Every single pair of jeans in the world has this tiny pocket inside the front right pocket. It’s just a fact of fashion, like jogging bottoms don’t have flies or that socks have heels and toes. We all know that it’s there, and while we mostly just ignore its entire existence, we’ve all had that moment of confusion. Why is it there? What is it for? Why is it so small?
Most people have never used it, but some have tried to come up with uses. Some are attempted answers to the origin with various success, and some are simply trying to find any good use. There is a clear reason for it to be there, one revealed in the pockets name, but first let’s look at the guesses and ideas.
Some people call it a condom pocket, and there a numerous reasons that this cannot be the origin and it a terrible idea. For one thing, jeans were invented in the 1800s and while condoms as we know them were beginning to be invented, latex condoms weren’t invented until the 1920s and condom use wasn’t socially acceptable or well known until the 1980s. As well as the likelihood of the pocket being for condoms being practically zero, keeping a condom in a trouser pocket is going to damage it and make it unsafe to use. Just like in a wallet as you open and close it, a condom in your jeans pocket is being subjected to repeated friction as you move your legs, wearing the thin latex even thinner and making it far more likely to tear when used.
A lot of people call it a coin pocket, and say it’s for keeping small change. One problem with this is that coin purses have existed for much longer than trousers, let alone jeans, so it’s a bizarre reason to design a tiny pocket. The other problem is the size and placement of the pocket makes it really hard to get said money out. People who claim this as the truth don’t tend to use it, as it’s just impractical. It is, however, also known as a coin pocket, and it has developed a coin usage.
There is, in the USA, a tradition of challenge coins; coins issued by mostly military organisations to prove membership. The challenge is presented at a bar, when one person with a challenge coin gets it from their pocket and taps it on the bar. All others present must produce their own coins, if they have them, and tap them too. If one person doesn’t have a coin, they buy everyone else a drink, but if everyone has a coin the challenger buys everyone else a drink. The usefulness of this small pocket to hold challenge coins has been officially recognised, but this still isn’t its original name and function.
Of course, for people who don’t care what its purpose is, it can still be a useful pocket. While keeping condoms in there is a bad idea, there are plenty of other small things people like to have on hand that fit nicely in this tiny pocket. Some small pocket knives and flashlights are specifically designed for it, and it’s a good size to keep other tools and trinkets like bottle openers or a ring you’ve had to take off for a while. It’s also perfect for keeping your keys, maybe with the keychain or fob hanging out for easy access if you have the same problem as you would with money. Things like chapsticks also sit nicely and easy to access in them too.
But what is it actually called, and what is it actually for? It’s simply called a watch pocket. Before we had wristwatches and long before we carried the time around on our phones, people wore pocket watches and had loose watches to tell the time. Jeans were invented for cowboys and frontiersmen, and keep their watches safe and close to hand they were designed with a small pocket to keep their pocket watch in. Searching for “tiny jeans pockets” brings up countless articles that point this out, all referencing back to the Levi Strauss blog entry explaining the name. Doing an image search for the same even brings up pictures of pocket watches in watch pockets. It’s all so simple, and the fact we don’t use pocket watches in day to day life is probably also why it’s not a well known fact.