These Soft, Stretchy Pants From Universal Standard Are My New Spring Staple and Have Made Me Rethink Cargo Pants for Good

Photo: W+G Creative
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Say the words "cargo pants" and chances are, you're mind conjures up an image of a middle-aged white man wearing ill-fitting, baggy khakis covered in pockets. Or your mind rushes back to middle school where zip-off tech pants ruled gym class. Am I right? I bet I'm right.

I'll admit, this was my archetype for such pocketed pants. As someone who lives solely in black leggings and the very occasional black skinny jean, cargo pants have never, ever been on my radar... or so I thought. Jokes on me, because I can't take off Universal Standard's ridiculously comfy Karlee Cargo Pants ($138), my new work/play/lounge staple.

Universal Standard, Karlee Stretch Cotton Twill Cargo Pants — $138.00

Soft pants disguised as hard pants? We’re in. Also available in black and olive green.

I received these magical pants in one of Universal Standard's Mystery Boxes, the brand's limited-edition themed boxes that surprise you with a selection of styles valued at up to $600, priced for just 50–175 bucks. I got the Classic box, which included a chic, white, linen shirt, a cozy, cashmere sweater, and these olive-green cotton cargo pants.

First impressions of the Universal Standard Karlee Cargo Pants

At first glance I was like, "oh cute... trousers." Back when I worked in an office, I would occasionally rock a professional pant, but now that I've worked remotely for almost two years, the thought of pulling on a pair of slacks to work from my couch made me giggle. But then I realized they weren't really trousers—the elastic waistband was too casual, as were the pockets that lined the side. These were cargo pants—the chicest, softest cargo pants I had ever held in my hands.

It wasn't until I tried them on that I was fully sold, though. You know the scene in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants when all four girls realize the jeans fit perfectly? It was kind of like that. For starters, I just didn't think I could even pull off a cargo pant. I consider my style to be veeery minimalist and casual, rarely veering from my standard black legging/sweatshirt or jeans/T-shirt combo. But I loved the chic, effortless look they gave off—be it with a slouchy linen shirt, a black crop top, or a plain white tee, you can literally wear anything with these pants and it looks good.

Please excuse the bad lighting and 2007-inspired mirror pic, but I couldn't resist. That's the power of the pants. 

Even more impressive is their feel, which is eerily similar to my favorite sweatpants. They're made from a soft cotton twill that has a bit of stretch woven in, so they're flexible and forgiving, even when I’m, say, sprawled on the couch or sitting at a desk chair all day. The elastic waistband gives them some extra give, too, so even when I’m going for that polished, button-upped look, I still feel like I’m in my favorite soft pants. And, of course, there's the pockets. Rather than going all in on the bulky cargo style, the Karlees have two slim cargo pockets right at the knee that elevate that casual look.

Since they're Universal Standard, they come in a wide range of sizes, ranging from size 00–40. You'll note the sizing is a bit different than other brands—Universal Standard's sizing "reflects the true bell curve of the average person in the United States," according to its website. Since most women in the US are a size 18–20, that's the brand's size Medium. Makes sense, right? You can find your Universal Standard size using the brand's handy chart, here.

I never thought cargo pants would become part of my everyday fashion repertoire, but here we are, pocketed and pretty darn happy about. Whether it's running errands, grabbing dinner with friends, or working from my home office, the Universal Standard Karlee Cargo Pants are the spring-to-summer staple I won't take off. See what I'm talking about with a pair of your own.

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Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

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