On Cargo Shorts – Herro Style

Posted: July 21, 2012 by Sean Rossman in Completely Pointless
Tags: ,

Myself in cargo shorts circa 2007.

Cargo shorts are leaving us. Actually, they’re done. There have been many fads for the generation that is now in their twenties, but none lasted as long as the cargo short. Others sprouted up but faded away much quicker. The mid to late 90’s brought the baggy jeans era, from 2000 to about 2005 was the era where all of us sported the brand of our clothing directly on our shirts as if it were a statement (Aeropostale, Abercrombie and Fitch, Hollister). Baggy Jeans came and went quickly in the late 1990s but left in its wake a trail of loosely fitted pants for years to come. Thankfully, hipsters have helped shift the pant fitting paradigm towards the tighter side, placing us in a time where pants fit appropriately. If you threw out all dignity and embraced the market of ripped jeans, then I have no respect for you. Ripped jeans are a balmy abomination of taste, and not so much a trend as a national regret on par with Saved By The Bell: The New Class. No trend will make us cringe more in 15 years than purposely ripped jeans. Things like skinny jeans, flannel, and polo shirts will go out of style again but then come back into style and our kids will be fawning over how cool we looked back then. But ripped jeans can never stay cool and will never stay cool, no matter what. It may again be cool again sometime in the future to wear brand names on shirts, even if ironically so, like what we see in hipsters. By the way, if you wanted to make a nice argument at a party, you could argue that wearing brands on casual apparel is a true sign of the extremes of consumer culture. We bought shirts with the brand name prominently displayed on it (think Idiocracy), then wore it, and then we were convinced it was cool! That’s Clockwork Orange manipulation.

Throughout it all, cargo shorts have remained constant. Always the standard bearer of laid back, the Cassius Clay of casual, these pocketed clothing chameleons successfully bridged your adolescent life and your adult life.  Since about the year 2000 cargo shorts have maintained some sort of stylistic relevance.  Shia Laboeuf’s entire acting career has been within the millennial Cargo short era. Look at a picture of yourself circa 2002 and you’ll find you or one of your squad dressed in a pair of these over-pocketed parachutes. They were perfect, weight neutral and with the ability to carry so many things, and let us not forget, stylish at the same time. All types of people wore them: preps, athletes, gothic, metal underworld, oversexed nerds, undersexed nerds, dudes/ladies without a crowd, lesbians and even those simply unwilling to part with the traditional short-alternative, the jean short. The cargo short, made out of khaki material, could confidently be embraced by jean-short-wearing skeptics. The haters were silenced when test after test showed that the cargo short waistline was substantial enough to support a clip-on walkman. But it’s over now, and if you are saying it isn’t, then get yourself out of the Pac Sun outlet you are currently in.


Tim in cargo shorts circa 2011

Cargos were the ultimate beer/beverage transporter for Gen Y. While other generations before us had a very lax police presence that yielded their reckless behavior, for us the cargo short was our way of circumventing a domineering police state bent on ruining all types of poor decisions that are crucial to any child’s upbringing. Because our parents fucked it up for us by laughing at the very unfunny (yea, I said it) Cheech and Chong and getting high and naked and then covering themselves in mud at a concert and then romanticizing it later, our generation had to suffer the consequences. Whether it’s our parents’ fault or not, we still had to deal with the repercussions and guess what? We handled it the best. The greatest generation of World War II would have just lamented the situation and wrote to “a girl back home,” which, by the way, is uncomfortably someone’s current grandma. The Vietnam Era would have just burned their driver’s license and told us to fuck off. While those who were teenagers in the 80s were too busy writing the nerd-gets-the-girl plotline that has infected every movie since 1995.  But we, Generation Y, having no other way to have fun because our Mom is drinking a Paxil, Rum and Coke in the next room and screaming about Ryan Seacrest, had to improvise in the only way we knew how: we wore our condition.

The success of embarking in any form of substance between the ages of 15 and 19 is really all about utility. How can I make the most out of this situation? I need to get booze into my system but it’s illegal for me to purchase. Also, let’s say you do acquire booze? Most decent parents do not approve of you drinking around them. Therefore, you must do it in the cover of basements, wooded areas, bushes, or bleachers. This all requires a bit of ingenuity and cunning, both characteristics which are aided by a decent sense of utility for all the things around them. This is where the cargo short really shined, it had incalculable value in terms of transporting and hiding substances. It was genuinely a short meant to carry cargo. There was nothing better than just feeling the coolness of a beer pressed up against your leg while it sits in your lower side pocket of your shorts. Picture yourself 7 years younger than you are now.  You are either at a high school sporting event or a less-eventful basement party somewhere. Someone in your crew is staggering around with these Samsonites as legs, and their packed with beers. If you had a good cargo short, the lower side pocket not only held 2 upright unopened beers but opened ones as well without spilling. When you reach 21, there is no reason to hide beers on your person, and now that you’ve grown up, you’ve discovered the coming-of-age joy of preparing a perfectly packed cooler, so the cargo shorts are moot.

The cargo short was diverse. People wear them with a button-up shirt, and for those harder, just a beater. For the smelly kid at gym class, it was an acceptable gym class short. However, this was based on the technicality that it was closely related to the jean short, which was given way too much leeway in the athletic wear department. By the transitive property the cargo short was viewed as an athletic short, but much to this commentators chagrin. It should be stated that the only criteria for the kid who never brought his gym clothes was not that he was poor or lazy, but that he was smelly. Think about it.


The cargo short was the perfect blend of utility and style, grace and performance if you will. Clothing can be ruined by too much utility and not enough style (the zip-off pant leg, transition lenses), or killed by style and not enough utility (the baggy pant, unseasonable scarves). The cargo short, however, seemed to play both roles well. So it was a sad day for me when I realized that I had to give up the cargo short. I reached into my closet while preparing for a beach trip and grabbed a wrinkly portal the past that I hadn’t worn in a while, with that vague military color that goes with anything, and I just knew it was over. I just knew it.

I think it’s that we’ve grown up. We no longer require large pockets. We need less cargo, although ironically life was a bit simpler when we needed more. Makes you think. But now cell phones aren’t large, no more thick charcoal bricks of flip phones and Trac phones.  The tri-fold wallet has gone the way of the dodo while the clip has ably stepped in.  We carry less, while also carrying more. Think again.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s