Jetted pockets: Signs of a good finishing

Share
||- Begin Content -||

A reader recently asked about what constituted the ‘finishing’ of a suit - and what indicates quality. 

I initially planned a response going through every aspect of this, with examples, but that quickly became unwieldy. There are just too many to go into. 

So instead, I thought I’d focus on one less-obvious aspect, and perhaps we can go into other elements later. 

In this article, we won’t look at obvious points like the fineness of buttonholes, or lines of pick stitching, all of which consumers can see and assess easily. 

Instead, we’ll look at the humble skill of pockets.

The first thing to say is that most tailors don’t consider this ‘finishing’, because it is work done by the coatmaker, rather than a specialised finisher. 

But it’s just as much a part of the finesse of a suit, and is in fact something a tailor will often look at in someone else’s jacket, when sizing it up. Particularly if they’re a trained coatmaker as well. 

It’s a decent indicator of how well the jacket has been put together: of the dexterity and skill of the maker. 

The trickiest thing about putting in a flapped pocket is the jetts: those strips of fabric that run above and below the opening. 

They need to be straight, the same width throughout, and finish neatly and precisely. 

Above is an example of a tidy piece of work - from Ferdinando Caraceni in Milan. The jett is straight, and finished with small D rings at either end. The pick stitching on the edge of the flap is nice too.

There is a tiny bit of puckering below the jett, suggesting that the flap is a little bit bigger than the opening it had to go into. And the left-hand end dips very slightly. But those are small points - ones you’d never notice unless they were pointed out. 

(Indeed, there might be a decent definition of the ‘character’ created by handmade tailoring here. Such character should come from little quirks that you rarely notice until they’re pointed out. As opposed to sloppy work, obvious to all, which some tailors try to cover up by describing as part of the appeal of 'fatto a mano'.)

Importantly, the edge of the Caraceni pocket flap also lines up perfectly with the end of the jett (top image above). They make one continuous line. 

This makes it more likely that when the flap is tucked inside the pocket (second image), the flap is completely hidden. It looks just like a jetted pocket. 

Note also how similar the two jetts are. 

The Caraceni can be improved, however. 

If you look at tailoring by the French houses, by the likes of Michael Browne and Chittleborough & Morgan in London, or by Liverano & Liverano in Florence, you will see a higher level. 

Above is the pocket from my purple wool jacket by Liverano. The first thing to notice is that the jett is thinner. Perhaps no more than a half millimetre, but it makes a difference. 

Thinner isn’t necessarily better. It's subjective, and a question of style to a certain extent. My Vestrucci has even thinner jetts, and they might be too thin.

But as with a Milanese buttonhole, whether you like the look or not, you can’t argue with the work. It is an obvious sign of effort and skill. 

The Liverano is also beautifully precise. The ends of the jetts are perfect, as is the pocket flap (with edge stitching so small you can barely see it). 

This is the kind of thing that can prompt a tailor to say a piece is well made - rather than super-slim buttonholes or embroidery. Liverano is a good example of that kind of jacket.

Above is another beautiful piece, from Chittleborough & Morgan. 

The thin, squared jetts and precise pocket flaps are from my navy three-piece suit. The way the flap slips inside the pocket is particularly satisfying. 

Of course, cloth and age make a big difference to these pockets as well. A soft tweed is never going to tailor as precisely as a worsted twill; and all pockets will sag and open over the years, if they are used. 

But the suits here are not that different in age or use, and we can make allowances for material. 

The next example is actually in a similar cloth to the Chittleborough. It is a green covert, from the double-breasted suit made for me by Vergallo

It's not a bad piece of work, but you can see that the welt is wider than any of the others, and there is more puckering underneath the jett. 

Vergallo is a more regional tailor, and less than half the price of most other tailors here, with suits starting at €2500. It is arguably better than value than all of them. 

But it is in little points like this that a cheaper piece is often shown. It may be that the work is done faster, that the tailor is not as skilled, or the number of processes is cut down. Whatever the reason, it’s one way to cut costs, and in a way no customer would ever notice. 

The high-end tailors - on the other hand - might take the attitude that they’ll do the best they can, with the best people, and put no pressure on them. Then it will cost what it costs.  

My last example is interesting in a different way. 

Above is the pocket of my Anderson & Sheppard checked jacket. It's actually a better piece of work than the photo suggests. But what’s interesting is they’ve matched the material of the jett and flap. The checks almost run uninterrupted all the way down.

Most tailors don’t do this. It’s much more fiddly to do, and it’s easier to take a vertical strip of fabric for the jett, and turn it 90 degrees, than it is to use a horizontal strip. 

In the images from other tailors, you can see how the weave runs in a different direction on the jett to the body of the suit, or on the flap. If that were a stripe, the jett would be a dark line running across and interrupting it. 

In fact, on the A&S you can see that the coatmaker has ended the dart just above the jett (indicated with an arrow). 

This is unusual, as normally the dart would run right down into the pocket. By ending it here, the material is not distorted by the dart when it has to match the jett, making the matching possible.

Now arguably this makes only a small difference, given the dart and the seam further round distort the check anyway. (And arguably, the dart would have been better if it took cloth from between the checks, rather than on them.) 

But it does look nice from a distance, and takes a decent amount of skill and effort to do. Just like any nice, neat jett. 

So there you go - something else to pore over. 

In closing, I’ll just say that I think the character of handwork is worth coming back to at some point.

It’s not something we’ve covered much, and the coatmaker I spoke to (I always interview people - I’m not just making this stuff up) commented that they sometimes prefer machine-made pockets. 

Machine work can often look nicer. It will always be straight, and always the same. Ralph Lauren Purple Label suits in particular, used to have squared pocket flaps that most tailors would struggle to replicate. 

But the one thing they lack is character, and individuality. Those tiny quirks and angles in the Caraceni seams, the top stitching, the corners of the pocket flaps. They all betray that hand sewing. 

It’s a different argument for bespoke tailoring: not fit, not shape, but an aesthetic that bespoke has in common with many other handicrafts. 

A topic for another day. 

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
46 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Winston

Hi Simon,

thanks a lot for the interesting article (as always!).

As you mention the Ralph Lauren Purple Label pockets: I don’t know whether you are referring to the English made suits, but if you do, it’s most probably Chester Barrie who made them. And it doesn’t get any better than this (vintage, that is. not the modern stuff). A bespoke tailor who did some minor repairs on one of my coats was really impressed by the neat finishing. In fact, at first glance he thought some seams were sewn by machine rather than by hand. And the pockets hold up really well. I actually use them to put stuff in there and while they do sag they certainly don’t look sloppy even on much worn older garments. Which probably is another way to judge quality: All cloth shows some wear, but on some suits keep their shape apart from the occasional loose threads, frayed edges or shiny elbows.

Winston

Hi Simon,
yep, I assume it’s Cheshire Bespoke. Not sure, though, as they went through so many hands, changed names …
Interesting to learn that tailors look at the pockets rather than the buttons holes when judging a garment. But it makes sense given that a neat pocket is not only about attention to detail but also about “usability” and durability.
By the way: Chester Barrie – or Cheshire Bespoke – used to cheat a little bit to achieve a cleaner look by doing only one jet below the flap.

James

Hi Simon,

That’s completely fascinating, and I doubt I will ever look at a jacket pocket in quite the same way again. Your highly technical posts are always personal favourites and when reading them I’m often reminded of a comment made by Patrick Grant (in his Handcut radio interview), “I like to know something is being done right before I buy it – and that’s a very male thing”.

One request if I may? It would be interesting to see a picture of the A&S pocket with the flap tucked in to see how/if that affects the pattern matching? Did they also match the pattern on the “bottom jet” (apologies if that’s the incorrect term).

On a more general note, thanks for three distractions from lockdown per week; the brief respites really have been appreciated.

Luciano

Hi Simon, great article. You point out that in the pictures shown the weave of the jet runs opposite to the body and the flaps. Is this wanted or by chance ? I personally find it disturbing
like a mismatch in the checks or lines, but maybe it’s just my own obsession for simmetry.

Anonymous

I can see the appeal of minor imperfections as giving the garment a more artisanal flavor.
But following this logic wouldn’t the less perfect examples (Caraceni, Vergallo) be preferable – at least with regard to finishing – over the pristine works of the ‘better’ tailors would approach a machine-made quality?

Matt H

I would definitely like to see more of this sort of thing. Button holes, lining attachment, etc. would all make interesting subjects.

When it comes to the lining, I’m still not sure whether I’m seeing hand stitching or not. Sometimes it’s obvious (like on your JMM Orazio Luciano) but it’s so neat on, say, Attolini or RTW Orazio Luciano that I feel it must be done by machine.

I’ve not seen pattern matching in pocket jetting before. The mis-matching normally seen is something that bugs me, actually, but then I have absolutely no idea of what goes into making them.

Wayward

@Matt H It isn’t always possible to match the jetts on a coat. If the coat is cut with a side body, i. e. a panel under the arm, the idea is to access the pocket line. The cutter will cut through it and either take out a wedge or ‘belly’ cut and/or make the front dart a ‘chest’ cut, which is sewn through the pocket line. This will make the checks miss-match. On certain figures this will achieve a better fit.

Also, jetts should be cut on the warp (vertical) of the cloth, so if the check is different vertically to how it is horizontally it won’t match. It is inadvisable to cut the jetts on the weft (horizontal) because the cloth has more give in that direction and will likely result in the pocket distorting when it is worn, or even as it is being made.
I can’t see exactly but I expect the check on the AS coat above is the same vertically as it is horizontally, in which case it is elementary to match the checks. I hope this helps!

Wayward

Essentially yes. In my opinion a dart that comes to a point top and bottom (a fish cut in tailor’s parlance) should only be used on a quite specific, hip forward figure. Matching the jetts comes secondary to fit, again, in my opinion. It’s nice if you can do it of course but less important in my view. The fish cut is quite a rudimentary device for suppressing the waist on the forepart and comes from a time when fabrics were uniformly heavy. On today’s lightweight fabrics it makes it more difficult to canvas the forepart and more difficult to put the pocket in. The way the one above is machined with the dart finishing just above the pocket is absolutely correct but it should be like that on all coats with that type of dart, checked or not. Machining the jett over the end of the dart only results in a thickness which makes it near impossible to press the top jett open without distortion of the jett. On the majority of figures a side body is the answer. It’s possible to achieve a better, cleaner fit under the arm, through the hip and the top of the side seam and it’s easier to canvas and put the pockets in. Personally, I wouldn’t want to compromise all that just to match the jetts. All of this is highly subjective of course and don’t even go there with what is tasteful with check placement generally. Edward Sexton for instance will turn the air blue with his opinions on that! 😀

Ben

Nice breakdown. Would like to see an extension of this series.

Penn

I was rapt by this article and would love more of the same: though I now have no bespoke garments and, in my eighties, almost surely won’t have again, I dashed (so to speak) into my closet to examine all my jackets’ jets, and got nearly as much delight from the craft of one—a glen plaid Kiton (eBay)—as I got from first receiving it. Can’t claim that when I woke this morning I could’ve predicted pocket jets would provide me an aesthetic awakening, though of course Permanent Style does do that, often in tiny increments, now and again.

Adam

Thanks Simon, I really enjoyed this.

Stephen Dolman

Hi Simon,
You mentioned RL Purple label. I have never owned any purple label, but seen them in the stores. However, I do own a Tom Ford rtw which I believe are made by Ermenegildo Zegna and, imho the finish is very good. Perhaps not up to the very best of my finest bespoke, but very acceptable.
How would you compare TF to RLPL?
I always look forward to Mon, Wed & Fri mornings.
Regards
Stephen

,

Winston

Hi Stephen,
as always, it depends … I own garments made by Zegna, Caruso and St. Andrews for RLPL and Dunhill. It’s solid RTW, very clean, some handmade details. All three of them offer different levels of quality, depending on what a client orders (and ultimately on price). E.g. my RLPL trousers are nothing special – comparable to Canali or Rota perhaps (and in the same price range).
As Simon already pointed out: you’ll have to look at each individual garment and then separately at all the details that matter to you. Handmade buttonholes are something like the icing on the cake, so you’ll mostly find them on well made, fully canvassed garments. But occasionally, you may come across something that’s just icing and no cake (highly unlikely with Zegna, Caruso or St. Andrews, though).

LAStyleGuy

Great piece. I’m a big fan of Anderson & Sheppard. As far as I know, they are the only Savile Row tailor that matches the pattern of a cloth on the jetting on jacket pockets. As you’ve noted, it’s a very tedious and exacting process that requires more time and talent, but it’s such a nice detail. It also makes their garments easy to spot (in a very understated A&S way of course).

Hugh

Whitcomb & Shaftesbury will. Not sure if by default, but their Instagram account highlighted this very thing a few days ago

Brax

I’m sure that you’re correct that the width of the jet is more wide on some jackets versus others. I just doubt that the difference is .5mm. That is way too small to run within the tolerance of a tailor cutting by hand. In other words, you can ask a tailor to cut a strip 1cm wide and he could come darn close. Now ask him to cut another strip 1.05cm wide and he’ll tell you that it is impossible. You’d be asking him to cut something with a pair of scissors that is the equivalent width of about three hairs.

Scott

Some more excellent information at a very educational level. Your last three articles have been particularly outstanding. Analysis of tailoring and tailors, outfit selection, and educating on the finer points are what you do best.

Kirk Davis

Another reason a coatmaker cuts the pocket jets on the straight grain/vertical grain instead of the cross grain is for the extra strength that it gives to the pocket. The cross grain is almost always weaker and has some stretch to it when compared to the straight grain, so matching the pattern or direction of weave makes for a weaker pocket and more prone to distortion and sagging even with a good internal pocket stay. As I made your C&M coat it is a pleasure to see that it is still in great condition and that the pockets are holding up.

Dachshund

Thanks for a very technical yet easily accessible article – really interesting. One point of order – would anyone actually tuck the flaps into the pockets? This just reminds me of cheap OTR suits from the late 90s with no pocket flaps – they always looked unfinished to me. And presumably it creates just a little bulk and gaping? Anyway, maybe just personal reference but I can’t see why anyone would do it.

Anonymous

POW normally tucks his flaps in. Personal taste really.

Ian Fisher

I really enjoy these technical posts. If I may be allowed to pick up on the point made by Brax, the width of a jet isn’t directly related to the tailor’s ability to cut to a 0.5mm tolerance. The jets usually start out as two pieces of cloth, each about 1″ to 1.5″ wide which are sewn to the outside front of the garment and then turned inside through the pocket opening. The width of each jet is therefore usually half the distance between the two seams (the fifth picture with the flap tucked in is a good illustration of this). A decrease of 1mm between the seams would produce a reduction in each jet’s width of 0.5mm.

Stephen

Hi Simon. I really never knew so much went into the construction. Very informative. Also interesting the number of comments for such a technical post. The quest for knowledge goes on! Seriously I really look forward to your posts.

Harriet

I really enjoyed this piece and the photo discussion of pocket details. Almost fifty years ago, I spent a year at the Tailor and Cutter Academy, which was established by Huntsman’s. We spent the first month making nothing but pockets. We covered all your examples and more including tough fabrics, matching checks etc. To this day I find that a quick look at the pockets can tell you a great deal about the quality of the whole garment.

Stanley

Hi Simon

Regarding on the finishing detail, beside the patten matching , will you measure the distance between each stitch, and also check if they are stitch nicely

For myself, i will do this, but i also think it might be too much

Tim Fleming

I’ll put in another vote for more of these types of posts with detailed photos and descriptions of the difference in make/quality/finish. It’s all terrific learning and very informative. Great work Simon!

Nobody

Those pockets could look a lot nicer if the coats were put on a ham and a damp rag put on top and then a hot heavy iron. Make for sure the jets are straight.
Jets cut on the straight or add a piece of linen.
Hand sewn can be sewn really nice.

Stanley

HI SImon

Recently i have order a summer jacket with pattern cloth. the tailor suggested to let the jacket’s dart end till to the bottom, thus. to let the pattern all the way match.

is it a correct approach? or this is not necessary to make pattern match ?

Robert

Hey Simon-

Technical pieces such as this really help the lay person understand the handiwork that goes into a bespoke garment. And certainly helps justify what some consider a premium price. I had no idea. You can guess what I will be doing for the next hour or two armed with this new knowledge. If there’s a pucker or a misaligned pattern around a flap pocket in my closet I will be on the phone in the morning. My tailor is going to curse the day I found PS. Too funny. When is the next installment?

Robert

I had not, but I have now. These technical pieces are a nice polite push back against the occasional snarky posts suggesting altering an ebay RTW suit is a better value. It’s not. Thanks