When people first started developing tools to make life easier, every single little detail of a tool had a specific purpose. Nothing they did was by accident or simply for flare. Even what was meant to be artwork had a specific purpose that had to do with either religious beliefs or common everyday activities. Everything was very intentional, and nothing was abstract.
This makes sense when you consider how few raw materials were being used, and that everything you were using in your craft had to be painstakingly harvested or gathered by hand. When a project consists of back-breaking work, the designs tend to become pretty practical. Most of us might not know it, but that is still the case with many of our everyday items today.
From soda cans and can openers to seams and tape measuring machines, there are tiny details in the design that may at first seem purely aesthetic but that actually serve a very useful purpose. Sometimes their purpose may even seem blatantly obvious, but in reality the product’s intended purpose is something you never thought of! Here are 40+ everyday things you didn’t know the purpose of.
You may have noticed that a lot of denim jeans come with a tiny extra pocket on the side known as the fifth pocket. While millions of people have found thousands of different uses for it, from storing folded up cash to tucking away a stick of lip balm, this small pocket was actually designed with a very specific item in mind; the pocket watch. Jeans were the pants of choice for gold miners in California in the mid-1800s, and one of the most important items they kept on them was their pocket watch, which was generally delicate and spendy. The fifth pocket was designed to protect their expensive pocket watches by keeping it snugly and safely tucked into place.
Yes, believe it or not, all of those small metal rivets you have in your jeans have a purpose. They’re not just there to make a fashion statement, they are strategically fastened in areas where jeans used to fall apart. While denim jeans are sold more for the way they make our butts look nowadays, they originally became popular among the working class like farmers, miners, ranchers, laborers, and the like. In order to keep their work clothes from ripping apart at the seems, they used the rivets where they were most likely to rip to give them some extra life!
If you’re like most of the rest of the world, you remember wondering what on earth the tiny hole in your pen cap was meant for as a child. Even into adulthood, when we bother to notice the little opening in the cap, we still find ourselves distantly wondering what it is doing there. While many have just summed it up to some strange way to keep the ink flowing, there is actually a much more thoughtful explanation. Manufacturers of the pens that are so ubiquitous in our lives understood that small kids would likely end up with these choking hazards in their mouths one day. They took measures to prevent them from suffocating by placing a hole in the cap so that if one were to get stuck in a little one’s throat, they could still breathe air into their lungs.
Just about everyone is familiar with the ultra-handy tape measurers sold in hardware stores today. They seem to be pretty self-explanatory. A long, flexible band of tape with measurements pulls out from a roll and has a metal end that you can hold in place. Most people would be surprised to learn, though, that the metal tab has two other distinctly useful purposes. The wide hole in the metal piece is designed to be just large enough to hook over a nail head, so you can hold the measurer in place while you make your markings. In addition, the same metal tab has a serrated edge on one side that you can use to gently press and mark a board where you want the end of your measurement to be.
Have you ever found yourself wondering why the edges of dimes and quarters have rough-hewn edges, but the edges of nickles and pennies remain smooth? Well, you are right to wonder, because there’s a very good reason for this. Back in the good old days, coins were stamped from different types of metal cast in different weights that were the true value of the coin. For example, one silver dollar was crafted out of one ounce of silver. People began shaving off the edges in coins to save up to melt into new coins later and would spend the shaven coins at their full value, even though they weren’t worth that much anymore. In order to avoid this, coin minters started using the rigid pattern only on the precious metal coins, so that a person could easily tell if a coin had been shaven.
You may have thought you understood all there was to know about the purpose of a soda can, but chances are you will be surprised to learn about this one. Every can of soda comes with a tab for easy opening of the tasty beverage. While these may come in all sorts of colors and different details on their corners, every single one of them has a fairly large hole in the top. Although this hole does seem to make it easier to get your finger wedged beneath the tab to pop the top on your soda, its intended purpose is actually to serve as a place-holder for your straw. Simply spin the tab around over the opening and slip your straw through. Boom!
You know how sometimes when you buy a nice new shirt or pants…or even underwear, that it often comes with a tiny Ziploc baggy containing a button and about 1 square inch of matching fabric? The reason seems obvious, right? A button in case one falls off when you aren’t paying attention, and the fabric in case you get a small hole in your clothes and need to patch it up. Well, this is a nice use for the fabric swatch, but it’s only a secondary one. The real purpose of the fabric is for you to test out your cleaning products on, to make sure they won’t ruin the material. We know; mind=blown!
The grocery cart, of all things we use in our day to day life, should certainly be the most self-explanatory, or at least one would think. Sometimes the purpose of everyday items get lost amongst its main function, which in this instance is to carry your groceries around while you shop. The manufacturers of these seemingly basic carts are more forward-thinking than we’ve given them credit for, though. While even our checkers and baggers don’t know it, there is a purpose behind those metal loops that frame the top fold out section of our grocery carts; to hang your bags with light items like bread and eggs from so they don’t get smashed among your heavier goods. Do your grocers a favor and show them how it’s done next time to make their lives easier.
Oddly enough, many details and features to some of our most popular clothing items today are represented as only existing to serve as a fashion statement. While this is certainly true for some styles of clothing, such as that $97 pair of jeans that have been “pre-torn”, there are still many clothing features that regularly get mistaken as simply fashionable when actually they have a unique purpose. The half belt is one of them. Usually seen on trench and pea coats, they were originally developed for men in the military who had oversized jackets that doubled as blankets. The half belt is simply used to gather the extra material and hold it in place so soldiers could walk freely.
Have you ever had one of those embarrassing moments at a gas pump where you realized you parked your car on the opposite side of where your gas tank is? It’s happened to the best of us. So, you’ll be glad to know most drivers will share your embarrassment after realizing that our cars have been showing us which side the tank is on for decades. If you pay closer attention to the gas indicator light in your vehicle, you might notice that there is an arrow next to the pump. That arrow is indicating to you which side your fuel tank sits on. Other lights simply use the pump handle to indicate which side it is on.
Converse shoes have made a huge comeback in popularity over the last decade. Originally designed in the early 20th century for basketball players, the shoes featured two extra holes on the side near the bottom that were identical to the shoelace holes. Over the years many people have assumed that these “extra” holes are for airflow, or simply a fashion statement. Actually, these two side holes are exactly what they look like; for lacing your shoes. The design was intended to accommodate every basketball player’s foot, and the two holes on the side would allow them to customize the fit of their shoes and keep laces from unraveling.
If you’ve ever gotten frustrated trying to open up one of those childproof pill bottles, you’ll be glad to know that the solution to your problem is staring you right in the face. Most of these style of pill containers have strange lids that are threaded on each side. One of these sides have standard threads, and will also screw on top of the pill bottle without “locking” into place. This is so that in the event you don’t have small children around, and you have trouble unscrewing the childproof cap, you can use the other side of the cap to make it easier to open your medicine when you need to.
Remember the horror of realizing that “college ruled” notebook paper meant slimmer margins, and therefore left room for more writing? Well, believe it or not, those margins weren’t invented as a guide for how many sentences you could fit onto one page, or even to leave space for note-taking. Manufacturers began to apply margins to writing paper for the purpose of protecting your work. Earlier on in history, rats were a common resident in many people’s homes, and one of their favorite snacks was your paper, in addition to everything else they could munch on. Applying wide margins to paper safeguarded against losing important work by leaving blank spaces around the edges for the rats to chew through first, and to protect the writing on the outer edges from general wear and tear.
Have you ever asked yourself why the fast food restaurants use such tiny cups for the ketchup and mustard? Based on the amount of fries they serve in even their smallest size container, clearly they are aware that you’ll be needing just a little bit more dipping sauce. So then, why the folded paper cups? It all comes down to the purpose of those folds. When you unfold the paper cups, they turn into small paper platters that can hold a great deal more sauce for all your dipping needs. Nifty, right?
If you have ever been into a restaurant to pick up some Chinese food takeout and requested paper plates only to get a look that indicated the person thought you were a little off, there’s a good reason for that. Much like the paper condiment cups at fast food joints, the Chinese food takeout boxes are folded in such a way that when you unfold them, they become perfect sized cardboard dinner plates. The best part? Your food is already on the platter, so you can just dig right in. Basically, they’re looking at you like you’re crazy because the plates are built-in.
It’s that time of year where everyone pulls out their winter wear. Among the snowsuits, poofy jackets, winter boots, and the mountains of mismatched gloves somewhere is your winter cap or your “beanie”. Just like most other people today, you may just think that the poofy pom-pom dangling from the end of your beanie is simply there for added fashion, but when first designed it served a much more functional purpose. You might be surprised to know that the common beanie we see today was first created by the Vikings to keep their ears warm in the harsh winter climate of Norway. The pom pom was sewn to the top of the cap to keep the seams from coming apart. In later years, people began using buttons instead of pom poms to bind the seams and it looked like a small bean at the top, hence the name we are now familiar with.
Many men would be surprised to learn that not even most women know the specific purpose of the small pocket sewn into their panties! Although women have found them to be plenty useful for storing things like tampons or other small items of a private nature, this actually isn’t why it’s there. This pocket is actually called a panty gusset, and was never intended to be a pocket at all. Rather, it is an extra piece of fabric sewn in for women’s hygiene and in the higher-end panties the gusset is sewn completely shut. The “pocket” is simply a result of manufacturers unwilling to spend the time and money to get those last few stitches in!
You might have noticed that most utility knives or box cutters these days come with a thick plastic cap at the end, similar to a pen cap. While it would be easy to assume by the shape of it that it’s meant for clipping to your pants or shirt pockets, which it can, it actually serves an entirely different purpose. The plastic cap can be pulled off of the utility knife frame and the slit in the end can be used to break off the tip of your blade to reveal a new, sharper razor blade just beneath it. Using the cap instead of your hands to break the scored blade off from the rest of the knife makes it quick, easy, and prevents any unwanted cuts on your fingers.
Nearly everyone on the planet knows the familiar shape of a beer bottle. It’s no great mystery why the bottle was invented, but have you ever stopped to wonder about the design of the beer bottle. Specifically, why is the “neck” so long and shaped the way it is? Well, as it turns out the bottleneck shape is intentionally designed to encourage a person to hold their beer at the top of the bottle, where their body heat won’t warm up the rest of their beer before they can finish it!
You may have noticed the metal plate toward the front end of your stapler. If you just assumed it’s there to act as reinforcement to bend the staples you’d be right, but did you know there’s more to it than that, and that your stapler actually has settings? No joke. The metal plate is called an anvil, and if you turn your stapler upside down you can adjust it by spinning the wheel until it lines up with the seemingly random hole in the metal plate. This setting is for a “temporary staple”, and will guide the arms of your staple outward instead of inwards, making it easier to pull out the staple later.
Do you remember your love of suckers as a kid, and the excitement that came when you finally finished your candy and you tried to turn the plastic stick with the hole into a whistle? As it turns out, that ‘s not actually what that hole is meant for. The reason the plastic lollipop stick has a small hole at the top is so that when the manufacturer pours the hot, melted candy into the mold, some of it seeps into the hole and hardens to keep the candy on the stick instead of falling off. This wasn’t necessary with the round paper lollipop sticks because the melted candy gripped it better.
It may seem obvious what the plastic lid on disposable cups is for at first; to keep your drink inside the cup, but that is not it’s sole purpose. The seemingly basic design of disposable plastic lids is really pretty versatile. Not only does it keep liquid inside the container, but when you’re ready to sip on your drink, the lid has specific ridges that can allow it to double as a coaster and hug the base of your cup. Lids are manufactured with this function in mind, and each size fits the corresponding cup’s base.
Have you ever found yourself wondering why keyboard letters are arranged the way they are? Wouldn’t it make more sense to have them in alphabetical order? Well, yes and no. The first keyboard ever invented belonged to the typewriter, which operated with mechanical metal arms. Originally, keys were arranged in alphabetical order but typing that way came so naturally to typists that they would end up typing too fast and the key “arms” would get cross-wired and stuck. So, for all the classes you took growing up to increase your typing speed, it might pain you to know that people were already fast, and keyboard manufacturers had to randomize the order of keys to intentionally slow down typists to keep the machine running. We haven’t changed it back today because, well, we are lazy and hate change.
Most pots and pans these days come with handles that have a slim, oval-shaped hole at the end of them. It seems pretty straightforward that these holes are there so you can hang your pots and pans when you store them. On the other hand, many of them come with a metal ring looped through the hole which is meant for hanging, and the irregular shape of the hole in the handle doesn’t fit too well on most hooks. That’s because the true purpose of the hole on pan-handles is to hold the handle of most stirring spoons. This way the spoon end hangs directly over the pot and minimizes the mess from cooking.
We all know what the strangely shaped claws on the rim of a pasta scoop is for, to grip pasta as you scoop it out so it doesn’t slide off the utensil. What about the weird hole in the middle bottom of the scoop, though? While you might have thought it was to strain any excess juices or sauce, it really has a much more useful purpose. The hole can be used to determine how much dry pasta you will need for a serving by slipping a bundle of dry noodles into the hole of the scoop. This will help keep single eaters from overdoing it on their pasta.
The design of the headrest is pretty upfront, they are made to be adjustable to comfortably support anyone’s head, no matter how tall or short. While this makes sense, why make them completely detachable? The answer has to do with survival. When you pull your headrest completely out of the seat, it has two sturdy, long metal bars that come to a dull point. If you ever find yourself trapped inside your car and need to get out quickly, you can detach your headrest and use the metal bars to smash out your window.
The deep ridges or threads on audio-jacks aren’t just there for a tighter fit when plugged in. These bands are made of an insulating material used to protect the wires while the sound is being transmitted. Additionally, the number of bands indicates which end goes where. Three bands equate to one band per left and right ear, and the third band for grounding, and should be plugged into the stereo or amplifier, while 2 bands indicate the end that plugs into a device.
If you spend a lot of your time flying, then chances are you’ve rolled over the possible uses for the tiny hole in your airplane window a time or two before. The small opening at the bottom of the window actually serves two purposes. First, it allows airflow through to keep from too much pressure building in the plane and busting the window as it rises in altitude, and second, it is a clever way to keep the windows from fogging up with all the warm breath of the passengers.
If you are an avid iPhone user, then you will have already noticed the tiny black dot between the lens and flash on the back of your iPhone. Contrary to many strange suggestions, this black dot is really a third microphone. It serves the purpose of providing superior sound quality by eliminating background noise and also takes better sound when recording video in a crowded place like a concert.
Okay, so we all know that the small silica gel packs are included with products to “preserve freshness”. It says it right on the little packet. Have you ever wondered how, exactly, this small sack of “beads” works to protect your product though? Silica gel is something known as a desiccant, meaning that it tends to suck moisture out of its immediate environment. The small packets are filled with these silica gel beads that can absorb humidity in an enclosed environment up to 50%, helping to keep anything that can spoil with too much moisture nice and dry. So, hang onto those packets and next time you need to dry out your phone, shove it in a bag full of them. It works much better than rice and is less messy.
Many people have asked over and over again what the indentation at the bottom of a wine bottle is for. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t actually indicate the superior quality of the wine it holds. The indentation is called a punt, and originally found its way to the wine bottle because back in the day, they were handblown and the seam of the bottle at the bottom was pushed up in order to prevent an outward nub at the bottom that would keep a bottle from balancing upright. Today, the punt is there more for tradition, though many wine lovers claim that the smaller space created by the punt helps collect sediment at the bottom and keep it from flowing out with the wine. The punt still serves a purpose in champagne and carbonated beverages, as it evenly distributes the pressure from the carbon dioxide.
These little rubber bumps are so inconspicuous, you might never notice them unless checking the tread on your tire. Oddly enough, that is exactly what they are meant for. The little-raised edges inside the grooves of your tire’s tread are there to let you know when it’s time to change your tires. While many people still rely on the old penny head trick, an easy way to tell if you need to get to the tire shop is if the edges of your tread are even with the bumps. If they are, then you are driving on legally unsafe tires. If the edge is above that of the bump, you’re good to keep cruising for a while.
Solo cups have become basically synonymous with beer and outrageous parties. Their solid red color hides the nature of their drink perfectly among youngsters, and they are the perfect receptacle for a decent game of beer pong. Did you know those lines and ridges in the cup can serve a totally different function, though? Although the manufacturer claims coincidence, the lines on a solo cup can be used as liquid measurements for different kinds of alcohol. The bottom line is the rough equivalent of a 1 oz recommended serving of hard liquor, the second marks the 5 oz recommended dose of wine, and the third line marks 12 oz, the perfect amount for a cup of brew.
Most of us grew up with the frustrating misinformation that the two-toned erasers allowed you to erase pen ink with one side. Sadly, this was a load of B.S., as many a young doodler can tell you. Although you won’t be able to save your paper from ink marks, the opposite sides of these erasers do actually serve a purpose. The red, blue, or gray end of a two-toned eraser allows you to erase pencil and graphite markings from different types of artist’s paper that are more sensitive to friction and easily tear when a regular eraser is used on them.
If you have ever owned a pair of running sneakers, then you might have noticed that the shoes have extra holes near the tops. This is exactly what it looks like, holes for your shoelaces. Many people see these as unnecessary and awkward, but that’s only because they tend to use them incorrectly. These holes were designed so that a runner could lace their shoes in any number of ways that will give them the customized support they need while they run.
More often than not, when you see a girl with bobby pins in her hair, they’re usually wavy side up. This is because most women assume the curves in the pin are there for fashion, should they be showing. The true purpose for the waves, though, is to grip the pin into place by catching it to the underlying bulk of hair. In other words, wavy side down, girls!
If you’ve ever used Aquafresh, then you’re familiar with the red, white, and blue stripes in the toothpaste. No, these aren’t there to represent the company’s patriotism. In the 1970s people were realizing that simply cleaning the mouth to keep it healthy wasn’t enough; they needed something in the toothpaste to freshen the breath, too. Aquafresh answered the call by adding in a blue stripe to their paste to indicate that it had the dual action of cleaning and freshening. After people began paying more attention to the health of their gums, the ingenious toothpaste brand added a 3rd red stripe to their product, to indicate that their paste now had triple action; cleaning, freshening, and plaque control. Even though solid white brands offer the same hygiene benefits, companies continue to add stripes to their paste because it’s a proven seller.
If you suffer from a sweet tooth, then chances are you’ve had a McFlurry from McDonald’s a time or two in your life. If so, you will have noticed that the spoon that comes with your Flurry has a square-shaped hole through the handle of the spoon that tapers to the bottom. Though it definitely makes a fun straw as your ice cream melts, it’s actual purpose is to serve as an attachment to the machine that whisks the ice cream and toppings together. The bar of the machine slips into the spoon and stirs it the way a drill spins a screw. Then they give you the spoon with it, minimizing clean-up.