Eat my (cargo) shorts

There’s a meme out there telling folks to stop wearing cargo shorts. My Response: Hey fashion world, you know why I wear cargo shorts? Because it’s warm out. And I have cargo. Why do I have cargo? Because of you.

Apparently I'm supposed to dress like one of these swells

Apparently I’m supposed to dress like one of these swells. Not happening.

Yes, you. Blame yourself, sartorial contempos. It’s not like I’m listening to anything you have to say, but you’re the ones telling my wife and daughter to wear yoga pants or miniskirts or other unpocketed garments leaving them entirely unequipped for modern living.

In case you are too busy purposefully striding six-abreast around Milan with a bunch of wax-chested rentboys, let it be known that here in the actual 21st century one can’t take a simple stroll through the city center without giant smartphones, water bottles forged from aerospace quality tensile steel, packets of Lactaid, a wad of plastic cards the size of a car battery, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, energy bars in case someone gets “hangry” and a massive inhaler resonant of something my hippie college roommate would roll out for “Bootleg Friday” on our college radio station. (When the doctor gave this woodwind-sized thing to my daughter I asked, “Don’t you have one shaped like a skull? She did not laugh.)

By comparison my grandparents landed in this country with less crap than we have to carry on a three hour visit to the Peabody Essex Museum and absolutely no one else is wearing clothing capable of bearing even a fraction of this burden. Thus my thighs have become the family minivan of clothing, except that my wife and daughter get to zip around in cute little convertibles while I follow up in the “support-vehicle.”

Here's your uniform, Ma'am. Sorry we couldn't get any useful pockets on it anywhere.

“Here’s your uniform, Ma’am. Sorry we couldn’t get any useful pockets on it anywhere.”

To be clear, this is not a male/female comparison. This is a “fashionista v. utilitarian” one. I know chicks who wear cargo pants. I have met female drone engineers with such cool stuff in their shorts that if I were to say, “I want to get into your pants” I would literally only mean just that. In their bulging side pockets lurk the latest fight controllers, tiny infrared cameras, and crazy-lightweight high-performance motors. Also my personal fetish item, the Leatherman multitool. You know, one of those pliers/knives/drivers/nailfile/peppermill combo deals. Laugh away Clamuniards, but I carry one all the time I’m not in TSA controlled space.

This was all he ever needed

All he ever needed

Why? For the same reason I wear cargo shorts, because I hate being unequipped. I was at a poetry reading at the Cantab when as screw fell out of the microphone stand during an adjustment. The MC looked up at the audience in horror, asking rhetorically, “No one has a screwdriver…right?” The crowd reeled as if someone at a Morrisey show had requested a slab of panda jerky. I, however, dug my trusty multiplier out of one of my many conveniently placed pockets, strode past my tweed and sundress bedecked fellow audience members to set the mic back to rights. I’m sure now there is sonnet titled “Trousers of Majesty” in a well-worn Moleskine notebook somewhere.   

"Nuclear launch codes? I got 'em right here."

“Nuclear launch codes? Got ’em right here.”

Unlike jorts, cut off sweats, plaid Vineyard Vines golf numbers with little whales on them or jumbo athletic shorts absurdly dangling down to mid-calf, cargo shorts ask to be defined on practical terms rather than style. Furthermore, I don’t really want to hear any bullshit along the lines of, “you shouldn’t wear them if you don’t need them for work.” Really? Fantastic. Tell me where I can pick up your SUV, North Face jacket, those running shoes you’re walking around in, and the backpack with the little sewn loops as if you were going to be hauling your Macbook Pro up Gollum Right on El Capitan. We use overpowered and utility-designed stuff in regular life all the time. Cargo shorts are suddenly where we draw the line?

Everywhere I go schlebs are wearing Pat’s jackets to funerals, visors backwards and track suits with gold chains (what we used to call a “Southie Tuxedo”). It seems like cargo shorts might be down the priority list of fashion faux pas to be called out. For instance: The leading contender for the GOP nomination wears white shoes, a brown belt, and a golf hat on the campaign trail making him look more like a mid-level bookie than one of the ten richest people in the country.

Can we deport this asshole's wardrobe adviser?

Can we deport this asshole’s wardrobe adviser?

Until someone figures out how to build a wall keeping out the real fashion offenders, let me reach down to my left thigh and produce a generous pocketfull of “bite me” to the cargo-shorts haters.

Oh, does that make you cry? No problem. I have tissues.



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  1. Until someone invents practical Cargo Shirts, you’ll have to pry mine off my cold, dead legs

  2. Jim Dowd, you are too funny. I loved this commentary. Thank you for making me laugh. I’m getting my cargo shorts out of the clean pile and wearing them in celebration.

  3. I love cargo shorts…guaranteed to find money in at least one of the 14 pockets on laundry day! Thanks, kids!

  4. Your wife and daughter ought to invest in purse/tote bag/backpack apparatus. On that note, can you please advise my husband? He is a not-hipster snappy dresser who looks like he stepped out of a 1940s film and therefore never has room for his camera or purchases, leaving my purse or the diaper bag to pick up his slack. I’d kill for a cargo garment (for him).

    • In the burgeoning security state, backpacks and purses become a liability if you’re going in and out of public buildings. And once you’ve crossed the “bag” barrier now we’re into tablets, kindles, books, cameras, charging cords, spare sweaters, rain jackets and umbrellas, hats, a satchel of health and beauty products I have all the trepidation of opening as Indiana Jones did the Ark of the Covenant.

  5. As a vandweller, cargo pants are a requirement. Glad you’re used to them. How’s that van coming along?

  6. The Morrissey/panda jerky line is one of the funniest I have read all year.

  7. Two words: Worksman’s (model) Utilikilt

    Not only will you keep the boys cool and non-chaffey, but you can hold more stuff than an SUV in them. Plus all that fun that goes with wearing a kilt.

  8. I’m going to have to print this one out and put it in one of my pockets. Ha ha ha…great stuff. Thank you.

  9. I carry my purse, but would be lost without my husband’s cargo pockets. Long live cargo shorts!

  10. Thought you’d like to know that since I shared this post on FB, it’s been reshared in California, Washington State, Chicago, Florida, three times (at least) in England, in Australia, Belize, and Israel. Really funny work.

    • ha! Awesome! It seems I have hit a nerve.

      • Yes, you have DEFINITELY hit a nerve. I’m a female who often wears cargo shorts, but seldom puts anything in the pockets, just on principle (don’t ask me to explain the principle — it’s vague but acutely held). I’ve deeply resented carrying things in my purse for men — it’s tempted me to suggest a “murse” for the offending males — and now I see that the burden is borne by both sexes. Thanks for advancing the cause of equality, making me laugh, and encouraging us all to carry our own crap!

  11. Ooooooooh, a utilikilt. So smiling!

  12. The meme appears in the recent Jack Ryan movie. There is a scene where the lead character is talking about a date with his wife/fiance, and he says something along the lines of “Was that the day I stopped wearing cargo shorts?”

  13. Great essay! As a Boston guy would say, “cahgo shots are wicked cool, best shots evah!”

  14. I love my cargo shorts/pants, but they always get caught on the lower cabinet knobs in the kitchen and bathrooms and rip. What is one to do?

  15. In areas perilous, I apply the “matador stance”; swing that hip aggressively to the side so that you are perpendicular to all ersatz brambles, and your pockets will thank you.

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