Cargo Shorts are Brilliant

Not me, but I own a pair of these damn fine Carhartts

Not me, but I own a pair of these damn fine Carhartts

“Be prepared.” – Boy Scout motto.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” – Ben Franklin

I’d be a dumbass if I didn’t plan for every contingency.” – Maya Banks, Hidden Away

Don’t be a dumbass. Cargo shorts are brilliant. They are the Leatherman-Gerber-Swiss Army multi-tool of men’s clothing. They are the seven iron; the one golf club you always hit well, of men’s wear. They are the late-night-snack bowl of cereal in the closet of every guy.

To paraphrase badly Kenneth Grahame’s Ratty in The Wind in the Willows: “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth wearing as simply dressing yourself in cargo shorts.”

Are they suitable for every occasion? No, they are not. No more than one would wear a tuxedo to the lumber yard, or a Hugo Boss suit to a pool party, one needs to choose one’s spots. Men, we need to be people for the responsible use of cargo shorts; PRUCS, for short. Yet for daily life and for going out with the kids, there is no single garment that says “I am ready to Dad” more strongly than a pair of properly outfitted cargo shorts.

Let B.K. Mullen of explain:

Look, I’ll put it to you cargo haters this way. Unless you are going on an extended trip where many, many provisions are required, which would you rather? Have everything on hand, easily accessible and non-bulky, or lug around a huge bag? Now that my daughter doesn’t go through diapers as much: trips to the store, walks around the park, even going to the zoo are all made much less complicated by wearing my cargo shorts. The big pocket can hold two diapers and the wipes. The medium pocket can hold a sippy-cup and a ziplock of her favorite snack. Mini-pockets hold the binkys, a small first aid kit, and her favorite little action figure to keep her satisfied in the car. Back pockets have wallet and keys; main pocket has the phone. Super useful. You cannot deny it.

It’s true. No one except a ski patroller should wear a fanny pack. If you’re wearing a backpack, good luck carrying your kid on your shoulders through a crowd. One can always appreciate a good messenger bag but when the bag is loaded with 15 lbs. of pre-schooler out-and-about supplies, it can be wagered that nerve compression, adhesive capsulitis, and subsequent infirmity in the laden-down shoulder loom large. Purses? No man will ever carry a purse. I know this because we held a meeting.

You say that cargo shorts are not fashionable? The line is not proper? The pockets protrude in an unseemly fashion? When I’m at the zoo and I’ve just changed my toddler’s diaper in the men’s room and due to last minute flowage, I now have a stream of yellow-brown baby poo down my shorts leg, I can strip down, empty my pockets, rinse off my shorts, and dry them under the hand dryer before I put my cargo shorts back on. That’s top-shelf dadding, right there.

But in my $110 Dry Clean Only Ralph Lauren Bermuda shorts, I am well and truly screwed.

As my son is now 23, it’s been a while since I worried about wipes and binkys, but my need for cargoes has diminished only slightly. This past weekend, as I cared for the yard and garden and the charcoal grill slowly smoked a chicken, what was in my pockets?

  1. Wooden handled Opinel folding knife. It is the perfect blade; equally at home cutting the top off of a bag of mulch or slicing off a chef’s taste of chicken skin.
  2. Double-ended screwdriver. Large and small Phillips’ head at one end, flip it around for the large and small slotted. Note: If I’m not tending the smoker, I’d combine the two and carry my Leatherman multi-tool but the Opinel is preferred for food slicing
  3. Epi-pen. Allergic to bee stings, I don’t walk about the garden without it
  4. Phone. The ringer is off. On yard days, when birds, amphibians, bugs, and flowers abound, the camera is my focus.
  5. Suntan lotion. I’m the author of a book about melanoma; Melanoma: It Started with a Freckle. Wouldn’t do to be caught without sunscreen in my pocket. I’d lose whatever credibility I might have.
  6. Grill thermometer. Chicken is done at 165°F. I need data. I’m a science guy.
  7. Reading glasses. Heck, I’m 58. Don’t snicker; it’ll happen to you soon enough.
  8. Work gloves. If they’re not on my hands, I stuff them in the big pocket.
  9. Three random screws, a rusty 16 penny nail, and an anchor for yard edging; all found in the yard of a typical morning.

I could wear my carpenter’s toolbelt. But in a pair of cargo shorts, I am wearing a toolbelt – that’s what cargo shorts are. How about I wear a Speed-o® and my toolbelt; both fashion-forward and practical. No? Fair enough.

This is the United States of America. We are a practical people. It is etched into the DNA of our society.

Quality is Job One (Ford®).

Let’s Do This (Home Depot®).

We are Professional Grade (GMC Trucks ®).

We get stuff done. Nobody gets stuff done better than a man in cargo shorts. You don’t like cargo shorts, then your patriotism is open to question.

Thanks to the Wall Street Journal’s Fashion Section (and aside from letting us know if Nordstrom’s is a buy, sell, or hold, who knew they did fashion?), I understand that women are raiding their husband’s closets in an effort to purge the cargo short from the men’s fashion scene. My friend Vincent Daly of has the answer:

I’ve been hoarding a pair of my cargo shorts in a secret place. And inside the big pocket? Two more pairs of cargo shorts.

If you are the sort of spouse:

who feels that it’s okay to toss your husband’s clothing on the sly, let me remind you:

  1. Yoga pants are for yoga, not the grocery store.
  2. Leggings are not pants.
  3. You share a closet.

Cargo shorts are not “fashionable,” whatever that means. If we define fashionable as supremely utilitarian, cargo shorts put the haute in haute couture. Nothing helps a man get more stuff done: in the yard and around the home, as a dad and husband, than a quietly effective pair of cargo shorts. Do I have several pairs of Bermuda shorts in various shades of salmon, teal, and aquamarine, suitable for golf or cocktails on the veranda? You bet I do. But when the chips are down, and it’s time to level up the dad/husband game, you’ll find this real American Dad in cargo shorts.



The Beginning
About David Stanley

Teacher & science guy, writer, musician, coach, skier and bike racer, I am interested… in everything; your story, food & spirits and music and everything in the natural world, spirit & sport. My son is 22 and still needs his Dad. I am 56 and so do I.
I blog on life and death, cancer and sports, kids and education at

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