Cargo Pants vs Jeans

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While jeans and cargo-styled pants are versatile, not knowing their strengths and weaknesses can make them look unflattering on some bodies. Over the years, I’ve tried these styles and discovered the best ways to look good in them. 

Are you looking for a wardrobe upgrade using these styles? I’m going to explain the similarities and differences between cargo pants vs jeans, along with when you should wear them.

Cargo Pants vs Jeans General Overview

Different types of trousers on market racks can sometimes be overwhelming to differentiate them. Before I dive deeper into their features, here’s an overview between jeans and cargo pants.

Woman wearing brown cargo pants and a strappy crop top while raising her arms high towards the roof of a parking lot for a shoot

Overview of Cargo Pants

Cargo or combat trousers are loosely cut pants designed for outdoor activities and rough work. Pockets are their distinct feature, which is mainly used for carrying tools. The style comes from combat trousers for fashion inspired by military workwear.

Overview of Jeans

Jeans are a type of pants often characterized by iconic denim and double-stitching. This perennial style is in demand for its various kinds and ever-growing versatility.

Comparing Jeans and Cargo Pants

The similarities and differences in the showdown between jeans and cargo trousers will show your assets and downsides. However, bridging this gap will help you determine which suits your body type, style, or preference.

Similarities

Despite their distinct differences, cargo pants, and jeans still share some features in various aspects.

  • Style: Both jeans and cargo trousers offer a range of styles and cuts that flatter various body shapes. They have different washes and finishes, allowing you to pair them with other garments easily.
  • Prone to fading: Raw and untreated denim are susceptible to fading over time. Synthetic fabrics and cotton blends of cargo trousers are also prone to fading. However, you can avoid this by adequately washing and caring for your pants.
  • Abrasion resistance: Denim jeans and twill combat pants are tightly woven fabrics that are highly resistant to abrasion. This is why both styles are perfect for outdoor wear.

Differences

What makes cargo trousers and standard jeans equally versatile are their differences.

Fit and Flexibility

Among the distinct difference between cargo trousers and classic jeans are the fit and flexibility.

Cargo-styled pants generally have a bulky fit and a more forgiving feel on the skin. In comparison, a pair of jeans has a more fitted look because it has more structure. This is also why I prefer wearing the best jeans for lifting the butt to have a curvier silhouette.

Woman wearing a blue long sleeved top and blue jeans posing outside an old house for a shoot

Pockets and Loops

One of the things I love about cargo-styled pants is the pockets and loops. I prefer wearing them when I need extra storage for tools, small gadgets, and personal items, especially when hiking or camping.

While jeans typically have fewer pockets, some even have none, the position of the pockets can still give you the best jeans to make the bum look bigger.

Fabric

The kind of fabric is another notable difference between cargo trousers and jeans are the material.

  • Jeans: Traditional jeans generally consist of sturdy cotton twill fabric. The typical indigo color comes from woven mottled yarn. 
  • Cargo trousers: These pants are often made from synthetic fabrics or cotton blends. In contrast, pants provide a sturdier structure and greater freedom of movement.

Appearance

An easy way to spot the difference is that cargo-styled pants have a more laid-back look because of their baggy fit. On the other hand, a standard pair of jeans appear more formal because it feels more closely to the body.

Breathability

Breathability is another feature differentiating the comfort level of cargo trousers and regular jeans.

  • Jeans: Jeans made from denim are less breathable than cargo trousers because of their thick and tightly woven fabric. In some situations, they can feel sticky on the skin, especially when it’s hot and humid.
  • Cargo pants: The cotton and synthetic fabric make these trousers more comfortable and breathable. The loose fit also provides better ventilation.

Durability and Longevity

Jeans are famous for their durability so you can own a pair for years. The denim fabric can withstand wear and tear despite prolonged use. Jeans are also less prone to fraying and tearing compared to other styles of pants.

Meanwhile, while cargo-styled pants can hold up well in various outdoor conditions, cotton blends are more susceptible to wear and tear over time.

Moreover, jeans retain shape and color longer, and having a good number of jeans in rotation can make them a good option for long-term use. Although cargo trousers are also durable, excessive use may eventually cause the synthetic fabrics to lose form.

Weight

Despite the baggy appearance, combat trousers are generally lighter than standard jeans because of their synthetic fabrics. Regular jeans are light, although the tightly woven fabric mainly affects the weight.

Moisture Resistance

The dense and tightly woven fabric of denim hinders regular jeans from evaporating moisture. This is also why jeans become much heavier when wet.

Woman wearing green cargo pants, a green cap and a white top while posing beside a green car outdoors

On the other hand, cargo pants have better moisture-wicking properties, especially those wholly made with synthetic materials. These pants are designed to wick away sweat and moisture, keeping you dry and comfortable in warmer environments.

Major Distinguishing Factor

The most significant factors differentiating the two are the appearance, fit, material, and pocket style. Cargo pants have distinct bagginess, a lightweight look, and several pockets. Meanwhile, jeans are often associated with a flattering fit and denim fabric.

When to Use Cargo Pants

Use cargo pants instead of standard jeans when you want to favor practicality, comfort, and versatility.

  • Activities or occasions: Wear this style of pants for outdoor activities and rugged adventures like hiking or fishing is ideal. It is also perfect for casual situations or relaxed social gatherings.
  • Body type: These pants usually have a looser fit, so they aren’t exactly flattering for every body type. The relaxed fit may look bulky on some ladies, although those with inverted triangle or rectangular body types can have a more balanced figure with this style.

When to Use Jeans

Use jeans instead of cargo trousers to prioritize style, durability, and a more flattering fit.

Which Style of Pants Is Better?

Cargo pants will be a better choice if you’re after functionality, practicality, and versatility for outdoor activities because of the style’s loose fit and several pockets. Meanwhile, jeans are much better if you prefer a classic fit that’s easier to pair with other clothes and styles for different occasions.

Choosing which is better depends on your lifestyle, personal preferences, and the environment that calls for function over appearance.

Related Questions

Are Combat Pants the Same as Jeans?

Combat trousers or pants differ from jeans because they look more casual and rugged than standard jeans. They also have looser fit that can be tricky to style for specific environments and body types.

Are Cargo Trousers Trendier Than Jeans?

While cargo trousers have had seasons of popularity, jeans remain trendier because of their timeless look. Jeans are a staple in most people’s wardrobes, whereas cargo trousers are trendier only for those who appreciate the practical style. 

Are Cargo Pants More Formal Than Jeans?

Cargo-styled pants are less formal than jeans because of their laid-back aesthetic. While some styles of jeans can be casual, they are typically more accepted in formal settings.

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Final Verdict

Regular jeans are more versatile and have a timeless fashion appeal, whereas cargo pants better suit their practical use for outdoor activities. Despite that, they both make great investments in quality clothing. What’s important is that you find the right style and size to feel good and comfortable wearing them.

   

Allena is the Founder and Editor of The Better Fit, a platform dedicated to empowering women with practical advice on bras and fitness, inspired by her own revelation of the widespread issue of incorrect bra sizing. Her expertise and tips have been recognized by major publications such as Cosmopolitan, Better Homes & Gardens, Insider, and NBC, making her a trusted voice in women's wellness and lifestyle.