Jewish World Review March 3, 2004 / 10 Adar, 5764
History of pockets? Lint me your ears; more
http://www.jewishworldreview.com | Q: Who invented pockets and when did they become a normal part of clothing? - Shannon Allen, Charlotte, N.C.
A: Shannon, the answer can be traced to something we always want to have in our pockets.
No, not Chapstick! (Although I am lip balm-dependent, especially in the winter.)
To trace the history of pockets, you have to "follow the money," to quote an old journalism saying that often helps to explain human behavior.
In Europe, common people began to exchange coins for goods and services toward the end of the Middle Ages. By the 13th century, many kings, princes, dukes, bishops and free cities minted their own coins.
So people needed someplace to carry their coins. The first pockets were small purses hung on one's belt. You might've seen these in Robin Hood books and movies or Renaissance costumes.
But pockets on the outside of one's clothes were easy to pick, or swipe altogether. One slice with a knife could cut the drawstrings and your money was gone.
So people started hanging their pocket-purses inside their pants. This made it tough for criminals to get at their money. It also made it difficult for the rightful owners to get at the money. To buy something you'd virtually have to drop your trousers and moon the entire marketplace.
So many people made a simple slit that enabled them to reach through their clothes and into their purses, which were still pouches hung around their waists.
But saddling yourself up with the purse before you put on your clothes was a hassle. And in the late 1700s, tailors and family seamstresses began to sew pockets right into trousers and dresses.
Our thanks to clothing historian Anna Sheehan of central Oregon for her excellent scholarship and charming writing about pockets, which made this column possible.
And about 100 years after pockets as we know them found their way into clothes, C.D. Fleet, a physician from Lynchburg, Va., invented something some of us find indispensable. Something we always must have in our pockets.
It resembled a small wickless candle, and he sold it wrapped in tin foil.
But the history of Chapstick is a whole different story. And y'all don't want to hear about that.
1. What actor, who will turn 16 in April, is perhaps best known for his role in "The Sixth Sense"?
2. What Canadian singer and songwriter was signed by the head of Arista Records when she was 16?
3. The hit song "Sixteen Candles" reached the No. 2 spot on the American charts in 1959. Who sang it?
4. Who pitched for the Cincinnati Reds in 1944, two months before his 16th birthday?
5. What dogged rapper will be 16 for another two weeks or so?
1. Haley Joel Osment
2. Avril Lavigne
3. The Crests
4. Joe Nuxhall
5. Bow Wow
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