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Women’s Pants Pockets Have Not Evolved With Modern Demands

New data has shown, once and for all, that women get the short end of the stick when it comes to pocket size in their jeans.

Researchers from The Pudding, a publication that “explains ideas debated in culture,” recently published a visual essay comparing the pockets from 20 different blue jean brands most frequently worn in the United States. They found that, on average, women’s jeans pockets were 48 percent shorter than the average male pocket. Pockets in women’s jeans were also found to be consistently narrower than their male counterparts, by 6.5% on average.

When it comes to functionality, women’s pockets were especially woeful; only 40 percent of the front pockets that were measured could fully accommodate one of the top three smartphones on the market, and not even half could enclose a wallet designed for the express purpose of squeezing into a front pocket.

Data also shows that the average woman could not fit her hand inside the typical jean pocket, though that’s a reality already familiar to most women. Just 10 percent of the women’s jeans that researchers evaluated featured front pockets with dimensions that could suitably envelop a human hand.

Though the thought may be that men and women are different sizes and pockets are falling in line with that, researchers took that factor into account and compared men’s and women’s jeans each with 32 in. waistbands—that is, denim designed for similarly sized humans regardless of gender.

The pocket-size disparity continues on the backside of jeans, researchers found, though it’s less evident than the front-pocket problem. “Women’s skinny jean pockets were 0.3 inches (5 percent) shorter and 0.1 inches (2 percent) narrower, and women’s straight jean pockets were 0.4 inches (7 percent) shorter and 0.1 inches (2 percent) narrower,” authors Jan Diehm and Amber Thomas wrote.

For most of human history, fashion choices for women have been about decoration instead of practical performance—a status quo that reflected their prescribed position in society, researchers said. Women’s pockets were designed to limit private space and to reinforce the subservient role of “the fairer sex.”

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“If you think this idea is outdated, think about the last time a woman asked her boyfriend/male friend/ anyone in men’s pants to carry her phone/wallet/keys on an outing,” Diehm and Thomas wrote.

Some denim brands, however, are keeping up with changing times. American Eagle and H&M performed well in terms of pocket size, relative to their peers in the study, but Abercrombie & Fitch came through with the largest pockets of the group and a smaller disparity between men’s and women’s pocket sizes. Still, even the most generous pockets for women came in well below the male average, a fact that researchers hope changes with greater awareness.

Additional reporting by Jessica Binns.