Back Pockets


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.


  1. elvum said:

    I find them quite handy for train tickets, which don’t spoil the line, and for which a dedicated pocket is convenient.

    September 2, 2011
  2. John said:

    Back pockets are a nice place for holding handkerchiefs and combs, neither of which create a bulge like a wallet. The problem is that wallets, in their current incarnation, are not convenient to any pocket whatsoever.

    September 2, 2011
  3. gary said:

    you saw someone smart in London, really?

    September 2, 2011
  4. Miami Mike said:

    Thick wallet stuffed in (now lumpy) back pocket – awful! This is a truck driver/biker/bubba style statement. All it needs now is a big chrome chain to secure it. This spoils the lines of ANY garment, dungarees to Saville Row. Problem is that wallet designers mostly understand cheap tri-fold wallets from 1950, and we have a LOT of plastic to carry nowadays. Best solution I’ve found so far is the breast secretary wallet carried in the FRONT pocket.

    September 2, 2011
  5. Roy R. Platt said:

    If one does not have back pockets on one’s trousers, does one then carry one’s functional handkerchief stuffed up the sleeve of one’s jacket? To many, that might seem to be a bit old fashioned as well as creating it’s own unique set of problems.

    September 2, 2011
  6. Matt said:

    As waistcoats are no longer popular, men have put those 4 pockets elsewhere. One on the shirt and two on the rear of the trousers. Those are two places pockets do not belong. The only thing I could imagine I’d ever stick in a rear pocket would be a mini pillow on an uncomfortable seat. It sure would look ugly, but it’s the only thing one could stick in the pocket without causing discomfort. Wallets are just uncomfortable and papers would just be crumpled. I sometimes see people put a pack of cigarettes in their rear pocket, but wouldn’t it get crushed?

    September 3, 2011
  7. JMH said:

    I have back pockets in all my suits – and I continue to do so. An alternative would be a double lining on the pocket area, which isn’t a bad idea at all.

    Needless to say, I never put anything in my back pockets. They’re there to give some protection – as the pocket material slides on itself as we shift our position while sitting down, the posterior wear reduces significantly.

    So, yes, pockets. But nothing ever goes to them.

    September 3, 2011

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