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Concealed Carry


Like printed books, perspective drawing, and double-entry bookkeeping, pockets were heralds of the modern era. In most times and places, people have either carried their money, combs, papers, and other small items in bags separate from their garments or tucked them into belts or sleeves. Integrated pockets are a product of European tailoring, which dates back only to the 14th century. They emerged when men’s breeches ballooned in the mid-1500s.

Early pockets were bags sewn to the inside of the waistband and otherwise hanging loose. They were significantly larger than modern pockets—a rare surviving example from 1567 is a foot deep—and sometimes included drawstrings. Regardless of size, the critical change was that the pocket became part of the clothing and thus a more secure and intimate extension of the wearer. “Yoking bag to breeches in what looks like an improvisational ‘lash-up’ created a tool demonstrably more private and personal than the public-facing purse,” writes Hannah Carlson in her newly published Algonquin Books release, Pockets: An Intimate History of How We Keep Things Close.

Detail of a 1618 oil painting by Adriaen Pietersz van de Venne, depicting spectators at a horse fair—including a man (centre-right) with his left hand in his pocket.

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