There are many different kinds of pockets for suits, jackets, waistcoats and trousers. Pockets should follow the formality and purpose of the jacket or suit and do not determine the formality of a garment, which is ultimately based on the type of garment and the cloth it is made of. But for many garments there are limitless options for pocket styles.
Jacket, Waistcoat and Coat Pockets
A welt pocket is a wide piece of cloth sewn on top of a garment to hide the pocket opening, and this is the standard breast pocket style as found on the left side of a jacket’s or coat’s chest. The welt pocket is also traditionally used on the front of waistcoats, where there are two or four welt pockets.
Sometimes welt pockets are used for hip pockets on cheap or fashionable dinner jackets, but this should be avoided.
The “barchetta” breast pocket is a curved welt pocket commonly found on Neapolitan suit jackets, and it is something that Tom Ford have adopted for their breast pockets. In Italian, a barchetta is a little boat, and the curved shape of the breast pocket resembles a boat.
A jetted pocket, also known as besom pocket or piped pocked, is one or two narrow pieces of fabric sewn into a cut in the garment to frame the pocket opening. The most basic type of jacket hip pocket is the jetted pocket, and on a jacket it is almost always a double-jetted pocket, with piping on the top and bottom of the pocket opening.
A single-jetted pocket only has the piping on the bottom edge of the pocket, and when used on the front of a jacket it is seen as a shortcut.
Jetted hip pockets are commonly aligned with the bottom button of a jacket, when a jacket has more than one button.
The straight jetted pocket is the most formal style of jacket hip pocket, and it is the only traditional hip pocket style for a dinner jacket (tuxedo). The pocket is appropriate on any type of garment, though it can look rather plain on a sports coat.
Jetted pockets are the typical style of pocket inside the jacket. In more fashion-forward suits, jetted pockets are used in place of welt pockets for jacket breast pockets and waistcoat pockets.
The flap pocket is the most common style of hip pocket, which is a jetted pocket with a flap. The flap is able to be tucked in, and some people prefer to wear their flaps tucked in. Some waistcoats have flap pockets at the waist.
Flap depth may change with fashions, following lapel width. Hip pocket flap depth is approximately two-thirds the width of the lapel.
Flap pockets are typically positioned so that either the top of the pocket is aligned with the bottom button or so that that middle of the pocket flap is aligned with the bottom button, but there are other valid ways of positioning the pocket.
The flap pocket may be used on any suit or jacket other than a dinner jacket, where it is not traditional and considered excessive. Overcoats and topcoats commonly have flap pockets, which help keep the elements out of the pockets.
Flap pockets may be used as a breast pocket on a sporty suit or jacket, and sometimes two flap breast pockets are used.
The hacking pocket is a slanted hip pocket, usually in the form of a flap pocket but sometimes it is just a jetted pocket. The term “hacking pocket” is often reserved for pockets on steeper slant, while a more gently slanted pocket is just called “slanted”.
The hacking pocket is a sporty pocket, designed to access more easily on horseback than a straight pocket, and it is traditionally used on sports suits and sports coats, like the hacking jacket. The greatcoat and sportier topcoats like the covert coat often commonly have slanted pockets.
Since the 1960s the slanted pocket has often been used on dressier suits to present a more British look. Dinner jackets are sometimes made with slanted jetted pockets for a more fashionable look without entirely breaking the traditional customs. Despite this use, slanted jetted pockets are still sportier than straight pockets, whether jetted or flapped.
The back of a hacking pocket is often placed at the same height as a straight pocket, while the front of the pocket is raised. This visually heightens and slims the wearer.
The ticket pocket is a small pocket above the right-hand side hip pocket. It ordinarily follows the style of the main hip pocket below it, and it is usually aligned to the front of the pocket below. It is a sporty pocket that goes well with hacking pockets, but it can also be stacked on top of a straight pocket too.
Like the hacking pocket, people associate the ticket pocket with British style and use it on dressier suits now, but it is most appropriate on sportier suits and jackets. It is best saved for taller and slimmer people, as it can look crowded on a shorter man, and its added bulk can take away definition from the waist.
Some makers get creative with ticket pockets. Brunello Cucinelli makes a single-jetted ticket pocket without flaps to accompany flap pockets or patch pockets. On rare occasion there are ticket pockets on both sides.
The patch pocket is a pocket style with the pocket bag sewn onto the outside of a jacket rather than cut into the jacket. The open patch pocket is a pocket style commonly found on sporty and more casual suits and jackets. It is a popular style on Italian jackets, and it is currently a trend to put this sporty pocket on dressier suits.
Flapped patch pockets are sportier than open patch pockets, adding another layer to the pocket and another functional element. Flapped patch pockets are common on American sports coats and on safari jackets, where they often have a button to fasten the flap closed. This is also the standard pocket style for the polo coat, a type of double-breasted overcoat.
Pleats add yet another practical and sporty level to the patch pocket. Pleated patch pockets often have a box pleat or inverted box pleat in the centre to allow the pocket to expand. This is the kind of pocket most often found on safari jackets, and they commonly have a button-down flap. Some pleated pockets don’t have flaps but have a buttonhole with the button sewn to the chest.
The bellows patch pocket is the sportiest of all pocket styles, with its expansion pleat around the outside of the pocket. This is commonly used on British sports suits and sports coats that are designed for country sports and can look out of place on a garment not worn for these purposes.
Patch pockets commonly have a matching breast pocket. Open patch hip pockets are usually accompanied by an open patch breast pocket. Flapped patch pockets commonly have two matching breast pockets, but it is not uncommon for them to be accompanied by a welt breast pocket. There are no rules on how to style breast pockets with patch pockets, just as long as the breast pocket or pockets do not look top heavy compared with the hip pockets.
All of the pockets mentioned here can be used on outer coats as well as on jackets, but there is one pocket style exclusive to coats: the slash pocket. The slash pocket is usually a welt pocket—but sometimes a jetted pocket—accessed from the side, most commonly found on trench coats and casual outer coats like the balmacaan and the pea coat. Slash pockets are easy to access and can also be used for hand-warming. The slash pocket on a trenchcoat commonly has a buttoned flap.
Trouser pockets are split between front and side pockets and rear pockets. There is more flexibility with different pocket styles on different types of trousers than there is with jacket pocket styles.
The on-seam side pocket, or vertical pocket, is found along the outseam of the trousers. It has a clean look but it can sometimes be too far back to access comfortably. When trousers do not have a good fit around the hips, on-seam pockets tend to bow open, ruining the clean look that they intend to achieve.
On-seam side pockets are traditional for any type of trousers, and they are the most common type of pocket on dinner suit trousers because they don’t interfere with the stripe at the outseam.
The slanted side pocket angled the top of the pocket forward from the side seam to allow easier access. This is one of the most common type of trouser pockets.
A sportier type of pocket is the frogmouth pocket, also called the cross pocket or western pocket. These pockets sit across the front of the trouser, are slightly angled downwards toward the side of the trousers and are sharply angled or curved down at the end of the pocket to allow for easier access.
The frogmouth pocket is an equestrian style that is easier to access on horseback than side pockets are, though it can be near impossible to reach into them while sitting in a chair.
Suit trousers commonly had frogmouth pockets in the 1960s and 1970s, though this is a sportier design best saved for odd trousers.
Offset pockets are jetted pockets offset from the side seam. Usually they resemble a slanted side pocket, but offsetting the pocket from the side seam allows it to be positioned further forward and makes it more easily accessible. While usually placed vertically, offset pockets can also be positioned more horizontally like a cross pocket.
The coin pocket, or watch pocket, is a pocket that sits hidden or with a narrow welt at the base of the waistband to the right of the fly. It was originally designed to hold a pocket watch, but since the decline of pocket watches it has been used as a convenient place to store coins.
Coin pockets sometimes are made with a stylish button-down flap, or sometimes they are offset in the form of a jetted pocket below the waistband. Coin pockets can also be placed within the bag of a front or side pocket.
Roger Moore’s only front trouser pockets in Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun are coin pockets, and to make up for the lack of other front pockets he has wide coin pockets on both the right and left sides.
Rear Trouser Pockets
Rear trouser pockets are typically in the single-jetted or double-jetted forms. While single-jetted pockets on a jacket are often seen as a shortcut, single-jetted rear trouser pockets are just as traditional and acceptable as double-jetted.
The most common rear pocket is the button-through style, but it is also common to find pockets with a tab and button, with a button-down flap or without any sort of closure. A flapped pocket is a more casual style and is better for sportier trousers than suit trousers.
English bespoke tailors commonly put one button-through single-jetted rear pocket on the side of the dominant hand.
Common American rear pocket arrangements have a buttonless pocket on the right with a button-through, a button-tab or a button-flap pocket on the left, or a button-through pocket on the right with a button-tab pocket on the left.
The most casual trousers have a five-pocket design, as commonly seen on denim. These would have two curved top pockets in front with a coin pocket inside the front right pocket and a patch pocket on either side of the back. No suit trousers should have a five-pocket design.
To read more about suit pockets, Gentleman’s Gazette has an excellent article.