Cargo pants, an outward sign of feminist emancipation


Diesel cargo pants, €395.  Isabel Marant tank top.  Eric Bompard sweater.  Adidas sneakers.

En 2002, Jennifer Lopez appeared on a platform, in the middle of New York traffic, dressed in khaki cargo pants, a fishnet top and improbable shoes mixing construction shoes and heeled ankle boots. The singer proudly assures: “Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I got/I’m still, I’m still Jenny from the block” (“Don’t be fooled by my jewelry/I’m still, I’m still neighborhood Jenny”). From a disadvantaged background to the Hall of Fame, J.Lo delivers here a harmless but effective hymn to class defectors. Guaranteeing then by swaying that, wherever she goes, she will not forget where she comes from (the Bronx).

However, it is in a Los Angeles studio, in front of a green screen, that this clip is largely shot, in which Jennifer Lopez also stages herself prey to paparazzi stalking her, her and Ben Affleck, her fiancé. in the city. After their breakup, he will elegantly accuse the clip of having ruined his career. Two decades later: Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck have reunited and married, debates over class defectors have swirled around, and cargo pants have made a comeback as the “new basic.”

Fighter’s uniform

If he lived a short period of glory in the 1990s, with the girl bands and their girlpower, from TLC to the Spice Girls, it was above all for a long time the official uniform of any action movie heroine. From Lara Croft to Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, via Michelle Rodriguez, who wore it the same year (in 2009) in two blockbusters, Avatar And Fast and Furious : for stylists and costumers in search of inspiration, the cargo is part of the uniform of the fighter in the face of fictional villains, social determinism or macho diktats – while paradoxically always remaining associated with a tight tank top.

Born in the ranks of the army, the cargo pants are above all a utilitarian garment whose main characteristic is their large side pockets with flaps. It was originally reserved for the men’s wardrobe, because, as Christian Dior asserted in 1954, as an immutable and nevertheless unpleasant truth: “Men have pockets for keeping things, women for decoration. »

A political issue

It might look like a detail; on the contrary, it is a major political issue. Because it is in the XIXe century, when the Napoleon code enshrined the inferiority of women in law – depriving them of legal rights and subjecting them to the authority of the father and husband –, that the large removable pockets, worn from the 17the century under the dresses, tend to disappear in favor of the reticles, small handbags, materializing the limits of the mobility and the autonomy of the women.

Nearly a century later, women’s associations affirmed, in 1899, in the New York Times : “The female gender cannot compete if it has no pockets. » In 2018, an American study claimed that, of twenty brands of jeans, 90% of the pockets of women’s models were too small to accommodate even an average woman’s hand. In this sense, from the Bronx to Paris, via Hollywood, the cargo pants remain a combat outfit.

Silky Kemp cargo pants in rayon and polyester, The Frankie Shop, €198.  Dior jacket.  Chanel slingbacks.
Olympia jeans in Danube cotton denim, Ulla Johnson, €590.  Levi's jacket.Church's loafers.  Falke socks.
Cargo pants in perforated leather, cardigan and shoes, Fendi, price on request.
Cargo pants in metallic cotton, Louis Vuitton, €4,350.  Louis Vuitton top.
Cotton Collins trousers, Carhartt WIP, €119.  Figaret shirt.  Iro jacket.


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