How useful are the trousers you’re wearing right now? Sure, they’re protecting your modesty and keeping your legs warm, but what if you wanted to carry a hammer around handsfree, or fit a family bag of dry-roasted peanuts into your pocket? OK, so these might not be problems you find yourself faced with on a daily basis, but it’s nice to know your legwear has your back if ever the need were to arise.
That’s where utility pants come in.
These practical pants are designed with function in mind. They’re the tools of the trouser world, making daily life that little bit easier by offering an extra pocket here or a zip-off leg there. Born out of fashion’s ongoing fixation with anything outdoorsy, blue collar or generally functional, utility pants are having a moment right now – bolstered by the continuous move away from slim silhouettes.
Ready to add a pair of utility pants to your legwear rotation? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about fashion’s most functional trousers.
What Are Utility Pants?
So, what exactly do we mean when we talk about ‘utility pants’? Well, there’s not actually any real iron-clad definition. It’s an umbrella term used to describe lots of different styles of pants. The thing that unites all of these various styles under the utility pants umbrella is the fact that they all incorporate functional details. Things like extra patch pockets, hammer loops, zip pockets, or even convertible legs.
Cargos, carpenter pants, military fatigues and hiking pants all fit the bill. Still confused? Think of it this way: not all utility pants are cargo pants, but all cargo pants are utility pants.
You can choose utility pants in any sort of fit you want. There are options from different brands ranging from slim to relaxed, but on the whole, most utility pants will feature a regular, straight or tapered leg. This is because they’re designed with work or active pursuits in mind.
If you’re in the workshop or trekking through the forest (not that you’ll necessarily be doing either of those things), you don’t want your legwear to restrict your range of motion. It needs to be relatively loose fitting and comfortable, and that’s why most utility pants fit the way they do.
Utility pants should be built to last. That means tough, durable fabric that’s designed to take a beating. Typically, you’ll find them crafted from thick cotton fabrics like twill, drill and denim, as well as some synthetics, like ripstop nylon.
Details are what utility pants are all about. It’s the thing that sets them apart from run-of-the-mill legwear styles like chinos, jeans and joggers. These details vary in form from one pair of utility pants to the next, but the key thing you’ll want to consider is the level of detail.
If you’re into minimalism, a simple pair of army-style fatigues might be the best option. Whereas if you like to go all in, a pair of heavily pocketed cargo pants from a brand like Engineered Garments might be more to your liking.
The Best Utility Pants Brands
There aren’t many brands we’d be happy to deck our entire wardrobes out with, but Percival is one of the select few. The British brand puts its own contemporary spin on the classics, with plenty of playful colours and motifs, and an unmistakably English flavour running through the full collection.
We’re big fans of the Utility Trousers, which feature classic patch pockets and look particularly great in the ecru colourway.
When you think Axel Arigato, you probably think sneakers. But the Swedish brand actually offers a full range of apparel that’s well worth taking the time to check out, including a number of legwear options that tick the utility box perfectly.
Our favourites are the Andre pants, which feature reinforced knees, a hammer loop, several utility pockets and embroidered branding to the back.
Universal Works combines elements of soft tailoring, workwear, sportswear and mid-century style to create an instantly recognisable and distinctly British strain of contemporary menswear. The brand is well-known for its blue collar and military-inspired garments, making it an excellent first port of call on the hunt for the perfect pair of utility pants.
Check out the Loose Cargo Pants and Fatigue Pant for two of our favourite options.
Heritage workwear brand Carhartt knows its way around a pair of utility pants. The label’s iconic double-knee pants are enjoying a moment in the menswear spotlight at present and are probably the most iconic work pants in the world. Carhartt also makes some great carpenter jeans and cargos.
Check out the Work In Progress line for a more style-orientated, streetwear-leaning alternative to the brand’s main line.
Stan Ray is another American workwear brand that has found mainstream success thanks to its durable yet stylish blue-collar garments. The range consists of things like overshirts, cargos, work pants, hoodies, tees and more.
One of the most recognisable and bestselling legwear styles is the Painter Pant, which is made from cotton twill fabric and has multiple pockets and a hammer loop. If you shop around, you can find made-in-USA versions too.
Daiki Suzuki’s Engineered Garments is an iconic label in the menswear world. It’s famous for fusing workwear, military, Ivy and streetwear elements in its clothes, but perhaps even better known for its love of pockets.
If you see a pair of loose-fitting pants with pockets in places you wouldn’t expect them to be, chances are they’re EG.
Japanese brand OrSlow is probably best known for its denim, but it makes some great utility pants too. OrSlow’s designs draw inspiration from archive workwear and military garments, with a distinctly Japanese twist.
The Easy Cargos are cut from military-spec cotton, made in Japan and feature a relaxed tapered fit and a drawstring waist.
Dickies makes simple workwear and streetwear staples at prices that won’t break the back. Some of its bestsellers are its classic work pants, but it makes plenty of cargo pants and carpenter pants too. Each is designed to take a beating, hence the brand’s continued popularity with skaters.
Taking inspiration from traditional asian iconography and military design, Maharishi is a cult UK streetwear brand that’s been doing its thing irrespective of trends for decades.
The label’s most famous design is its Snopant, which are essentially utility pants featuring a clever drawcord system that often incorporate large and elaborate embroidered designs.