The Pocket Guide to Your Pockets

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You probably don’t give much thought to your pockets beyond cramming your cellphone and wallet into them. But not only do all your pockets have their own names, some of them even have origin stories. The watch pocket—that thin slot behind the main hip pocket on your jeans—for example: Although widely believed to be for holding your cigarette lighter (or other more illicit items), this pocket actually dates from the late 1800s and was intended to be a safe place for a man to store his watch. This, of course, was in the days before men wore their watches on their wrists: Despite wristwatches having been worn by women since the 1500s, it remained the norm for men to keep them in their pockets—often on a chain—until much more recently.

The now ubiquitous cargo pants, meanwhile—and their bulging pockets—were based on the British Army’s Battle Dress, a uniform introduced in the 1930s that gave soldiers extra space for carrying items like maps and field dressings (because of this, cargo pants are still referred to as “combats” in Britain). While similar to their close cousins, the bellows pocket, there is a subtle difference: Bellows pockets accordion out from the pants to allow you to shove even more stuff into them.

Finally, the ticket pocket—that mini, extra pocket on the right side of your sport coat—was originally designed for riders on horseback to easily access, say, their spare change, without all the bothersome business of dismounting and rummaging about in saddlebags. With the advent of train travel, however, the pocket eventually assumed the purpose that gifted it its current name. As for why we still have those pockets? They just look kind of nifty.