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Here's why your jeans have that extra pocket — and what to put in it

Blame it on the cowboys.
/ Source: TODAY

In every significant relationship, there comes a time when you have to ask the tough questions. Like, what's the deal with the mysterious fifth pocket on our favorite jeans?

To find out, we called in the experts: Korie Lovette and John Cunningham, two merchandise managers for Wrangler jeans. The brand's motto is “built for cowboys by cowboys” — and it turns out cowboys, the original denim junkies, have a lot to do with the modern denim design.

Two words: style icon.Alamy stock

"The fifth pocket was introduced in the 1800s as a protective sleeve for cowboys' pocket watches," Lovette told TODAY Style. "Although the pocket is rarely used for watches today, standard jeans are still being produced in a way that can accommodate a size 16 pocket watch.”

We haven't seen a pocket watch since the last time we watched "Castaway," but Cunningham insists that the pocket has plenty of modern uses. "Today, (men) use them for pocket knives or loose change, while women might use it to hold lipstick," he said. "Over the past couple years, it has become an increasingly popular spot to store technology devices such as cell phones or iPods.”

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And then, of course, there is the issue of aesthetic. "A classic pair of jeans would look incomplete without the fifth pocket," Cunningham explained. "It’s a tradition; an authentic construction of the jean. It was product innovation before that was a buzzword ... We keep the fifth pocket for the vintage integrity of our jeans. We make jeans that uphold our denim roots."

Well, dang. (As the cowboys would say. Probably.)

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Look at these trendsetters in their classic denim! (Oh hey, Jenna, Savannah, and Meredith.)NBC

That said, there are times when it makes sense to break with tradition for a more flattering fit. "When Wrangler is determining whether to include the fifth pocket or not, we look at the overall aesthetic of the silhouette," said Lovette. "For women’s skinny jeans or leggings, we usually don’t include a fifth pocket since the consumer will most likely be wearing a blouse that will cover the pocket.”

(Or a flannel shirt, for you cowgirls out there.)

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So, that's that. Our question is answered, and our love of denim runs even deeper. Aren't you glad we had this conversation?