Why Some Pockets on Your Jackets Are Sewn Shut (and How to Tell If You Should Cut Them Open)

When to snip, and when to put your scissors away.
When to snip, and when to put your scissors away. / Aleksandr Grigorev/EyeEm/Getty Images

Decorative pockets that don’t actually open are among the apparel industry‘s most frustrating practices. Sometimes, though, they turn out to be “real” pockets that have simply been sewn shut.

In other words, some pockets can be liberated with the help of a seam ripper, while others would only put a hole in your clothing if you tried to remove the thread. To help you tell the difference and prevent any damage to your clothing, Business Insider created a video using suit jackets and dress slacks as an example.

As Business Insider explains, suit jacket manufacturers sometimes sew the pockets shut to keep them looking fresh and tailored. When customers try on a jacket and put their hands inside the pockets, it can stretch out the fabric and make it look rumpled. And no one wants to buy a frumpy-looking suit.

To figure out what you’re working with, take a look at the stitching along the edge where the pocket would open up. If it’s held in place with a single, loose thread, snip a piece of it and pull gently. On real pockets, that thread will come out easily. If the stitching is more resistant, you probably have a faux pocket on your hands—and in that case, you should just leave it be.

A few other stitches on suit jackets and coats aren’t needed, and you may want to remove them depending on your personal tastes. Dotted lines of stitching along the shoulders once served a specific tailoring function, but nowadays, they merely distract from the suit. You‘ll also sometimes see brand labels stitched onto a cuff or stitches in the shape of an x on the back of a blazer. Those can—and should—be removed, according to GQ.

Whether or not to cut a pocket isn’t the only confusing fashion question. If you’ve ever wondered what the purpose is of that tiny pocket on your jeans, or what the loop on the back of your button-up shirt is for, or why the pockets on men’s clothing are deeper than women’s, or why some items of clothing have fake pockets to begin with, don’t worry—we’ve got you covered.

A version of this article originally ran in 2018; it has been updated for 2023.