Have you ever why that tiny pocket on the front of your jeans exists? For the most part, it’s too small to be functional, unless you’re keen on carrying around a lucky penny with you. Plus, it really sucks getting your fingers jammed in that pocket.
A curious user on Quora posted the question, and user Nitin Sachdeva was quick to respond.
This little pocket, or the “fifth pocket” as some denim designers call it, appeared on the very first version of Levi’s back in 1873. According to the Levi Strauss website, it was “originally included as protection for pocket watches, thus the name.” It was worked into the design to protect cowboys’ pocketwatches from falling out of their pants as they rode around on horses or worked on their ranches. Wearing it on a chain around their neck would cause it to easily tangle or break.
Even though cowboys are still around, pocketwatches largely fell out of favor halfway through World War 1, when soldiers needed a quick and accessible way to tell time. Digging around in their pockets for a watch just wasn’t practical, and the practice of wearing a wristwatch became a mainstay.
In early designs, the pocket was about 4 inches wide. However, it has progressively gotten smaller as their usefulness has waned, and most of them are no more than 3 inches wide at this point.
However, Levi Strauss & Co hasn’t altered their design, noting that “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.”
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