In Defence of the Breast Pocket

The breast pocket is under attack. It used to be the case that if you buy shirts from Department stores you wouldn’t notice this but if you shopped on Jermyn Street you would.  However, with the rise of the slim fit shirt even Department stores are getting into the act and banishing the breast pocket.

I recognise that the more formal a garment the fewer the pockets. So evening shirts never have a pocket, for example. I also understand the argument that a shirt looks sleeker when not fitted with a breast pocket. Moreover, there is no need to match patterns if the shirt is made from striped or check fabric. Thus, deleting breast pockets can only help the shirt maker’s profit margins.

Nonetheless, for most men pockets are important part of our masculine identity.  It’s where we carry our stuff.  Women have handbags to carry their stuff; we have multiple pockets. Have you ever travelled by train without a breast pocket?  Where do you keep your ticket?

If you are wearing a jacket then you have loads of options. But if like me you routinely take off your jacket when on a train then you are without access to a handy breast pocket. And if you are using the Tube, Tram or Metro where you may need access to your ticket repeatedly, a breast pocket is such a handy place to keep it. Certainly when I have a train journey I usually deliberately choose to wear a shirt with a breast pocket. But apart from tickets breast pockets can be used for a whole variety of useful things.  This is especially true in the summer when I am less likely to be wearing a jacket. Pens, sunglasses, mobile phone, business cards, parking permit, receipts, card wallet (clearly not all at the same time) can all be placed in the breast pocket for easy access.

One has to remember to take them out before putting the shirt in the laundry.  I guess one benefit of not having a breast pocket is that you never take shirts of the laundry only to realise that the important business cards you’ve collected after a heavy session of networking have been reduced to mush and spread all over your shirts. Nonetheless, I suggest that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks so I would very much like to see at least the option of breast pockets retained.

Stanley Stripe Traveller, Thomas Pink

Some shirt makers include particular ranges with a breast pocket. Hilditch & Key’s button cuff shirts and Hawes & Curtis’ Ludlow range come with breast pockets as standard, as do Thomas Pink’s Traveller and T M Lewin’s Regent and Button Down shirts. However, these shirts are only available with button cuffs. If you want a breast pocket and double cuffs SavileRowCo.com’s classic fit shirts come with a breast pocket and the option of button or double cuffs.

Navy White Reverse Bengal Winchester, SavileRowCo

Finding slim fit shirts with a breast pocket and double cuffs is virtually impossible. Charles Tyrwhitt offer the option of a breast pocket at an additional cost. Whilst this is appreciated, if you are charging up to £85 for a shirt, to then to ask me for a further £8 for a breast pocket seems a bit rich. It’s a bit like paying £40K for a Porsche and then realising that a stereo costs extra.  One might expect that to be included!

Shirt makers who offer a made to measure service will add a breast pocket at your request as part of the service. M&S and Debenhams offer what appears to be a virtually identical online made to measure service starting at £45 plus shipping. A similar idea is available from iTailor.comfrom £24.99, plus shipping. However, in each case you supply your own measurements.

For the authentic made to measure experience you’ll probably want to look to Jermyn Street where your measurements will be taken at a professional fitting. A sample shirt will be made and then adjusted until it fits perfectly.  Some shirt makers suggest wearing and washing the sample a few times to make sure it is the perfect fit after it has shrunk a little.  Only then, once a perfect fit is assured, will they go on to make your shirts to your own specific measurements.

Debenham’s made to measure service starts from £45

Turnbull & Asser are in the premiere league of made to measure shirt making. T&A’s made to measure shirts start at £195. Hilditch & Key offer a similar service at a similar price.  However, H&K require you to make a minimum initial order of 6 shirts.  T&A are happy to take your order for just 1.

My preference, however, is that you complain. As consumers if you want breast pockets why not send an email to your favourite shirt makers and ask why they have declared war on the breast pocket? While you’re at it you see if you can find out why it’s called the breast pocket.  Chest pocket sounds a lot more manly….

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7 thoughts on “In Defence of the Breast Pocket

  1. Breast pockets are a must. I have shirts without pockets that I have worn only once and never wore them again. Thanks for the opportunity to share my views

  2. Defend the breast pocket! Only fools do not understand this. Here in sweden I have not seen any normal shirt without the all- natural breast pocket until a few years ago when the epidemic started coming. But this emidemy has taken over rapidly. Today, one can no longer buy a normal quality shirt in any store here – normal quality shirt meant three things: breast pocket, washable at 60 degrees and last but not least, normal regular fit, not some pervert “slimfitta” model. In the shops they will tell you the most ignorant stupiditys, such as that their marketed (low quality) shirts are of a more formal sort. One can explode with frustration. I have worked for many years in office (lawyer, often formal offices) and can tell that an office officer without pen is unarmed. I always have pen with me, and can not have it in the jacket because I do not always have it on because of the heat etc. The shirt is just so obvious for a pen, and maybe a business card or any other such small thing. A shirt pocket on a quality shirt is not visible as some claim and a shirt without a pocket is not sleeker, unless you are talking about extra large pockets with buttons, but we are not talking about such shirts. Every talk that a breast pocket would make a shirt less formal is ignorant and confused. Nor are we talking about tuxedo shirt with ruffles at gala evenings, then maybe you do not have either the pocket, collar or buttons anywhere (but maybe zip…).

    And chest pocket has nothing to do with fashion, either, had it been and the pocket would be so terribly unattractive you could just as easily eliminate pockets in pants and, of course, in jackets – because the jacket pockets lose shape if you wear anything in them at all.

    So stop the madness. Preserve your breast pocket.

  3. One more thing. What distinguishes a men’s shirt from a ladies’ blouse? Well, it is – a breast pocket. So most shops for menswear now sell women’s blouses.

  4. Dont understand a mens shirt without a pocket. why why why? Ctshirts is the only option on earth it looks like, though I have to pay them extra, but I dont have a choice in this 21st century world.

  5. I met a very helpful gentleman in Gieves and Hawkes who when asked for a shirt with a breast pocket said with a wink his father (who had also had a stroke) bought them in Primark. I have not had a chance to test this but can say M&S have lost the plot and my business because they no longer have shirts with breast pocket ( or what those rediculous PC people all a chest pocket!)

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