I was ascending one of London Underground’s escalators the other day when a chap passed me on the left. He looked smart enough in a well tailored grey suit, until I noticed what seemed an enormous and desperately unsightly growth emanating from his posterior.
I hasten to add I don’t normally spend my time looking at the rear ends of men on escalators, but this one was noticeable because said growth was so prominent. The chap suffered from a common and rarely acknowledged male affliction – that of shoving an overstuffed wallet into the back pocket of his suit trousers.
This deeply regrettable and extremely common habit destroys the line of a pair of trousers and silhouette of a well cut suit like nothing else. But joking aside, one of the first things I requested when having my first suit made was the removal of back pockets from the trousers, and it’s not a decision I regret.
I’ll confess I was slightly nervous about doing so. While I am yet to find a purpose for these pockets, it’s taken for granted that they’ll just be there, as natural and normal a part of trousers as a fly. But I’ve quickly become accustomed to the clean lines of an uncluttered trouser seat.
And herein lay the absurdity of the back pocket. It’s something that appears on all trousers and yet no one seems to question why. The moment you use it you destroy the line and silhouette of the garment, not to mention the fact that sitting on a wallet seems desperately uncomfortable. Factor in that it limits by how much you can take in and let out your waist and seat and they seem even more impractical.
In menswear many details are simply things we’ve inherited from our ancestors. Cuff buttons on suit jackets, for example, descend from the original cuffs on coats. This allowed riders to unfold the cuffs of their jackets when riding at night, or in bad weather, providing added insulation for their hands. Yet I can find nothing to explain the existence of the back pocket.
And so, if you’ll pardon the pun, I’m pleased to put back pockets behind me.