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The old maxim that “you learn something new everyday” is absolutely true. Sometimes, what you learn is insignificant or irrelevant, but sometimes you learn something with much more to the story.

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Today, let’s talk about jeans. To be more specific, what the little pocket on your hip is for, how it came to exist, and the truly American history behind it..

The seemingly pointless piece of fabric that you try to make a use for but never really seems to fit. But why is it there at all?

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The tiny pocket’s original purpose dates back to the days of cowboys, cattle drives, and the raucous and rowdy towns of the Wild West – when men were men and cattle were a viable form of currency. As Perth Now explains:

“It’s a watch pocket. Back in the 1800s, cowboys used to wear their watches on chains and kept them in their waistcoats. To keep them from getting broken, Levi’s introduced this small pocket where they could keep their watch.”

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Pocketwatches have long faded from mainstream style, and cowboys are few and far between these days – but the little pocket remains. Too small for any smartphone, it’s been relegated to a variety of uses as people find new uses for an old classic.

According to Levi Strauss’ online blog explains, the small pocket is beloved by “denimheads,” and continues to serve a multitude of purposes:

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The first blue jeans had four pockets—only one in back and, in the front, two plus the small, watch pocket. Originally included as protection for pocket watches, thus the name, 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.

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So instead of wondering why the heck there’s a tiny pocket, you now know it’s a piece of true Americana, with Levi Strauss adding it to make life on the rage easier for the cowboys of the Wild West.

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