Women throughout history have suffered through the impractical realities that result from the whimsies of fashion, and the modern era is no exception. Though there are so many examples to choose from at this current moment (why do so many designers think we want our shoulder skin exposed to cold air?), the most rage-inducing insult of female apparel is undoubtedly the lack of functional pockets compared to menswear.
Designers may be able to scrape by on the dress and skirt fronts with talk of clean silhouettes and seam placement, but there are no good excuses for why it’s so impossible to find women’s pants that can fit the phones, wallets, and keys that all humans like to carry. And while many sociological essays, pithy Internet think pieces, and social media rants have highlighted this issue and speculated about why it persists, it seems that no one has used the scientific method to prove how bad it has become. Until now.
In a new visual essay for The Pudding, journalists Jan Diehm and Amber Thomas share pocket measurements taken from 80 pairs of jeans – 40 men’s and 40 women’s – made by 20 of the most popular brands.
Their analysis revealed that, overall, women’s front pockets are 48 percent shorter and 6.5 percent narrower than men’s. The differences were essentially the same when comparing only skinny jeans or only straight-leg jeans across male and female styles.
To illuminate how these size discrepancies translate to a real-life frustration, the duo used a computer model to test whether or not standard pocket items could fit into the pockets. Unsurprisingly, only 40 percent of the women’s front pockets measured could fit an iPhone X, whereas 100 percent of the men’s pockets could. The rates were the same when assessing for a standard-size front-pocket wallet.
When looking at a Google Pixel, the model showed that a pitiful 5 percent of women's pockets could accommodate the phone, compared with 85 percent of men's.
But perhaps the most absurd finding was that only 10 percent of the women’s jean pockets tested were large enough to fit the entirety of an average-sized woman’s hand. Of course, 100 percent of men’s pockets, which were likely designed with the obvious priority of fitting their male owner’s hand, could contain a female hand.
“If you’re thinking ‘But men are bigger than women,’ then sure, on average that’s true,” Diehm and Thomas wrote. “But here we measured 80 pairs of jeans that all boasted a 32-inch waistband, meaning that these jeans were all made to fit the same size person.”
Regarding back pockets, the authors note that the difference between women’s and men’s styles was "less egregious". Women’s skinny jean back pockets were 5 percent shorter and 2 percent narrower, and women’s straight-leg pockets were 7 percent shorter and 2 percent narrower.
According to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the inequality between men and women’s pockets dates all the way back to the 1600s; when pockets nearly identical to the ones we see today became popular on men’s pants and jackets, while women’s dresses were given ridiculous sacs that attached to layers underneath their petticoats. These could be accessed via openings in the seams of both petticoats and gowns.
As with so many other aspects of human culture, there’s been some progress, but let’s aim for more.
[H/T: The Pudding]