Perhaps it started with the return of the belt bag. Last year fashion became quite literally attached to its own invention of strapping a nylon knapsack across the chest. Not only did it look chic but its unexpected usefulness meant the trend perpetuated beyond a quick cool-factor, and left us with the head scratching question “have we long forgotten that functionality is actually a significant purpose of fashion?”

Utility fashion is back this season in a remarkably un-shy vain. It’s more chic than the combat looks of 00s’ No-Doubty cargo dance pants but more conspicuous that the staple anoraks of 2011. It’s a look that flits between bush-whacking adventurist, high-fashion-cowgirl and zombie-apocalypse fighter. You know the type.

Among the men, there’s an emerging micro trend of fairly disconcerting chest rigs and flak jackets thanks to labels like Alyx and Off-White. ‘Police-chic’ I guess it could be referenced, but from an image point of view it’s a little questionable at best. A look that garners a kind of real-life armour or military-grade concealment would likely make you shift in your bus seat. Womenswear hasn’t gone as specifically bullet-proof (yet) but an advancing in fatigue-fashion and combat-cargos is beginning to hog the radar.

The utility we’re particularly leaning into this season (from both the spring and autumn collections) is the outback-ish. The waiting-on-the-damper-but-in-a-chic-way from labels like Zimmermann, Fendi, Sacai, Isabel Marant, Alberta Ferretti, Givenchy and Prada. There’s no need to actually go bush to instil utilitarianism to your wears however, this is instead a refreshing rise-up for be-pocketed, belted, comfy, weather-proof garb for no matter what you do on the daily.

So, does this rise of new-utility mean the death of athleisure? After all, neo-sportswear has been fashion’s cornerstone of get-life-done attire for the past decade. It’s likely athleisure at its core is safe from obliteration (you can’t wear cargos to a yoga class), but from a trend point of view it’s a welcome diversion for fashion-most-practical.

Here’s how to style it up now…


Cargo pants
Khaki shades in cuts that either taper at the ankles or go fashionably wide are the season’s trouser must-have.

Nili Lotan wide-leg cotton cargo trousers, $324, from Matches Fashion SHOP NOW

Flak, military and safari styles are all on course for big time trend this season, just choose a jacket that is extremely pocket-happy and you’re on the money.

Zimmermann ‘zippy’ safari jacket, $995, SHOP NOW

Trenches and long coats that offer weather protection and/or pockety goodness are your utility covers this winter.

Drizabone men’s riding coat, $159.50, SHOP NOW

Boiler Suits
All-in-ones with long sleeves (aka boiler suits) are steeped in safari, cadet and mechanic history but are now serving as a street pap-worthy autumn look.

Shona Joy ‘Hamilton’ linen boiler suit, $340, SHOP NOW

Combat boots
Whether you’re up for a hike or just scooting around town, this season’s boot with a mountain-grade sole is the footwear trend your feet have been dreaming of.

Ganni ‘Bruna’ ankle boots, $565, from net-a-porter, SHOP NOW 

To finish off your Snowy River get-up add elements like brimmed felt hats, neck ties and brown leather bags and belts.

Will and Bear ‘Calloway’ hat, $119, SHOP NOW