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What’s in your front pocket? The 21st Century Pocket Protector

Working in tech for over a decade, I’ve noticed certain trends in problem solving among my technical bretherin. When approaching problem solving, often times convenience and praticality are the priority, style not so much. This often leads to great technical achievement. It also lead to the pocket protector.


No one that has ruined a nice shirt can argue against the practicality of a pocket protector. And no one with any modicum of style could argue that a pocket protector should ever find itself as anything other than an ironic or oblivious fashion accessory.

In the early days of tech geeks, pocket protectors were at their pinnacle. With a trusty pen and a slide rule, a technician could rule the world, literally. But how can you make sure you have enough pens handy, and without risking another trip to the dreaded clothing store? The Pocket Protector of course!

Along with the ascendancy of mobile tech devices and the fall of the old reliable pen, the pocket protector is in decline. In it’s place we see a new fashion faux pas. And as with the pocket protectors that came before them, it’s ubuiqity is surpased only by the obliviousness with which it is displayed.

Behold the new pocket protector, the cell phone in the shirt pocket! Two such examples of this wonderfully practical thinking on display:

“The 4S is ready to shoot just a second or three after I whip it out of my shirt pocket, and in a rapid-fire test, the 4S shot 19 frames in ten seconds.”

via Andy Ihnatko

“Whenever I wear or buy a shirt, it must have a shirt pocket. It must have a pocket on the shirt. Why? Because that is the preferred location for my cell phone. It makes my wife nuts. She wants me to wear some shirts, but I refuse, because there is no shirt pocket. I need that pocket. I refuse to place my phone on my belt.”

via Cartoon Barry

May not actually be a cell phone...

During my extensive research for this article, it has become clear to me that the heart of the issue isn’t really the pens or phones. The issue is really the pocket itself. The fashion industry has dictated that shirts shall primarily retain their pockets but they’ve be delegated to serve only stylistic and traditional purposes.

Geeks abhor waste. For something to be valuable it needs to be useful, and what’s the point of an easily accessible pocket if you can’t put something in it. Nevermind that the notification LED shines through your pocket in the middle of lunch. Nevermind that your shirt bulges in odd ways while you turn to look out the window. Nevermind that you smack your phone on the table when you lean forward to slurp your soup.

Yes, Equire magazine probably has a lot to say about the appropriateness of this particular geeky quirk. But geeks are just doing what they have always done, taking something unnecessarily ornamental, and either throwing it away or making it functional.

I personally don’t use the front pockets of my dress shirts, and this has got me thinking… I probably should avoid buying dress shirts with front pockets. It’s just a waste of fabric anyway…

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