One of the many ways that men and women are different is our attitudes about our pockets.
For women, pockets are optional. Traditionally, women keep their stuff in purses so their pockets are mostly for show. Guys need pockets. Pockets are standard equipment on all men’s clothes. I, for one, could never leave my house without my pockets because there would be no place to put my wallet and keys. I have a standing rule not to leave home without my car keys and or my wallet.
We not only need to have pockets, we need them to always be in the same places. Designers of women’s clothing can be really creative with the size, color and location of pockets. Sometimes they omit them completely. Men’s designers have no such options. We will only buy pants with two pockets in the front (for keys, change and hands) and two pockets in the back (for wallets, combs and those round cans cowboys carry).
Dress shirts must have a breast pocket on the left side. Shirt pockets are not that important to me but they seem to be more popular with older guys, country music fans and computer professionals, who often feel the need to protect them with plastic liners.
I have noticed that you can tell a lot about a guy by the variety and quantity of stuff in his pockets. I am a seat of the pants, bare essentials kind of guy. At any given time a search of my pockets would reveal my wallet, my keys and maybe a comb. If it’s late in the day and I’ve been out and about you might find some loose change and a couple of wrinkled dollar bills or an ATM receipt. That’s pretty much it. If I have more stuff than that I throw it in the back seat of the car or ask my wife to put it in her purse. I don’t like to carry a lot of stuff.
My father-in-law, Bob, is just the opposite. He’s more of an Eagle Scout/always be prepared kind of guy. When he leaves his house he is equipped to handle any situation that could possibly arise. In his pants pockets, along with the standard wallet, keys and comb, he carries a pocket knife (equipped with two blades, a screwdriver, tweezers, scissors, a power drill, a mini chain saw and a toothpick), a memo pad, a check-
book, a pocket watch, a compass and one of those little change purses that you squeeze on each end to open (filled with exactly 99 cents). He always wears one of those Western shirts with two breast pockets filled to absolute capacity with at least five pens (black, blue, red, and green ink pens and a fat one with all four inks available), seven pencils, three pairs of glasses (one in the case), a protractor, another memo pad, a 6-inch ruler, breath mints, a flashlight and a business card for a guy who makes the hand carved mallard decoys he’s been saving up for. Bob’s ready.
There are what I call specialty pockets that some guys get by virtue of their jobs or lifestyles. Painters, for example, wear these really cool pants with lots of funny shaped pockets down the legs. I’m not sure what those pockets are for but I think you have to be in their union to buy those cool pants.
Businessmen wear suits which gives them extra pocket space in the coats. The rules are that you cannot use the outside coat pockets, but the two on the inside are fair game. Swimmers and runners get special pockets. Swimming trunks and running shorts come with that weird little fold over pocket that’s always about an eighth on an inch too small for your keys.
Recently there has been a move afoot to introduce purse-like devices for men. Fanny packs and those mini-briefcase organizer things are becoming more popular everyday. I think it’s a fad. Pockets are so much better suited for the typical American male thought process. You can forget your fanny pack or you can lose your organizer and get all of the way to work before you notice they are missing. If you leave the house without your pockets, chances are you’ll notice right away.
Rick Seley, an award-winning humor columnist, is on emergency leave this week. This is one of Rick’s favorite columns from 2006.