Ever wondered why your pairs of jeans have a tiny little pocket that seems to be completely useless? There’s a reason for them being there, and that’s because Levi’s, the creators of blue jeans, actually incorporated these pockets into their designs so their customers had somewhere to put their pocket watches.
It’s odd that these small pockets are still ubiquitous in blue jean designs of the present day, but we do know where they came from. Back in 1873, Levis Strauss and J.W. Davis received a patent for their pocket design, and put it into mass use in 1890 with their “Lot 501” jeans.
Seeing as the small pocket was meant to hold pocket watches, you’re unlikely to find them on suit pants. This is because suit jackets usually contain pockets for pocket watches, rendering such a pocket on suit pants unnecessary.
Pants with these small pockets are called “five-pocket pants”, but the small pockets aren’t actually the fifth pocket at all. The fifth pocket is actually the back-left pocket, and it was added to Levi’s 501 jeans back in 1901.
Despite no-one actually carrying pocket watches today, the small pockets on blue jeans have been retained, with particular reference to Levi’s, in order to retain the integrity of the original design. It was an original element of their blue jeans, as were the rivets on the pockets, button fly, back pocket stitching and leather patch.
Other pairs of pants have the pocket to pay homage to the pocket watch, and different brands tend to put the small pocket in different places on their designs. Some put it at the front next to a bigger pocket, whereas others have a smaller pocket within the regular-sized pocket.
In Levi’s case, however, the small pocket has remained unchanged since the 19th century, with the only exception being during World War II. The corner rivets were removed during that time in order to conserve metal for the war effort. They returned as soon as the war was over.
There isn’t much you can do with these small pockets in the present day, however, some suggest using them to keep coins or keys, as well as matches, condoms, and tickets. The only problem is that these things are difficult to get back out once they’re in there, unless you have really tiny fingers.
A single instance in which the small pocket can be useful is for holding hand jewelry, such as a ring for proposing to a significant other, but that’s pretty much all it’s useful for. Nevertheless, we can always see it as a piece of history that we carry with us.
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