A lady like me, although somewhat younger, remarked in the pub last night that she missed pockets. You know, those things sewn into men's clothing. Her wistful remark has prompted this post.
I think it might be interesting to discuss all the things about the old (male) life that one might miss, but let's begin with pockets!
Well, men's clothing had them in spades. Let me see. One front pocket in a proper shirt. Two front pockets in jeans or trousers, with at least one one at the back. Two side pockets in a jacket, and at least one inside. If wearing a waistcoat (once very fashionable) at least three more little front pockets. If wearing a raincoat, or indeed any sort of overcoat, at least two more pockets. What's that altogether? Not less than eleven pockets of various sizes.
Not all men filled them to capacity. In fact, men generally didn't. Sartorial types, for instance, refused to ruin the line of their suits. Some men carried only money and a front door key.
Young men in the 1970s did not want to be encumbered. If they smoked (most did) then they'd fill their front shirt pocket with a packet of ciggies, quite probably Marlboro, because the packet was so recognisable and got you instant respect. A light could be cadged. Fussy types might carry a small comb, and maybe a hanky. And some would have a Durex tucked away. That, however, was it. They scorned to carry more than could be squeezed into a couple of tight pockets. That was the standard.
Anyone who seemed overloaded with stuff would be thought odd. Eccentric. Middle-aged. They'd be kidded about their pipe and baccy-pouch. No matter how sensible the load actually was - a little flashlight for instance - it faced ridicule. Girls carried things around. Men did not.
The things girls carried with them were considered a joke. It was reckoned that most girls carried only junk and clutter, or what the male mind thought was junk and clutter. So most men smiled condescendingly as a girl delved into her bag for (say) her purse, knowing that she was unlikely to disinter it straight away. Bets might be placed on whether she found it at all. Chortles and jeers were in store for any girl who had to actually tip out the contents of her bag, to complete the search. But this happened surprisingly often. Often enough to confirm a myth that women carried everything imaginable, including the kitchen sink. There was something completely ludicrous in the male mind about a woman's bag and its likely contents.
Fast forward a bit, and car keys and mobile phones and credit cards had to be carried. No problem for the girls! The wonderful bag could swallow it all. But men now had a problem - solved however when cargo pants were invented.
The lady speaking wistfully of pockets last night had cargo pants chiefly in mind. Of course, young women of student age can wear cargo pants if they want, but older women who wish to look elegant cannot. They have to carry some kind of bag. She didn't especially like bags. She had never taken to them. She missed pockets.
Personally, I made the transition from pockets to a bag in a heartbeat. Indeed with positive relief. A bag was a badge of womanhood, yes, and I relished that. But it was also a supremely practical way to bring along lots of important things. And so long as you used just the one bag most of the time, there was none of that nightly emptying of pockets - nor the filling of them again in the morning, with the risk of overlooking something essential. It could all stay in the one place: in the bag. One's bag was a mobile cupboard. You got to know its nooks and crannies. And unlike the case with men, you saw no barrier to filling them. And although urban mythology had it that a bag was bound to be snatched by any passing street thief, in fact a purse buried deep in a woman's bag was a lot, lot safer from the light-fingered than a man's wallet was in his exposed back pocket.
I don't miss the discomfort of cramming wallet, loose change, keys and hanky into just my front jeans pockets. (I never risked anything in the back pocket). I don't miss the jacket I always had to carry, in the pockets of which a pocket diary (or from the year 2000, an electronic organiser), pen, comb, and possibly a torch had to be stuffed.
Some of my female clothing does have pockets - the coats do, anyway - but I never use them. Not even for the odd tissue. It's the bag for everything.
So unlike the lady who regretted the passing of pockets in her life, I feel liberated from them. I admit they are a clever invention, and handy if used efficiently. But, if you love bags, you simply don't need pockets. And (as must be crystal clear!) I do love bags.
A bag is a very personal and private place. A pocket is not.
A bag can say important things about your personality and lifestyle. A pocket cannot.
A bag has shape and colour and texture and individuality. A pocket does not.
A favourite bag suffers distinctive wear and tear, showing the world that it is your faithful and well-loved companion. No pocket can do this.
A bag holds all the things you need to get you through the day, all the things you must have with you. No pocket is big enough.
A bag like this is for women, and says you are a woman. No pocket can say that.