by Nick Foulkes
The patch pocket is something that I came to relatively late in life. Until I was about forty years old (on December 2nd this year I was 45), I only wore jackets (or coats if you prefer) with jetted pockets and flaps. There were two exceptions: a ‘buggy-backed’ heavy weight brushed cotton drill jacket with three patch pockets and a shooting jacket in mustard tweed with generous bellows pockets and pointed button flaps, both created for me by the peerless Terry Haste, one of the true, and few, greats of modern tailoring.
I can’t really ascribe my prejudice against patch pockets to anything in particular – I suppose I just happened to like the slightly racy yet formal edge imparted by a slant pocket with an angled flap. Executed in a single button style I find that there is little to beat it for elegance and cleanness of line.
However that was before I met Mariano Rubinacci. Mariano is the eponymous proprietor of the prototypical Neapolitan tailor and the head of one of Europe’s most notable dynasties of elegance. His father started the shop as little more than a diversion from the serious business of collecting porcelain and generally cultivating his aesthetic sensibilities and it is Mariano that I have to thank for turning me on to the potential of the patch pocket.
As a Neapolitan gentleman of the old school, a time when Naples was a royal city with a social and cultural life to rival that of say Paris, what Mariano understands is the concept of relaxed elegance. His clothes are meant to be put on and forgotten; he is for example a great advocate of unlined garments with minimal padding at the shoulder; and the patch pocket is part of that vision. It has an ergonomic, almost organic quality to it; curving rather than rectilinear, it also enables the tailors to indulge in a display of decorative stitching, should they so wish, with one or two lines of top stitching to secure the pocket against the front of the jacket.
The result is oddly liberating, whereas before I used to fret about putting something in the pocket and thus disturbing the line of the garment, I now find that I don’t mind loading my pockets… in fact I find that charging one’s pockets and then emptying them and having the garment pressed, impart a new feeling of comfort, a worn-in quality that makes a garment truly one’s own rather the property of the man who made it.
And now I feel I ready to embark upon the next stage in patch pocket odyssey: the slanted patch pocket. I recently spotted Mariano’s son the super stylish Luca wearing a gorgeous rose coloured dogtooth check with a green window pane over check with slanted patch pockets with inverted pleats …and I now know the meaning of pocket envy.
Nick Foulkes is a journalist and prolific author whose works include Dunhill By Design, Last of the Dandies, and Dancing into Battle. He is married with two sons and lives in Shepherd's Bush, London.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
by Nick Foulkes