7 May 2012

The Pocket

August Sander, Redundant Seaman, Hamburg, 1928

August Sander, The Gypsy, 1930

Yohji Yamamoto, Spring/Summer 2012

Yohji Yamamoto Pour Homme, Spring/Summer 2012

Pleated cotton trousers, Yohji Yamamoto Pour Homme, Spring/Summer 2012

"Isn't it more chic to be free? Every jacket I make has interior pockets big enough to store a book and a sandwich and a passport."

 [Rick Owens, Details Magazine]

"Men's pockets are boldly practical.  I have some heavy-duty wear that has thirteen pockets, and I have been wearing it for years.  There is simply nothing that beats it in terms of practicality.  One can live in clothes like this.  One can set out on a journey.

The pockets on clothes for everyday use must comfortably hold a wallet, they must not be poorly placed and require one to grope in order to access them.  They fail, too, if the overall silhouette is disrupted when the hands are put in the pockets.

The placement, shape, number, opening, angle and depth of a pocket depend on the purpose of the garment.  In general, if the relative weight of the cloth rests close to the stomach and the fabric falls well, a pocket can be successfully placed anywhere.  To tell the truth, quite often while doing the preliminary stitching on a garment I have snipped open a pocket hole with a scissor to find the garment naturally respond with a wide-mouth grin - the pocket has found its home."

[Yohji Yamamoto, My Dear Bomb]

Oh to find the perfect pocket, how beautiful it would be.  The mental image that arises when one mentions a man with their hands in their pockets is unfortunately now a rather unsavoury one.  Hands in pockets, collar turned up, head turned down, he walks lost to the world around him.  He walks fast, ever so fast, too fast.  Slow down, slow down.  Hands in pockets, head turned up, walking whilst appreciating the everyday beauty that surrounds him.  Yes he is on a journey, he has somewhere he needs to be, but the journey is just as relevant as the destination, so take the time to really see.  And maybe in that time he is fortunate enough to have that most interesting of thoughts - an uncommon thought on a common matter.  His hands are in his pockets, he is relaxed, he sees and he hears.  He thinks.

I need pockets.  For my hands, and for my possessions.  I carry my telephone in my front trouser pocket, my keys and some lip balm in the opposing pocket, my wallet in my rear pocket, my handkerchief in the opposing rear pocket, another handkerchief for the lady (or anyone else) in my interior or exterior jacket breast pocket, my camera in the jacket side pocket, some change in the opposing side pocket, my fountain pen in shirt pocket or jacket breast pocket, etc., etc.  I carry everything I need for my day.  Carry too much and your pockets will bulge, but it is not about cramming every possible thing into them.  Rather it is about having that flexibility and choice, all the while being able to carry just what you need - the fewer items the better.  A woman carries a handbag, but within that lies the inherent risk that everything one needs is contained in one vessel that can be lost, forgotten or stolen.

I require a systematic and organized approach to where things are placed around my body.  I must be able to easily access what I require, and know that they are not likely to fall out or slip out without me realizing.  Yes I often carry a backpack, but for day-to-day life it is often easier to carry the necessities upon one's own person.  There is a freedom in not carrying a bag, a sense of awareness that you are ready for whatever may be with only that which you have on you, and it will be enough.  And so pockets are practical, they are important, they have to be considered when purchasing or wearing a garment.  A pocket must be incorporated into the garment, not included as a mere afterthought or due to tradition.  The placement, the angle, the opening, the depth, they all need to be considered.  The pocket ought to suit the garment whilst empty, and yet, more importantly, not disrupt the flow of the garment when used.

The idea of an ornamental pocket is something I find quite disagreeable.  A pocket is a practical decision, it serves a function, and so it is entirely useless if one cannot actually place anything within it.  If one does not need a pocket on a garment, then choose some other design in place of the ornamental pocket, or better yet, design a garment that is strong enough design-wise to not require the addition of that ornament.  The ornament should not be the main focus of the garment or design, it should merely support the inherent beauty of the garment.  A t-shirt that has a printed design on the front is for me only ever attractive if the fabric, cut, construction and shape of the t-shirt is already attractive without that print.  It adds to the beauty, it does not substitute it.  And so with a pocket, it should add to the beauty but also the practicality.

Yet there is a type of beauty to be found within the very practicality of the pocket itself.  A pocket which serves you in such a way as to feel entirely natural and capable of the task is a wonderful thing.  Unfortunately it is also not as common as I would like it to be.  Take for example that incredibly common garment - a pair of five pocket jeans.  On a pair of jeans the most useful pockets for me are usually the rear pockets.  However these still fall short due to placement - they are awkward for placing your hands in, and I can only place things within them that I do not mind inadvertently sitting on.  The front pockets tend to be too small to place your hands in, and often small to the point that one's telephone peeks out over the top.  And let us not even mention the uselessness of the coin pocket (admittedly I did once find it useful for storing a ring, but that was hardly a common need for me).

A pocket designed to make the wearer's life easier is the type of pocket I most admire, because I need my clothing to suit my everyday life.  I may not usually need to carry a cornucopia of objects that need housing, but I still need to carry the essentials in an easy and organized fashion.  Besides, there is something to be said about ambling around with your hands in your pockets.



  1. faux pockets are one of my pet peeves, sometimes I can let a faux back pocket slide depending, but a side pocket now that's just lazy. I like that rick owens quote.

  2. really enjoyed this post. i'm a big pocket fan, just like you by the sounds of it. quick rundown of my daily carry-ons; phone front jeans pocket (if i have a jacket on it goes in the left pocket), wallet and lip balm right jacket pocket. wallet goes in the back right pocket if i'm not wearing a jacket but i do try to avoid it as i'm not keen on sitting on my wallet so much. i'm after a new pair of jeans, i'm currently wearing levi's 511 slims but for me the pockets and waist are slightly too low so the pocket placement isn't in the right place, they need to be slightly higher. also hanky in my back jeans pocket, just like you. if i'm going somewhere smart things become tricky, can't use trouser pockets and it's always a struggle to carry it all in a blazer. what do you do?

    i try and use them all without it becoming out of shape, i do enjoy a pen in the shirt pocket too.

  3. Your essay about pocket is lovely. I love two symmetric pockets sewed on skirt and apron ,jacket coat etc.
    Yohji's fashion is like a samurai.Love those.

    I am enjoying "the forgotten corner" as well. Always romantic.Thank you:D

  4. As a girl, there's nothing more amazing to me than a dress that has pockets. Always a nice surprise! I mean, we like to carry small things around too and not always in a large, cumbersome purse or bag.

    And I agree, there's nothing worse than pockets only there for show, not use. Defeats the entire purpose.