Menswear History: Jacket Functions
Menswear is steeped in tradition, a fact not lost on its fans and aficionados. Great design has a way of withstanding the test of time, finding its way into the consciousness of new generations of practitioners.
An important element of design, one that we sometimes forget, is that what separates great design from the pack is its utility.
Menswear pieces should be aesthetically pleasing, to be sure, but much of their value and appeal stems from how functional they can be in any given situation. The forefathers of menswear design managed to strike that delicate balance between the ideal visual and the most practical. For that reason, many classic designs, some even centuries old, still resonate today.
The ticket pocket was created as a means for countryside men to keep their train tickets. Similarly, “hacking pockets,” otherwise known as slanted pockets, are the result of the countryside desire for easier access while leisurely riding horseback. Most pockets, in fact, have similar origin stories, and while we may take them for granted now, meant a great deal towards the quality of life for men of yesteryear.
Sticking with the horseback riding theme, riding vents (also known as “double vents” or “side vents”) serve a utilitarian purpose past its elegant look. This feature made dismounting a horse while wearing a classic suit jacket an easier process. Even today, with most of us having never ridden horseback, these vents remain popular as they allow a freer range of motion.
“Surgeon’s Cuffs” harken back to a time when even a surgeon was committed to looking as professional as possible. The functional sleeve buttonholes were designed to ensure that a surgeon could perform surgery without having to compromise his sartorial sense. Instead of removing their finely tailored jackets, surgeons could unfasten the buttons, roll them up to their elbows and handle whatever crisis or medial calamity was at hand.
Lapel Buttonhole Closure
While many attribute the buttonhole on the left lapel as a means of holding a boutonniere, evidence suggests that it was truly meant to fasten the front panels while providing extra protection from harsh elements, if need be.