Algonquin Books Pockets
Algonquin Books Pockets


By Hannah Carlson


Publication Date: September 12, 2023

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A fascinating and surprising social and design history of the sewn-in pocket, from the mid-fifteen hundreds up to today that uncovers what pockets reveal about us, our place in society, and how we move through the world.


Who is allowed pockets and why? Why is it that men’s clothes are full of pockets while women’s have so few? How is it that putting your hands in them can be seen as a sign of laziness, arrogance, confidence, or perversion? Throughout the medieval era, the purse was an almost universal dress feature carried by men and women alike. But when men’s bags, ostentatiously belted at their hips in Western Europe, moved inside clothing and the sewn-in pocket emerged, it ignited controversy and introduced a range of social issues concerning security, sexuality, power, and privilege that we continue to wrestle with today.


In this abundantly illustrated four-color book, Hannah Carlson, who teaches in the apparel design department at the Rhode Island School of Design, asks a question many women are asking every day: Why do men get so many pockets, but women do not? But this pocket history is about a lot more than the politics of gender. Among her other questions: What did Walt Whitman do to usher in a new attitude toward pockets? Why are the contents of Abraham Lincoln’s pockets the most popular exhibit at the Library of Congress? What is the connection between pockets and pistols? And what else do we hide in our pockets?


The book begins when tailoring receipts for men’s sewn-in pockets first show up in the fifteen hundreds, and continues up to today, as hashtags like #PocketInequality, #wewantpockets, and #givemepocketsorgivemedeath have mobilized thousands of women to demand more from the companies they patronize. And The Pockets Book explores whether we will still need pockets when our clothes contain “smart” textiles that incorporate our IDs and credit cards and when our thumbprints replace the keys that open our front doors? The Pockets Book is for anyone intrigued by fashion but also for readers who want to discover the impact that the humble pocket has had on our culture, both high culture and pop culture.

About the Author

Hannah Carlson is an authority on the history of clothing and an award-winning researcher and author. She has been featured on the podcast 99% Invisible, as well as in The Los Angeles Times, Fast Company, and The New Yorker. A senior lecturer in the apparel design department at the Rhode Island School of Design, she has acted as the faculty fellow in Costumes and Textiles at the RISD Museum and trained as a Conservator of Costume and Textiles at the Fashion Institute of Technology. A graduate of Wesleyan University, she earned a master’s degree from FIT, and a Ph.D. in material culture from Boston University.

Format: Hardcover

Length: 320 pages

Publisher: Algonquin Books

Publication Date: September 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781643751542

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