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Style

Cargo Shorts Are Dead. Here's What We Know.

We look at the raging debate.

Breaking news: Cargo shorts are dead.

Or are they? The Wall Street Journal reports that sales for the mid-1990s staple have fallen for the first time in more than 10 years, according to the market research firm NPD Group.

Once huge in mall stores such as Abercrombie & Fitch, the cargo short seems to be on the outs, thanks to a growing interest in athleisure and athletic wear, an NPD Group analyst told NPR.

While it’s unknown exactly why sales are declining, the cargo short certainly has a reputation for being unfashionable. Women have known this for a long time and now, men seem to be catching on.

Style is cyclical ― cargo shorts might have a zombie afterlife sometime in the future ― but the debate still rages on. Here, we examine it from all sides:

Relationships around the country are being tested by cargo shorts, loosely cut shorts with large pockets sewn onto the sides. Men who love them say they’re comfortable and practical for summer. Detractors​ say they’ve been out of style for years, deriding them as bulky, uncool and just flat-out ugly.

The pockets of cargo shorts, though ideally practical for a roofer or a gaffer on the job, make rather less sense as the omnipresent ornaments of weekend-­wear that they are, unless you regard them as a kind of ballast to balance puerility. Those pockets aren’t empty; they’re full of the idea of rugged work.

Well, now I feel bad for insulting the shorts that helped beat Hitler. Sorry, everyone.

The Wall Street Journal makes the case that cargo shorts are still VERY useful at the front lines of the war between dads and their kids:

Despite persistent comments from his wife whenever he wears cargo shorts, [Gareth] Hopkins said he’s past the point of worrying about whether his clothes are fashionable, especially with his two young children who are always stuffing his cargo shorts pockets. The pockets function for men like purses do for women, he said.

Even Tim Gunn had a pair ― but he did consider them the least fashionable thing in his closet:

I should throw them away. I don’t wear them, either, so it’s silly, but they are there.

We should note that cargo shorts are obvious shorter versions of cargo pants, which had a legitimate utilitarian purpose: They were introduced in the 1940s and used by the U.S. Air Force to access supplies during flights or ammunition when hiding on top of mountains. The thing is, you are probably not at war. No, you’re just standing in line at Starbucks, fishing around in your cargo pockets for the cash to pay the barista.

Cargo shorts are still widely available at Walmart, Target and Amazon (they’re still a $700 million industry) ― but what do you think? Would you wear them?

Take our poll and let us know: