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Boys’ Pockets Are Seriously Out of Balance

Why are we so bad at managing the storage space in our pants?

Even men who profess to be totally ignorant of fashion are bound to be aware of a crucial inequity in that sphere. I speak of humble pockets: the cloth pouches sewn to the inside of clothing to hold various personal items, or, if you’re feeling awkward, your hands. Women’s garments are notoriously lacking in pockets (or else have impractically small ones, just for show), while men’s shirts, jackets and pants —  let’s not dwell on the monstrosity of cargo shorts — are packing more useable pockets per square inch than a dude will ever require.

And yet, perhaps because he has more pocket space than he knows what to do with, your average guy is struggling to balance the distribution of objects throughout. A wave of recent memes takes aim at one common eccentricity: keeping the phone in one pocket and basically everything else in the other. It would seem that the phone is the VIP of our possessions, and we don’t like it to feel “crowded” in with keys, gum, earbuds, wallet, pocketknife or wadded receipts.

As that last post suggests, the left pocket is a black hole — there is no theoretical limit to how much you can throw in there. Except, of course, this running joke raises the question: Why are guys lugging so much shit around in the first place? It’s as though we’re afraid to be without the specific thing we’d need in any given situation. It’s the Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared,” taken way too literally. Can’t be caught without a bottle opener, toothpick or condom when fate comes calling.

Sticking to a “pocket diet” is tougher than watching what you eat. I could be going for a neighborhood stroll with my girlfriend, just to take the air, and still gather up at least five unnecessary objects for the outing. And men are additionally burdened by pocketless partners who want to go purse-free: We all dread those fateful six words, “Can you carry this for me?”

It’s true that pocket problems are a small price to pay for overall male privilege. But is there any solution to the mismanagement of the considerable storage space offered by our pants? Hell, I’m not the expert; I was shocked to find out that I’m the weird one for carrying my phone in the left pocket, and with my keys rubbing against it. I have tried to pare down the number of keys on the ring, and I have to say I made the right call in switching from an overstuffed wallet to a slimmer money clip that holds a few credit cards. And yet I know I could be lighter, looser, happier… if only I had nothing in my pockets. (A backpack that doesn’t make me sweaty would also be nice.) I must shed these tools and trifles and return, somehow, to a state of nature.

I guess once I’ve cleaned the clutter out of my pockets, there will always be the chance that I wind up in a social setting where someone wants to see my Obama-head pyramid. The real test is whether I can be comfortable telling them I left it at home, so they can check it out the next time they come over.

All right, man. You got this. Clear eyes, empty pockets, can’t lose.