de Armas at the Golden Globes.

The absence of pockets on modern womenswear means we have become a nation of bag ladies, many of us carrying around a variety of totes in addition to a large handbag.

Luckily, pockets are big news for 2020. Specifically, pockets on utility trousers or ‘cargo pants’, as they’re more commonly known. While they may not be able to hold every hairbrush, phone charger, packet of mints and tube of lipstick we consider ‘essential’, they offer considerably more storage than a pair of skinny jeans or leggings.

Fashion is cutting loose this year, with a much baggier silhouette reigning on the catwalks. Last year saw street-style stars and Instagram models embrace the return of cargo pants, but this season’s incarnation is more accessible for real life.

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Tibi did it best, combining nylon cargo pants with smart blazers and pleated peplum tops, an intriguing smart-casual proposition for settings where denim won’t do.

Hermes rendered cargo pants in trending coloured leather, ranging from an unseasonal forest green to creamy caramel to warm tan, styled with flat sandals, short-sleeved shirts and simple vests.

And Jacquemus offered a tropical take on the look, with a vibrant orange pair layered underneath a hot pink dress, as seen on Rihanna. It was fabulously summery and cheering – a far cry from the camo-printed style made iconic by All Saints – and the high-waisted fit is more comfortable, and forgiving, than the low-slung 90s staple.

Where the last breed of cargo pants favoured voluminous pockets and legs that trailed in the puddles, this latest is more streamlined. They still maintain that easy, ready-for-anything spirit of the original, yet now they are crisp and refined.

Cargo pants can make a compelling substitute for jeans when you need to look a bit sharper but it’s not warm enough for chinos. Jennifer Aniston is a good example, sporting a low-key white pair with a tailored blazer and ankle boots. Fans will recall her low-rise cargo pants with tank tops and platform flip-flops during her Brad Pitt years, but this outing has a more understated flair.

Those concerned about adding excess bulk to their figure should follow Jen’s lead, as a structured silhouette with pockets cut flat to the leg will often be more flattering. Continue that sleek line on top with a blazer or fine-knit polo neck – choosing a contrasting colour, such as soft lilac or a vivid lime, can give the look a fresh, modern feel too.

If you fancy more drama, look to Gigi Hadid, who fuses formal trousers with casual cargo pants in Nina Ricci.

The sheen of the fabric adds polish to the sporty style, which is enhanced by the fluid, wide-legged cut. She plays off the more dressy trousers with a striped jumper and flannel jacket, striking a pitch-perfect balance between smart and casual.

For everyday, a relaxed utility approach is easiest to wear: think a classic khaki, tan or beige pair with a chunky knit and trending combat boots.

Equally, treat them like your favourite pair of jeans and team with a simple white shirt and trainers: one part timeless sophistication, one part laid-back cool.

If you want to dress it up, offset the boyishness with a feminine broderie anglaise top or ruffled blouse and heels or scrappy sandals – it looks chic, without coming off try-hard.

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