Smart watches that can check our email. Virtual-reality headsets. Smart eyeglasses with teeny computer screens—an exciting idea, maybe, unless you’ve ever had trouble getting used to bifocals. Clothes that can use energy from your movements to recharge electronic devices.
Wearable technology might be mostly at the experimental stage, but the melding of fashion and technology into smart clothes isn’t just for “Star Trek” anymore.
Let’s set aside for a moment the question of whether technology geeks are really the people we want designing our fashions. Here are a few smart-clothes options I wish they would work on:
• Clothes smart enough to pick themselves up off the floor, wash themselves, mend themselves, and put themselves away.
• Clothes smart enough to convert spaghetti-sauce stains into energy.
• Clothes for toddlers with sensors to alert parents if kids climb up on top of the refrigerator or find the hidden stash of gourmet chocolate.
• Clothes for women of a certain age, programmed to send a flow of cold air through their fibers at the first sign of a hot flash.
In the meantime, while the scientists and engineers are happily playing with wearable electronics, here’s a low-tech bit of design that would make life easier in today’s high-tech world. Pockets.
It makes no sense to me. Right now, cell phones are evolving from accessories to necessities. They’re getting bigger and smarter. They are becoming lifelines to the rest of the world, not just for communicating with other people, but for everyday activities like taking photos, reading, navigating, finding addresses, making grocery lists, and looking up answers to random questions like, “Is an avocado a fruit or a vegetable?” (It’s a fruit; I looked it up.)
Because phones are used for so many things, they are increasingly important in a “don’t put it down except in the shower” kind of way. They are always just a ringtone or a vibration away.
So why don’t today’s clothes have pockets big enough to carry them in?
Oh, many men’s clothes do. But just look at the current styles for women. Skinny jeans so tight that, if you have a quarter in your pocket, people can see whether the outer side is heads or tails. Tights. Tall, form-fitted boots. Short, form-fitted jackets. Clingy layered tops. Dresses so short that pockets would hang lower than the hemline.
It might be useful if some of those creative techie nerds would turn their attention to designing better ways to carry around our essential electronics. Phone sheaths in those tall boots, maybe. Shoulder holsters. Necklaces—known, no doubt, as “neck-tech.” Wrist straps. Fashionable phone belts. Phone-holding scarves. Small, obedient, tech-toting dogs.
Except, if we’re honest about it, we know why this is a place that fashion designers refuse to go. Even the most stylish woman outfitted with such accessories would look like a refugee from a bad spy movie or a geek wearing a tool belt. No wonder so many women still lug purses the size of carpet bags.
And come to think of it, those “Star Trek” uniforms didn’t have pockets, either.