All the individual details in a suit, and for that matter, everything we wear, combine to tell an overall story about each item and its purpose. Dressing well, whatever we individually deem that to be, is about creating a coherent whole within each piece of clothing and, subsequently, each outfit.
A jacket, whether it’s part of a suit or worn as a separate, is one of the most expressive items of clothing you can wear. The factors which need to come together are spread across the larger details of colour, cloth and cut. This is where most men’s thought process stops. The smaller details which often go overlooked are among the most important in having an item of clothing work in harmony with itself. Those details are comprised of things like the weight of the cloth (is it the right weight for the style of the cut or weather it’s being worn in?), stitching (picked or raised stitching adds texture and reduces formality) and pockets.
The style of a coats pockets have a significant influence on its finished appearance. There are several styles of pockets and each sends a different message about the jackets purpose. Whether bespoke, made to measure or ready to wear, this brief overview below will help to act as a guideline for choosing or designing jackets in future.
Flapped pockets: The most common pockets seen today. Found on and suited to almost any business suit you’ll find. The horizontal flap creates a clean line and fits with the traditional suits’ professional aesthetic. One of the most common mistakes (as I’ve written about before, in regards to dress-down Friday’s) is wearing a suit coat as a part of a casual outfit. The sharpness of the pockets tend to clash with the more relaxed feel of jeans, chino’s or separate trousers.
Patch Pockets: Casual, relaxed and effortless. Without a doubt my personal preference for any new coats I have made. With that said, I rarely have the need to wear “business” suits any more, so flapped pockets aren’t as essential for me as someone working in a more traditional corporate environment. The “stuck-on” appearance of patch pockets removes a great deal of formality, making them suited to separate or casual jackets (which is what I wear almost exclusively these days). To add to the relaxed feel of patch pockets at the waist, adding one to the breast pocket, where it’s more visible will reduce the formality by another level again.
Besom or Jetted Pockets: Suited to formal wear, due to the absence of texture and surface details. Jetted pockets are little more than slits in the waist of the coat. You’ll find them on dinner jackets, where clean lines and refinement are a priority. See earlier article on texture to better understand why this makes such a noticeable difference.
Hacking Pockets: Originating from horse-riding or “hacking”, hacking pockets were designed to fill two key objectives, firstly, the angled pockets make them far easier to access on horseback and, secondly, they were better able to keep items from falling out, when hunched over on your horse. At that time, the back of the coat was cut longer (to avoid exposing yourself to anyone riding behind you) and with a centre vent to allow the coat to drape more cleanly across your seat. Over time, as we took to cars and abandoned our horses for transport, coat length came up and the centre vent was more frequently set aside for dual vents, but hacking pockets have remained and are most likely found on country coats and tweeds. Flapped like a suits pocket, the hacking pockets angle removes a great deal of the symmetry and, as a result, formality, lending itself to more casual or country jackets.
Ticket pockets: Originally designed as a small pocket for carrying your train ticket, the ticket pocket has endured, even though it’s unlikely to be used for its original purpose. As a rule, a ticket pocket is simply a smaller version of the main pocket it sits above. So, if a flapped pocket for the suit, the ticket pocket will be the same. Personally, I love the style of ticket pockets and rarely have coats made without them, weather casual or formal.
As with most things in menswear, these points are guidelines, not rules, but they’re a reliable benchmark when making decisions in future.