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We Will Not Have Pockets in the Future
Future space explorers from the far off 1997 mock our outdated concept of "pockets" and "purses".

"The only problem I have with the costumes is that they have no pockets. Where do they keep all their stuff?"
Jonathan Frakes expresses his confusion.

Twenty Minutes into the Future, we've gone Crystal Spires and Togas, everything is decked out in this nice futuristic Zeerust, and everybody wears spandex that has no pockets.

Why? Surely fashion hasn't changed so much that we've outmoded all methods of carrying things aside from our hands (or Victoria's Secret Compartment / Trouser Space), right? Wouldn't the engineers at least want a nice, functional Utility Belt? Why not a European carry-all, especially in parody settings?

This isn't as outlandish as you might think (see the Real Life examples below). Still, the lack of visible pockets in future clothes is a near ubiquitous trope in Speculative Fiction.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • This was quite common in Silver Age superhero costumes.
    • To the point where The Tick's mind was blown when he discovered he had them (he wasn't even concerned about the huge roll of cash he produced from one of them).
    • Silver Age Superman's cape contained a hidden pocket where he keeps his (compressed-by-his-super-strength-somehow) Clark Kent clothes. Considering the way his power worked at that time, he probably supercompressed them...
  • Averted in The Dark Age of Comic Books: the belted pouches that became such a cliché were particularly common accessories for time travelers. It wasn't just Rob Liefeld and his cohorts, either: even the Legion of Super-Heroes members wore pouched and pocketed Utility Belts that put Batman's to shame.
  • During J. Michael Straczynski's run as writer of The Amazing Spider-Man, the lack of pockets in the title character's costume was directly addressed. Spider-Man spends some of his time hanging upside down, so conventional pockets wouldn't work (the contents would fall out). Zippers, and flaps secured by Velcro, make too much noise to be practical for a superhero who relies on stealth. A utility belt is the obvious answer, and Spidey has one — but the compartments are all used for web fluid refills, Spider-Tracers, and a flashlight. He still doesn't have a good way to carry a wallet and keys — or a camera (necessary during the periods when he earned a living as a freelance photographer).

    Film 

    Literature 
  • The children's book Bill's New Frock is about a boy who wakes up as a girl and no-one seems to notice. The lack of pockets in the frilly dress he's given to wear is just one of the things he discovers is different for girls.
  • Lampshaded in John Varley's Steel Beach when Hildy points out that for a Free-Love Future society that lives in an enclosed environment pockets are the primary reason people would even bother to wear clothes.

    Live Action TV 
  • Word of God is that the creator of Babylon 5 made sure the uniforms had visual pockets as this trope has always bothered him. However, one episode featured a pickpocket stealing a pouch hanging from a person's belt in a market, which would have been a lot more at home in the Middle Ages, as would the method of the theft (literal cutpursing).
  • Lampshaded in Crusade, when a clothing designer comes aboard the Excalibur to make new uniforms for the senior officers. Gideon complains that these uniforms lack pockets, to which the designer replies that a captain shouldn't have to carry things around. There are subordinates for that.
  • Doctor Who has certainly been guilty of this, those less so from Season 23 to the present.
    Andrew Cartmel': For years in movies and TV if it was the future, everyone was either wearing Roman togas or white zipsuits. Blade Runner was a real turning point for that, because it recognised that fashion was cyclic and people in the future would wear fashions from the past, as people already do now.
  • Star Trek: The actors, at least, have wondered about this very impractical lack of pockets (sure, most of the time they're only carrying around their phasers, and the science officer gets a Tricorder, but still).
    • The justification being that there's no money in the Federation, or keys when you have voice-activated doors, thus no need for pockets. Of course this causes a problem when you need to carry something plot-related — in one episode Riker has to carry a Tracking Device, so he puts it in his boot.
    • It was mentioned in at least one Star Trek book, however, that the lack of pockets in uniforms is done for security reasons; it prevents anyone from being able to smuggle hidden weapons without great difficulty.
    • Some officers, however, are seen with vest pockets; also, "The Cage" and the TOS movies gave us field jackets with visible pockets. Otherwise, Starfleet tends to stick to hard-sided cases and the odd tool belt. Miles O'Brien of Deep Space Nine was occasionally seen with a bunch of tools (or dental implements, it's hard to tell) stuffed into a breast pocket. No one else seemed to have this pocket.
    • Especially bad in one Deep Space Nine episode that featured a Starfleet infantryman (or possibly Marine; in any case, apparently not just a shipboard security officer) deployed in combat on a planet. Not wearing any kind of armor might be understandable (presumably it's useless against 24th century weapons); the same with not carrying any secondary weapon or "ammo"/energy cells for his phaser rifle (who can say how many shots it could fire, or if it could be recharged in the field)... But he didn't have any ability to carry anything without holding it in his hands, or over his shoulder. Not even a canteen.
      • Averted in the Elite Force video games, as the Hazard Team combat squad would definitely need to carry stuff around, in addition to their guns. So they were all given portable personal transporter buffers, which keeps items in a state of perpetual atomic dis-assembly, until they are needed. It's basically a futuristic version of a Bag of Holding.
    • The jumpsuits on Star Trek: Enterprise, being based on NASA jumpsuits, had zipped pockets.
    • Some uniforms do have pockets: the one-piece coveralls from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and the cadet uniforms seen in the later seriesnote  both had cargo pockets. Also, on several occasions we see characters removing things from their pockets, usually small hand phasers. In "The Mind's Eye" Geordi LaForge clearly has a phaser hidden in a small hip pocket. It was implied that the futuristic materials made pockets (as well as fastenings) virtually invisible until they were needed. Somehow.
    • The second uniforms of TNG did have small pockets roughly near the hip with the openings facing outward toward the camera so you could quickly tuck a phaser or a tricorder in there, but half would stick out. Picard's later "Captain's jacket" uniform had pockets in the lining.
    • On the DVD Commentary of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Nicholas Meyer says that he wanted the new uniforms to have pockets, but the budget wasn't high enough as they would have had to make pockets for each individual uniform. The field jackets Kirk and Bones wear on Regula, though, do have some hefty pockets in that movie.
    • In the fourth season of Voyager, B'Elanna Torres was often wearing a vest with tool pockets while in engineering. However, this was only used because Roxanne Dawson was pregnant at the time and it couldn't be realistically worked into the plot. The character would get pregnant later on anyway.
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (with Gil Gerard) suffered from this. Men and women wore skin-tight uniforms that didn't permit pockets - but looked really good on Erin Gray.
  • Blake's 7 had the same problem despite the more flamboyant look of the protagonists. Which caused the actors to make the Obligatory Joke when a bomb or device had to be produced to attack a Federation Base, yet hadn't been seen in their hands when they transported down to the planet.
  • Averted in the German 1960s series Raumpatrouille. The earth colony on the planet Chroma is ruled by women and they all have dresses with huge pockets.
  • The uniforms in Space1999 all lack pockets. Apparently the only piece of personal equipment that needs to be carried around at all times is the combined ray gun/communicator which is hung from the belt.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In GURPS Transhuman Space pockets are out of fashion, because things like keys and wallets are entirely virtual.

    Video Games 
  • Averted in Mass Effect. While there's not really visible pockets, Tali mentions that her exosuit has "more pockets than you'd think", apparently with sufficient space to allow her to cart around a significant amount of geth parts.
    • The various Alliance military uniforms and armour tend to avert this hard, containing multiple pockets or utility belts.
  • The Vault Suits in Fallout are lacking in pockets while all prewar clothing have the normal amount. Somewhat justified in the case of the Vault Suits, as in a Vault anything needed would never be more than a few minutes away and there's only a finite amount of space to lose something.
  • In PlanetSide 2, the Vanu Sovereignty - a group of precursor worshipers - have zero pockets on pretty much all of their classes courtesy of them all wearing spandex armor. Their Engineer does have pockets in the form of what appears to wildly impractical metal suspenders. Averted by the more down-to-earth Terran Republic and New Conglomerate, both of whom feature copious amounts of pockets on their fatigues and utility belts on their support classes.
  • Averted in Star Trek Online. Most of the game-original sets of uniform trousers have pockets baked into the model.

    Real Life 
  • Pockets are a fairly recent invention made possible in mass production thanks to the sewing machine, so lots of traditional cultural garbs come with carrying pouches and belts.
    • And even with sewing machines, making pockets well is surprisingly difficult, even more so than button holes. Making a draw-string pouch is, comparatively, quite simple.
  • Most off-the-rack vests have decorative-only pockets, since most modern men don't carry pocket watches anymore.
    • Most off-the-rack vests and jackets have actual pockets, but the manufacturers sew them shut, presumably for "fashion" reasons. In case the wearer needs a little more utility from their pocket than just a fancy slit on the garment, it's pretty easy to just pop the stitches out and use them like normal.
  • Figure that pocketing items tends to disrupt the lines, and can stretch the fabric making the cut of the clothes even less impeccable. The finer the clothing, the less the designers want to encourage the use of exterior pockets. Contrast any clothing with pockets pleated specifically for expansion, such as cargo pants.
  • The uniforms for some fast food chains have fake pockets, presumably because they don't trust their employees. Others do not.
    • The uniform for at least one credit card manufacturer does not have pockets, and it's definitely for security reasons.
    • In the book Skunk Works, Lockheed engineer Ben Rich had the pockets taken off workers uniforms. They'd stick pens and tools in their pockets only to have the pocketed items damage fragile parts of aircraft under construction or get lost inside aircraft as the workers climbed inside them.
  • Employees at theme park games will usually only have one pocket in the rear. Probably so they won't have anywhere to steal handled money and to prevent them from sitting down.
    • Goes for plenty of other theme park workers as well, including those that never get near money.
  • Both pants and suitcoats used as theater props frequently have the pockets sewn shut to prevent actors from putting their hands in their pockets.
  • Academic robes, of the kind worn at graduation ceremonies, typically lack pockets, and only rarely have slits through which to access pockets in one's regular clothing. This is especially hard on photo-seeking graduates who have no place to carry a camera (however, some versions make it possible to carry things in the sleeves). Graduate students usually get generously pouched sleeves as well as a hood that is great for carrying lightweight items. Using hoods as pockets was actually pretty common among monks and academic people wearing robes in the long long ago.
    • This is particularly difficult for female students at Oxford, who have to sit all their exams (and there are many) wearing academic gowns (with no pockets) and a white blouse and formal dark skirt or trousers. As mentioned above, women's smart trousers often don't have any pockets, and you can't take a handbag into the exam. Most women carry pens and their keys in their mortarboards, which traditionally you have to carry but not wear. (Men get to wear a suit, so most do have pockets.)
  • Inverted with KangaROOs, a brand of shoes which incorporate a tiny zippered pocket for keys, change, or a handy condom. When they became a fad in the 80s, they were hyped as a brilliant new innovation, and their design actually did influence later designs of (pocketless) athletic shoes.
  • (Open) pockets don't work very well in zero gravity, so it's not unreasonable to imagine that anyone who expects (or wants to appear as though they expect) to live in orbit will wear garments that have pockets that are sealable, and possibly located on the inside rather than the outside of their clothing.
    • Current space fashion is for flight suits and pants with Velcroed pockets, and normal shorts and polo shirts for special occasions.
    • On that note, the majority of tactical clothing will use at least velcro fasteners and damn near any kind of flight suit will have a secure zipper on every pocket.
  • Lots of (decidedly feminine) women's clothing either A)lacks pockets or B) have pockets too small to carry anything larger than a Chapstick.note  Either way, they lack functional pockets. Ironically, only certain dresses seem to have decent-sized pockets, though some formal or long coats have them, too.
  • Classical Greece had no pockets in everyday wear for most men (the garment everyone thinks of in this context really was little more than a bed-sheet wrapped around the body and pinned), and belt pouches were not common either due to a lack of belts, yet people still had to carry money. The solution was to make coins very small and carry them in your mouth.
  • Breast pockets on button-up shirts. While formerly a standard part of male button-up shirts, nowadays sales of variants without pockets significantly exceed those of with pockets.

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