Jeans close-up on a white background. Front jeans pocket. Dark blue jeans.

The Mysterious Purpose of That Tiny Pocket on Jeans Revealed!

Ever noticed that peculiar tiny pocket on your jeans and wondered what it’s for? You’re not alone. While many of us use it to stash small items like keys or money, its origin lies in a bygone era.

Levi Strauss, the iconic jeans brand, initiated this design quirk during the late 19th century. Back in 1879, jeans were sold with three front pockets – one on the left, one on the right, and the tiny pocket. As per an article on ‘Medium’, this niche was specifically designed to safeguard the classic pocket watches, which were all the rage back then.

“We added a small pocket to the jeans so people could keep their watch safe,” claimed Levi Strauss.

From Cowboys to Modern Fashion

“In the 1800s, cowboys often carried their pocket watches on a vest chain,” explained Levi Strauss in a press release. Therefore, “we introduced a small pocket in the jeans to ensure their watch wouldn’t break.” It’s intriguing that the Spanish word for jeans is “vaqueros”, which translates to cowboys.

But the jeans evolution didn’t stop there. Levi Strauss observed that many contemporary trousers lacked a dedicated pocket for this time-telling accessory, which gained popularity during the industrial revolution and the precise timekeeping it demanded. Another interesting facet was the metal rivets that affixed the pocket fabric to the jeans. In 1901, a fifth pocket was added on the left backside. Yet, during World War II, in a bid to conserve metal for weaponry, Levi’s got rid of all metal rivets.

Though in 1966, they eventually dropped these metal rivets altogether. Why? Customers were complaining that they could scratch furniture or wear out, leaving rust marks on the jeans. Other jean brands imitated Levi Strauss’s design, retaining the small pocket, even if there were no more pocket watches to keep. Fun fact: When pocket watches became passé, men started using this space to store their zippos or lighters.