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.
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.
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.
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….