Friday, August 29, 2014

The Brotherhood of the Traveling Cargo Pants

Why do all jeans have this pocket...
Pockets can be a pain in the ass.

I mean, the things carried in them can be.

Mostly wallets and cell phones.

But fashionistas can be a pain there, too.

You see, I am staging a personal pants pocket rebellion.  My goal is to undo the damage done by whoever decided to put pockets on the backside of men's pants.  I believe that pockets make much more sense on the thigh than on the butt, so I have recently purchased cargo pants (from Land's End) that do not look like they came from the Army Surplus Store, and I am hoping clothing companies will make the pockets less like rucksacks for your legs.  In the meantime, I must brave the ridicule of the fashion industry, which seems to hate cargo pants -- although hints of change are in the air.
... but not this pocket?

Many people have seen the episode of Seinfeld that depicts George Costanza's exploding wallet.  (You can see the wallet scenes of the episode here.) He keeps everything in it, including old receipts, customer loyalty cards, Sweet-N-Low packets, and loose change. Finally it is as large as a deli sandwich and is causing him severe back pain from sitting on it -- as Jerry tells him, "You've got a filing cabinet under half of your ass."

Some people would say his problem is his wallet, not his pants, and they would be right. While many men complain about the amount of things women carry in their purses (and the frequent chaos found in there), they can be guilty of carrying too many unnecessary items in their wallets. I have thinned out my wallet recently, but even a thin wallet is an uncomfortable seat cushion.

Moments before the explosion
Besides, men now have growing cell phones to contend with. Phones are like George's wallet: they have grown tremendously in what they contain -- phone, camera, contact information, game console, television programs, music libraries, all of the Internet, etc. As we have interacted with them more frequently and for more purposes, their screens have grown.

Gentlemen, look at the right pocket of your jeans. Do your jeans have a small pocket at the mouth of the standard pocket? When was the last time you kept your watch there? When was the last time you saw anyone with a pocket watch? Yet, probably every man in the country has a cell phone -- and no special pocket for holding it.

Until now, men have had two options: carry their cell phones in a holster on their belt (despite the scorn of the fashion mavens) or in their front pockets.  Until recently, I have carried my phone in a holster. But I am past 50 years old, and I am a college professor, so no one expects me to be very sensitive to fashion trends. However, phones are outgrowing holsters.

(One year, my students plotted to nominate me for an episode of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.  I said I would prefer to be on Wipeout.  Not like I was saying, "I would rather be catapulted into a lake of foamy bubbles than have my wardrobe criticized by those guys."  No, I just think it would be really fun to be catapulted into a lake of foamy bubbles.)

And as phones have gotten bigger, the front pocket has become less of an option. (Besides, shouldn't men be concerned about the proximity of cell phones to their privates?)  The back pocket is not much of an option, comfortwise, and some cell phones are too big for front or back pockets.

Some companies are working on the problem. Pants from Osmium have a cell phone pocket on the right pant leg (the image above is from their website). This does not solve the wallet-storage problem, but at least the pockets are not giant flaps of fabric. I have found another company, Red Kap, that has this feature. Dockers has something similar, but their side pocket has a zipper, which would slow down access and can get fouled.  And Dickies has pants with a "back thigh pocket."

Some folks in the fashion industry are even warming to the idea of cargo pants.  But I cannot say the cell-phone pocket has gone mainstream yet, when actually it needs to be a standard.

Wall Street Journal
In fact, The Wall Street Journal recently featured an article titled "Men's Cargo Pants Turn Refined for Spring." I welcome the attention, but the pants featured in the article are not what I would consider mainstream. In fact, I WOULD rather be catapulted into a lake of foamy bubbles than wear them. And they do not solve the problem of making cargo pants less cargo-ish.

So, if you are listening, Fashion Industry, please make more pants with side pockets. And design them to hold a wallet and a cell phone, not provisions for a two-day hike. They do not need to be giant, accordian-style pockets that are unattractive and which require the owner to fish around blindly for the desired object.

Also, please place the pockets closer to the hip than to the knee. Not only must the wearer swirl his hand around the giant pocket in search of his wallet, keys, phone, or Sonic Screwdriver, he must lean over to reach the bottom of the pocket. Retrieving something from the pocket of cargo pants can resemble calisthenics.