Old Gold: Trend Report – Pockets

By • Mar 10th, 2011 • Category: Old stuff

Here’s a little gem from 2007, when snowboarders were more about functionality than fashion. Actually, this whole thing is a joke, but a well-researched joke, which is why it seemed appropriate to bring it back to life.

by Brian DeRosia


Looking hot on the hill this season

What is going to be hot this year? What will all the shredders be wearing this year as they hit the slopes to jump and spin and “grind” (a term I still don’t think exists in snowboarding)? I’ll tell you what: pockets. But don’t just jump right on to the bandwagon. First we need a little history lesson.

To begin with, the definition of the word ‘pocket’ states that it is ‘a small baglike attachment’. The reason for this particular definition is that the pocket was not originally sewn into garments as it is today. In fact, the first pockets were actually small pouches that hung from the belt where one could carry valuables and coins. The word itself comes from the Anglo-Norman word pokete and traces its roots to the Germanic root word ‘bag’, which is like the Old English word pocca. Therefore, the definition makes sense. ‘Purse’ and ‘pocket’, incidentally, have the same root word, only one is plural and the other singular.

In addition and worthy of note is the Scottish sporran, which is that nifty purse worn at the front of the kilt in traditional wear. The word sporran itself comes from the old Irish word sparán, which traces its roots back to the Latin word bursa, or ‘purse’.

The First Interior Pockets

Since the pocket was on the outside of one’s clothing, it was unfortunately subject to thieves or, more appropriately, cut-purses. More cautious people realised that if they kept their purses inside their trousers1, it would deter the pickpockets by making the theft more difficult.

But, there came a realisation: Although keeping one’s pouch inside of one’s clothes made it more difficult for thieves to get at the pouch, it also made it more difficult for the owner of the purse to get at the contents! And as the point of the purse in the first place was to make it easy to carry one’s money, making it impossible to get at without embarrassment was not the greatest of solutions. Imagine, there you are, in the common market, and you want to buy yourself an apple. In order to buy it you must drop your trousers and expose your buttocks to the entire marketplace! (Note: In that day and age, not only did people not have interior pockets, but they also did not wear undergarments!)

The next step in the evolution of the pocket was what most people see them as today: a simple slit in the clothing. A slit cut into the side of your trousers (or by this time your skirt as well, as women have never been known for dropping their skirts in the marketplace… much) would enable you to reach into your purse with ease, while others would find it difficult to reach in without your knowledge and acquiescence. This act of the clothes slit caused a revolution in the shape and the angle of the opening in the purse, and it was around this time that they began to be called pockets.

The pocket flattened out, and became two pieces of cloth, one solid (the one at the back) and the other shaped almost like a ‘U’. The pocket was also attached to its own belt, usually cloth at this time, and was often elaborately embroidered and decorated. You can still see some of these beautiful works of pocket artistry in museums that are dedicated to original period costumes.

However, if history had been left to the rich and carefree who had time to make and elaborate on the undergarment pocket, then our pocket history might have ended here. In many ways, that would have been a prettier solution. Imagine, pocket factories, we’d have them made out of all sorts of materials; after all, they were often right up next to the skin. Angora pockets, velour pockets, pockets made of polar fleece with silken tassels on the bottoms, etc…

The Modern Pocket

Looking to the modern pocket, we must go back to the trousers again. We are now in the late 1700s. Let’s say it’s 1784 before some poor soul gets sick and tired of having to remember to tie his pocket on every day before he gets dressed. Most likely, you know a person like this. This is a person who has problems remembering to put his trousers on before his shoes, let alone remembering to tie his pocket on before his trousers.

Yet, absent minded as he is, he is no dunce. Therefore, in a fit of pique, he asks his wife to sew the pocket right to his trousers so he will never forget it again. And suddenly, there you have it. The pocket. The real, true, ultimate pocket. The friendly pocket you and I know and love that has been our most intimate friend since childhood… warming cold hands or holding fluff, bits of string and useless notes from friends long past and best forgotten.

The pocket has gone through many changes since that fateful day. People have placed pockets in other places than the waist: on the knee, on the thigh, and at the chest (the infamous ‘breast pocket’). People have even returned to the practice of inside pockets, again requiring people to pull down their trousers and moon the supermarket in order to get at their cash (though, thankfully, that is very rare).

Types and Uses of Modern Pockets

The modern pocket is a tool with various uses and styles, and it can be found in almost every article of men’s and casual women’s attire in a variety of forms. Here are just a few examples:

Watch-pocket – Essential for keeping a gentleman’s pocket watch. Often found on the man’s vest or even on his trousers. The watch had a chain or a fob, to prevent it from being lost, and this pocket sometimes could be called the ‘fob pocket’.

Breast pocket – Located on the outer left-hand side of a gentleman’s jacket, it must contain nothing more than a pocket-handkerchief and is for display only.

Inner breast pocket – Found on the inside of the jacket. It’s normal to have two of them, for carrying a wallet or pen, or legal papers such as a passport.

Ticket pocket – This is a small pocket inside the right-hand waist pocket on a jacket and is used in previous times for carrying small cardboard rail tickets. These days, it might be used to store your business cards or other light items (such as a lucky coin).

Coin pocket – This is a small pocket inside the right-hand hip pocket on a pair of jeans. It’s a rather tight fit, but its design is quite effective at keeping your loose coins from rattling around.

Cargo pockets – These pockets appear commonly on trendy jeans and cargo pants as a large pocket on the thigh, usually with snap-flaps or Velcro flaps, and accordion folds in the sides for increased capacity. It’s believed these first appeared on battle dress uniforms.

There are various other pockets of note, such as hip pockets, thigh pockets, etc. Other pockets with specific uses include a mobile pocket on a woman’s purse for carrying a mobile phone (which are often unsightly-looking after-thoughts of pockets, carelessly sewn on the outside of the purse) and the unusual ‘mitten pocket’ found on some woolen scarves, for storage of the matching mittens.

So go get some pockets. Whether you wear…sorry…rock them on the inside or the outside of your clothing, deep in your heart, you will know that you are “down”.

(All information kindly put on the internerd by the BBC at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A798159 and accessed on 11.12.06)

Tagged as: , ,
one of the founders of the internet.
Email this author | All posts by

2 thoughts on “Old Gold: Trend Report – Pockets

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>