The Real Reason Suit Pockets Are Sewn Shut

We finally unravel the mystery behind the stitches.

When it comes to fashion, there are few design elements more baffling than reaching into the pockets… only to find the pockets sewn shut. While this phenomenon occurs across all types of garments, you’ll discover that most new suits come with their pockets like this. As a result, it can be hard to know if the pockets are real or faux—so, you’re probably thinking, “What’s the point?”

Though it may seem strange, there’s actually a reason why suit pockets are sewn shut. But it’s up to you to decide if the answer is suit-able.

Were suit pockets always sewn shut?

In the 19th-century, suits were traditionally designed with a layer of horsehair canvas stitched to the inner wool fabric to help hold the shape of the suit. With proper care, these handmade custom suits could last for up to 30 years. It wasn’t long until suit manufacturers shifted to producing fused jackets held together with glue, which were cheaper to mass-produce and kept customers coming in for a brand-new suit since it wore out more quickly.

“Ready-made suits had to look like suits, but the makers didn’t want people to put things into the lower pockets,” says Rojer Baron, a tailor at Toronto-based Lee Baron Bespoke Custom Tailors. “If a customer put too much into the pockets, the whole jacket would lose its shape.” Heavy pockets meant that the fabric was more likely to stretch and wear out over time.

“The [suit manufacturers] discouraged the use of the jacket pockets, which is why they were only for show and not to be used,” says Baron. By sewing them shut, the original shape of the jacket could be preserved while keeping its aesthetic appeal.

Should you keep pockets sewn shut?

Although you may find contemporary suit pockets sewn shut, they can also be cut open. The sad truth is that not all of the pockets are functional. Some are purely for design purposes and if you remove the stitching, you might end up with a gaping hole in your jacket. An easy way to spot a real pocket is to look for a tacking stitch, which is usually a single, loose thread used to create a temporary seam.

If you hit the jackpot and find a real pocket, all you need is a seam ripper to open it up. As you gently tug along the thread line, the seam should easily unravel. But more pocket space comes at a cost. To maintain the shape of your suit, Baron recommends to only carry small, lightweight items and avoid overloading your pockets.

Whether you choose to open your suit pockets or keep them sewn shut, you now know the tips and tricks to do what suits you best.

Next, find out why maple syrup bottles have those tiny handles.