Paratrooper Pants: Cargo Trousers Past and Present

General Dwight D. Eisenhower Talking to U.S. Paratroopers Wearing Cargo Pants

In 1938 the British Military modified the trousers in their archetypal Battle Dress Uniforms to include a single patch pocket on the left leg, thus creating the first pair of cargo pants. These trousers were fairly crude, featuring an impractically sized and poorly placed pocket that ended up being quite useless for the British soldiers.  Therefore, when the United States Military adopted the concept in 1942, they knew the design would have to be rethought in order to work for the newly established Paratrooper Units.

British Soldier Wearing an Early Version of Cargo Pants in World War Two

Cargo pants were ideal for the U.S. Airborne squads that had limited space to carry supplies as their backpacks were filled with parachutes.  In response, the military developed the M42 Paratrooper Suit that provided sufficient storage for all the paratrooper ammo and gear.  While the suit’s jacket was merely a modified version of existing World War Two outerwear, the trousers were an entirely new design, featuring dual patch pockets on each leg.  These pockets were close enough to the body to not get snagged during a jump, long enough to store anything, and had a two button closure for easy access to supplies.  The pockets proved to be critical for the troopers during combat and were a brilliant way to keep vital reserves, such as ammo close at hand.  As a result, the pockets were appropriated onto trousers by the other branches of the military, making cargo pants ubiquitous throughout the armed forces.

World War Two Paratroopers Wearing Cargo Pants

In the 1990’s cargo pants were adopted by various circles, in particular the camo heavy hip hop community and began to embody a new, civilian persona. Recently cargos have seen a strong revival in the menswear community with the tapered cargo trouser. Other than having a smaller leg opening, this newer interpretation is slimmed down in the pockets so they stay taut and don’t break up the silhouette. The pockets add a practical touch, and a nice, personal detail to an already essential pair of pants.  Here are a few great options:

Epaulet Slim Walt Cargo Trouser

Ovadia & Sons Pierre Lambswool Flannel Cargo Trouser

Incotex Aged Cargo Trouser

Unis Sullivan Slim Cargo Trouser

Michael Bastian Snap Zip Cargo Pants

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