The pocket stands as one of the biggest sartorial landmarks in the history of clothing. Allowing us to store and transport our personal effects safely and comfortably, we all use pockets on a daily basis. But as well as their functional purposes, pockets form a large part of a garment’s design process, meaning there is a whole host of pocket styles out there.
We’ve put together this basic glossary of the key types of pocket that feature on the garments and accessories of today. We feature a wide range of products with a wide range of pockets here at Heddels, so if you’ve ever been thrown when we throw the term ‘sawtooth’ into the mix without any explanation, this guide is for you.
A Very Brief History of the Pocket
Before the conception of the pocket as we know it today, people used leather or cloth pouches to carry their goods. Early relatives of the pocket, known as “fitchets” appeared in European clothing as early as the 13th century. Fitchets were vertical slits that were cut into tunics to allow access to the carry pouches worn under the garment. It wasn’t until the 17th century that pockets started to be sewn into men’s garments, with women’s garments remaining predominantly pocket-less until the mid-to-late 1800s.
Main Categories of Pockets
Pockets can be separated into three main categories.
- Patch Pocket — A pocket applied onto the outside of a garment.
- Set-in Pocket — A pocket made by cutting an opening in the garment and stitching the pocket bag to the inside of the garment so only the opening is visible.
- Seam Pocket — A type of pocket in which the opening falls along the seam line of a garment.
The following list is a guide to the most commonly used pockets that fall within these categories. This list isn’t exhaustive, but it covers the main types of pocket that appear on garments we feature here at Heddels.
Curved Inset Pocket
These pockets are typical examples of a set-in pocket that are famously featured on the classic five-pocket jean and typically feature a curved opening.
Also known as ‘slant’ pockets, slash pockets commonly appear on pants, slacks, and jackets. These pockets are set into the garment on an angle, allowing the wearer to slide their hands in and out easily. On pants, slash pockets will typically start at the waistband and slash down toward the outseam.
Many patch pockets will feature a flap-closure for extra security. The flap can include a fastening like velcro or a button.
Western pockets are a form of patch pockets that feature ornate flap closures. Western pockets typically feature snap button closures.
Technically a form of western shirt pocket, but we thought we’d single out the sawtooth pocket considering its application on western shirts by brands like The Flat Head, Iron Heart, and Samurai. Sawtooth pockets are a form of patch pocket that features a flap that resembles the teeth of a saw. Each of the two points of the sawtooth flap has its own snap button.
The opposite of patch pockets, jetted pockets appear from the outside as nothing more than a narrow, horizontal slit bordered by two thin strips of fabric or “welts” that act as an opening for the pocket bag that is concealed inside the garment. Also known as a besom pocket, the jetted pocket is a sleek and formal pocket that is mainly used for suit jackets and other formal wear.
Jetted Pocket with Flap
Jetted pockets can also come with an external flap.
Originally designed for hunting jackets and other utilitarian sportswear pieces, the bellows pocket has folds of excess material along the sewn sides of the pocket that allow the pocket to expand and accommodate larger items.
A seam pocket is sewn into a seam of a garment, with the pocket opening presenting as a gap in the seam.
A welt pocket is a set-in pocket that is finished with fabric welts along its length that strengthen the pocket opening.
Mechanic/Workwear Patch Pocket
Often featuring on workwear staples like chore and railroad jackets, the mechanic pocket is a roomy patch pocket with no closure. This utilitarian design is used to form functional pockets that are easy to house tools like hammers and screwdrivers. The corners of workwear patch pockets will often be reinforced with metal rivets, bar-tacks, or other stitching.
Kangaroo pockets are the large patch pockets that often appear on sweatshirts and hoodies. This style of pocket has an opening on either side for hand-warming purposes and can come in either one continuous patch, or split into two pockets separated by a zipper.
The term ‘utility pocket’ applies to any patch pocket that has multiple compartments. You will often find utility pockets on military-inspired garments and bags. Utility pockets may also feature additional, miniature mesh pockets.
A pocket concealed inside of a garment.
Sitting pretty behind the inset pocket of a pair of pants is the coin pocket. Arguably the ‘fifth’ pocket on a pair of five-pocket jeans, coin pockets are for – you guessed it – coins! The openings of coin pockets are usually reinforced with metal rivets or stitching.