The Classic American Jacket: Horizontal Flap Pockets with Angled Breast Pocket

When opening a conversation with a bespoke tailor about a custom suit or sportcoat, one of the first questions you will be asked is “Do you have a preference on the pocket style?”

The "Jetted" Tuxedo Pocket

A surprising number of men—even men who wear suits often—won’t have considered pocket styling before.

This is for one of two reasons:

For men who began wearing suits in the 1990s, this is often because all of the suits that they own have exactly the same pocket styling:  Two horizontal double-besom style flap pockets.

During the 1990s and into the late 2000s men’s suits didn’t really evolve much.

The "Patch Pocket"

The main evolution in menswear was toward the ever-more-casual.  This lack of interest in men’s suits led to a reversion to the most generic.

Not that there is anything wrong with horizontal flap pockets—-they remain among the most classic styles for business attire.

Hacking Pockets with Ticket Pocket

The second reason that many men have not considered pockets is that, when made up, all of the details are so subtle.

In the black and white sketches, the details look dramatic.  But when made up in a heather grey or navy, the details fade.

Pointed "Crown-Shaped" Hacking Pockets with 1920s Curved Breast Pocket

Moving beyond the horizontal flap pocket, the two pocket styles that most American’s will be familiar with are the “Jetted” pocket and the “Patch Pocket”.

A jetted pocket is a pocket identical to the basic flap pocket, but with the flap removed.  What is left is the upper and the lower “besom” or “piping.”

Generally, this style is seen on tuxedo jackets and it can give the jacket a more formal, cleaner look.

The sketch above for the “Jetted” look, shows a classic tuxedo look where the body is an superfine wool and the lapels and pocket besoms are in a silk satin or grosgrain.

Pointed Flap Pockets with Flap Breast Pocket

In general, we do not recommend the jetted pocket except on tuxedos.  The jetted pocket has a tendency to gape open when the pocket is used to hold an object of any size or weight.

On a flap pocket, the flap covers the gap, but jetted pockets on the outside of tuxedos are often left basted shut to assure the cleanest and most put-together look.

A patch pocket, on the other hand, is the traditional casual daytime pocket.

I say “casual,” but casual in a way that has very very little to do with the hoodies and tshirts that many men consider to be casual attire today.

Instead, the patch pocket is actually more sophisticated than wearing a tuxedo in many cases.  If it is at all avoidable, one should never wear a tuxedo during the day.  Instead, a jacket or suit with patch pockets in a sporty fabric shows just the right amount of attention to dress for outdoor summer weddings.

Sporty Patch with Flap Pockets

Midway between the patch pocket the traditional flap pocket is the “hacking pocket”.  A hacking pocket is a flap pocket that is angled backward on the body.

Originally a detail from British riding attire, the hacking pocket as a long history in men’s sportswear and business attire especially in the British and Continental traditions.

It tends to read as slightly more sporty, but also more sophisticated, than the standard horizontal flap pocket.

One often sees the hacking pocket accompanied by a “ticket pocket.”  This additional pocket balances out the breast pocket on the left side and can be useful for smaller items that one needs to keep track of.

Of course, these are only some of the possible pocket shapes and details from the long tradition of men’s formal, sport, and business attire.

Some 1920s Details

For those who are more adventurous, we offer our signature curved breast pockets (a 1920s and 1930s sportswear detail) or crown-shaped pockets with pointed flaps (common in the military and sport jacket traditions).

One should never be anxious about “over-doing” details when choosing a pocket shape—-to men who don’t care about suits, and to most women—a suit is a suit and most of the details are nearly invisible.  To those who care about menswear, a unique detail or two, properly chosen is what dressing well is all about.

We can design a suit with any pocket styles you might like and would love to talk more.  Because we make each piece one-at-a-time here in our studio in Denver, Colorado, we are always able to design a piece with the details that fit your individual tastes.

Contact me with your thoughts and I can get you a sketch.

What does “bespoke” mean?  Are some suits “more” or “really and truly” bespoke and others “less bespoke” or “bespoke in name only?”

To ask this question is to wade into controversy.  Especially when new businesses are popping up every day with custom suit offerings of various quality and customization.

Denver Bespoke Jacket

A Peak Lapel Cashmere Jacket with Handmade Buttonholes

Literally, the word “bespoke” just means “spoken for” or “made-to-order.”  But in its historical roots, the word points to an era in which you could have your tailor make you literally anything you could dream up.

It these days of mass customization, the lines have become blurred between factory-made suits with advanced assembly lines and small custom tailoring firms.

Many small companies will take measurements locally and allow the clients to choose from a dozen styles and up to 100 fabrics before sending the information to a factory in Canada, China, or New York.  With these “mass custom” suits, a moderately large variety of customization on the part of the client is permitted.

Many of these suits are very high quality with nearly impeccable tailoring.  Because the pieces are made on an assembly line, each detail can be executed by a sewer who only does that one step—and does it very well.

In addition, advanced machinery and robotics allow difficult steps to be done automatically, allowing for less skilled workers.

Bespoke Plaid Suit

But this version of “bespoke” is very different from what we offer here.

Our Denver Bespoke suits are handmade here in our studio in Denver, Colorado by exceptionally skilled craftsmen who literally sew the pieces from start to finish one at a time.

So no assembly line here.

We can show clients a catalog of pieces we have made in the past, but there are no set choices.  It isn’t like ordering an iPhone where one can pick from a few different sizes and configurations.

Anything is still possible.

For example, we recently trimmed a suit in patterned leather and finished the vest with filagree clasps.

We make tailcoats, and frock coats, and morning coats.  We make sportcoats with back belts, or side pleats, or armhole gussets or center pleats.  We can make lapels that are exactly the width you specify and can pad or not pad the shoulders to the degree that you like.  We design for you, for your exact event, to create right individual garment.

Action Back Jacket

We offer over 10,000 fabrics.  Some wool, some silk, some vegan and cotton and linen.  Or you can find the perfect fabric elsewhere and we will use this to create your garment.

In addition, the pieces are tailored to your looks much more individually.

While most mass custom shops feed your measurements into a computer which automatically generates a pattern, we create an individual pattern just for you.

If you are a distance client, we have you send us a picture that we can use to understand your posture as well as a few simple measurements.

Then we cut and sew a complete cotton “muslin” or mock-up of the suit and you try this on at home and send us digital pics.

Wedding Tailcoat

At this point, we can work with you by email to make any changes you might want and can suggest many other changes that will make the finished pieces look perfect on you.  We can adjust every part of every pattern.  So we can make suits that fit the most hard to fit shapes.

When we decided to call our business “Denver Bespoke”—-we meant it as a bit of a joke—choosing a pretentious British word but pairing it with the totally American (and Western!) place name of our home town.  So we certainly don’t want to come across as “bespokier than thou.”

But we still preserve the idea of genuinely individual garments made for individual clients and the relationship of the tailor-as-artist who works with a client to produce something unique.

The bigger question, and perhaps the more important one, is “Is Bespoke Better?”  And is Denver Bespoke better than a made-to-measure competitor?

But our pieces are just a different animal.

Suppose you want a dining room table and you can order one from a factory in exactly the size and finish you want.

Bespoke Wedding Vest

Bespoke Wedding Vest

Or you can have a craftsman design a table from the bottom up to fit your space and tastes, and can choose from one of thousands of individual pieces of wood to have it cut from.  And then suppose that the craftsman individually carves the piece for you with unique details that you choose.

The mass produced table might be just as “good” or even “better” by many standards—but it is something different entirely than a truly custom table.

Having a custom suit made to fit you takes a lot of time and effort and thought on your part, and it may not be right for you right now.  But if there comes a time when you want something that is more genuinely and individually “yours” a bespoke suit may be the perfect choice.

When clients contact us online to order a suit––or make an appointment to meet with us about a suit here in our workshop in Denver, Colorado––one of the first questions we ask is, “Do you want a vest?”

Navy Pinstripe Vest

A Classic Business Look

Around 75% of our clients answer “Yes.”

Part of this is just the fact that most shops don’t carry 3pc suits.  Here in Denver, one can visit the retail stores of some of the hottest international designers an not find a single 3pc suit.

Dressing up With Peak Lapels

And this isn’t because vests aren’t trendy.  3pc suits have been a major trend for the past 6 years.

The reason that one can only find 2pc suits is that not all guys want a vest, and it is just too much of a risk to stock vests in every size if half of the guys won’t want them.

But, as all of our suits are completely custom, we don’t have that problem.  So many of our clients contact us specifically because they know they want a vest and haven’t been able to find a suit that they liked anywhere else.

A Workingman Look

But for the client that isn’t sure which way to go, what kinds of questions should he consider?

The clients who buy 3pc suits fall into 2 categories:

1. Men who love a really formal look (and a vest completes this).

and

2. Men who like a more relaxed “working man” look.

If these reasons for wanting to add a vest seem to contradict each other, this is simply because one can take one’s jacket off in modern social situations.

Even Tweed Sportswear Can Feel Formal in 3pcs

With a jacket and a vest, even the most sporty plaid or houndstooth fabrics take on a very formal look.  A 3pc suit feels more formal and put together on virtually every occasion.

This is particularly the case if one is attending a daytime wedding or an important business meeting.

Contrast Vest

On the other hand, if one takes the jacket off and wears simply the vest and pant, the look becomes altogether sporty and casual.  The look transforms from  ”wedding attire” to “party attire,” from “garden party” to “picnic.”

The result is that a vest is a great choice when one wants to really “dress up” and for when one wants to “dress down.”

Wedding Vest

An Outdoor Fall Wedding

Whether or not a vest is the right choice for your suit really depends on where you will wear the suit and how many occasions one has at either of the extremes.

We sell the fewest 3pc suits to men who wear the suits simply for everyday business.

That said, if one is going to take off one’s jacket at work during part of the day, wearing a vest can certainly be an improvement over simply dressing in shirt sleeves.

For guys who are on the fence, we can always design a vest to go with your jacket and you can decide whether or not you feel that it compliments the look.

The Basic Straight Leg Flat Front Pant

Choosing the right pant fit and leg shape is one of the most important parts of getting the right look in a suit.

Do you want to look more youthful, slim, and eager?

The Skinny Leg "Rocker" Fit

Or is your style more one that connotes power and solidity?

Is your style more traditional or is it more daring?

In terms of recent fashion there are two competing trends to look at.  The first is the “skinny jeans” trend that has been going on for the past 5-10 years.  To a younger guy, a pant just doesn’t fit unless it is tight.

Cary Grant in a Wide Leg Pant

“Old men” might want a pant that comes up closer to the navel, but lots of younger guys prefer a pant with an ultra low rise similar to women’s pants.

A pant from H&M aimed at young men.

The second (and contrary)  trend is a return to the classics of the early 20th century.  This means a return to a higher-waisted and often wider leg pant.

Men who are interested in this trend tend to reject the youthful “dressing down” looks of the 90s and 00s—instead of looking younger, one wants to look “like a grown-up” after the fashion of golden age and silent film stars.  In addition to 1930s-era suiting, many men who look toward this trend find inspiration in classic denim and workwear.

A Full Wide Leg Flat Front Pant

We can, of course, make pants in both styles—-or even a hybrid of the two styles.

A Slim Tapered Tuxedo Pant

Perhaps the main thing to understand about pants is that, like all human clothing, the idea is to stylize the figure and the question is what each style means.

For some men, for example, the skinny leg style just doesn’t work.  This is particularly the case with athletic men who ride a bicycle to work or do frequent squats.

The style ends up failing on men with muscular thighs because the ankles and calves end up looking too skinny (and even fragile!) in comparison to the thighs.  The initial impression is that the ankles might shatter under the weight.  Going with a wider leg inevitably seems like a better fit, while a skinny style just feels too tight and off balance.

A 1920s Style High Waistband

Similarly, on men with a larger belly, the slimmer leg can give a top-heavy “muffin top” look to the suit which is always unfortunate.

Our "Jean Fit" Dress Pant--Slim Fit but Bootcut for More Athletic Shapes

On the other hand, for men who are very slim and tall with narrower shoulders, one inevitably wants to make the pant legs thinner.  If the jacket has fairly narrow shoulders and a narrow waist (which is the case on men with a smaller chest size), a wider leg pant throws the look off balance.

Overall, one wants to pick a pant style that fits with one’s individuality.

If you want to convey solidity and authority and to look like Cary Grant, one should choose a wider leg pant.

To look young and eager, a slimmer leg is better.

But the pant is designed to stylize the body—-and choosing a look that flatters your individual body type is important as well.

We make all of our pants and bespoke suits one-at-a-time to fit each client’s body and style here in our studio in Denver, Colorado.  Find out about our muslin fitting and how we can fit clients around the world.