Fun, unusual details in menswear are somewhat of a rarity today. Fashion designers now experiment with awkward cuts and unflattering fits rather than having fun with smaller details that can set one’s suits apart from others. Inspired by the Edwardian Era fashions, designers and tailors in the 1960s and 1970s experimented with unique ways to have fun with clothes. The flapped breast pocket was one of these special Edwardian details that was popular on suit jackets and odd jackets in the 1960s and 1970s.
The flapped breast pocket has long been a a part of on military dress, and many military uniform designs have flapped patch pockets on either side of the chest, matching the flapped patch pockets on the hips. A flapped patch breast pocket or a pair of flapped patch breast pockets was a popular detail on 1970s suit jackets and odd jackets.
The set-in (cut into the cloth) flapped breast pocket that resembles a typical flapped hip pocket was also fashionable in the 1960s and 1970s. This unusual breast pocket style is not as formal as the usual welt breast pocket, just like flapped hip pockets are not as formal as the simpler jetted pockets style. The pocket flap is a sporty detail because it serves the utilitarian function of preventing items from falling out of a pocket. Pocket flaps have become standard on the hip pockets of suit jackets and odd jackets, but they never caught on for breast pockets.
A flapped breast pocket can give a sporty flair to any suit jacket or odd jacket, though on suits it is best for the sporty variety like a bolder Prince of Wales check, gabardine or tweed. It’s a noticeable detail to people who are used to seeing suits with welt breast pockets, so the flapped breast pocket is best avoided for business suits. Though it’s never wrong on a suit, it can seem inappropriate on a pinstripe suit, especially if worn to the office. For a sports coat, a flapped breast pocket—or even two flapped breast pockets, one on either side—is always appropriate.
A flapped breast pocket may be slanted slightly upwards like an ordinary welt breast pocket, or it may slanted downwards to match hacking hip pockets.
Flapped breast pockets are bold, and if the flap is too deep, the pocket will make the jacket look top-heavy. Typically the flap should be the height of a ticket pocket’s flap, which is a little shorter than a normal hip pocket’s flap.
James Bond wears two jackets with flapped breast pockets in two Roger Moore films: The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. In The Spy Who Loved Me the flapped breast pocket is on a tan cotton safari sports coat made by Angelo Roma that Bond wears in Egypt. The flapped breast pocket builds upon the many other sporty details this jacket has. While the pockets on the hips are patch pockets with flaps, the breast pocket is set-in with a flap. Without putting two flapped patch pockets on the chest, the single set-in flapped pocket on the chest does not disrupt the balance in the way that one flapped patch pocket may.
In Moonraker the flapped patch pocket is on a brown donegal tweed suit made by Angelo Roma that Bond wears for hunting. The hip pockets are slanted hacking-style pockets with flaps and include a ticket pocket. The breast pocket is angled upwards like an ordinary breast pocket, and the flap is the depth of the ticket pocket.
Roger Moore wore flapped breast pockets before he was Bond. As
Simon Templar in The Saint in 1966 he wears a light brown three-piece suit with a flapped breast pocket that adds a sporty flavour to the suit, balancing the formality of the waistcoat. Also in 1966 he wears a fancy pleated-back sports coat that has two flapped breast pockets. Since there is no ticket pocket, the two flapped breast pockets gives the front an unusual symmetry. A welt breast pocket on either side may look odd, but with flaps the double-breast-pocket style is reminiscent of uniform jackets with four patch pockets. Cyril Castle made both the suit and the sports coat.
Other spies also wore jackets with set-in breast pockets. John Steed of The Avengers, played by Patrick Macnee, and Maxwell Smart of Get Smart, also had penchants for flapped breast pockets in the mid 1960s.
There is one unfortunate downside to flapped breast pockets: you can’t wear a pocket square! However, the flap could be tucked in and the pocket would turned into a jetted pocket. On the other hand, a jetted pocket on the chest has an awkward look if the other pockets also have flaps, and it lacks the presence of a traditional welt pocket.