Podcast of the Week: A deep dive into pocket politics

Articles of Interest: New series from ‘99% Invisible’ creaters makes for interesting listening

Articles of Interest host: Avery Trufelman Photograph: Matty Lynn Barnes

Articles of Interest host: Avery Trufelman Photograph: Matty Lynn Barnes

 

99% Invisible: Articles of Interest

Articles of Interest is a new series from the makers of 99% Invisible, a terrifically produced and researched podcast about how the world is designed. It’s relieving to know that the quality of what you’re sitting down to listen to is going to be sky-high: 99% Invisible is truly one of the finest podcasts out there.

This mini-series focuses on the history and political power of clothing. It has that very same attention to detail that makes 99% Invisible such a great listen, as well as a captivating and educational narrative arc, squeezed neatly into 25 minute bites.

In this episode, the host, Avery Trufelman, dives into the issue of pockets. Anyone who wears dresses knows the absolute delight of discovering a dress has pockets. In fact, if a person is wearing a dress and that dress has pockets – they will absolutely tell you. This is because women’s clothes simply do not have pockets – or they have tiny ones, or ones that are mysteriously stitched closed. Trufelman here looks at the social and political history of the pocket: of why men’s clothes have so many, and why women’s clothes barely have any at all.

Trufelman’s interviews are broad and fascinating – she introduces the show by telling the story of clothes-swapping parties at college, wherein her male friends discover the frustration of realising that wearing a dress means having nowhere to put your keys.

Pockets have as much to do with class and power as they do with fashion

Trufelman takes us into a police uniform store to talk to the shopkeeper about the gendered difference between police uniforms designed for women and men. Female officers, as it turns out, do not wear the trousers designed for them – they wear the trousers designed for men. Why? Pockets. Even police uniforms designed for women have useless, tiny pockets.

The other interviewees are design and fashion historians, and the show takes us back through history to look at when exactly it was that pockets started disappearing in women’s clothing. Unsurprisingly, it has as much to do with class and power as it does with fashion, and these segments are genuinely enlightening as well as being in good humour.

Trufelman also examines the role of technology in whether anyone at all may or may not have pockets in the future, too. I loved this episode, and anyone who has ever felt the frustration of simply not being able to fit their keys or wallet in a badly designed item of clothing will doubtlessly find this enlightening and entertaining at once. The rest of the series looks at children’s clothing, plaid, denim jeans and Hawaiian shirts – and is one of the most interesting podcasts I’ve listened to all year.

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