The fascinating, little-known history behind that little pocket on the right side of your jeans.
You know that small, fifth pocket on your jeans? The one that isn’t necessarily a fake pocket but also doesn’t really serve a function (besides maybe holding some coins or your chapstick)? Turns out there’s a fascinating, little-known history behind it.
It was designed for pocket watches!
It dates back to the 19th century — 1879, to be exact — the year Levi Strauss & Co. released the first blue jeans and waist overalls during the California gold rush (the OG Lot 501 style). Because they were designed for working men — think carpenters, railroad workers, and miners — functionality reigned supreme. Men needed a place to store their pocket watches, and this mini front pocket was the solution.
To this day, Levi’s (as well as a slew of other brands) still includes the feature to honor the integrity of the original design. In fact, the only time the jeans went without the small pockets was during World War II when, in an effort to conserve metal, the two corner copper rivets that hold the pocket in place were removed.
For the most part, the tiny pocket is located in the front next to the bigger pocket, but it can also be within the main pocket.
Pocket watches have since been replaced by wristwatches or iPhones — although if you do still use a wristwatch, DEFINITELY comment below to let us know…so cool! — so instead, the mini pockets have transformed into either a purely stylistic feature (and, now, a fun fact conversation starter!) or home for small trinkets, ticket stubs, chapstick, coins, bobby pins, or keys.
“The first blue jeans had four pockets — only one in back and, in the front, two plus the small watch pocket,” according to a blog post on the Levi Strauss site. “Originally included as protection for pocket watches, thus the name, this extra pouch has served many functions, evident in its many titles: frontier pocket, condom pocket, coin pocket, match pocket and ticket pocket, to name a few. Not only is the pocket extremely useful for holding tiny trinkets, it is also is loved by denimheads for the faded and worn nature it takes on over time.”
Interested in learning more about the history of your favorite pair of jeans? Discover how denim has evolved over the span of nine (!!!) decades, from a novel clothing item for women on cattle farms and dude ranches during the late 1800s – early 1900s, to the advent of the flared look during the counterculture years of the 60s and 70s, all the way through the 80s “mom jean” craze, 90s low-cut obsession, and into the 2000s.
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