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You Know the Kangaroo Pocket, But What About Patch Pockets?

Patch pockets might be less flattering, but they're more practical, in my opinion. And they have more history.

a patch pocket hoodie handing next to shelves of folded jeans
Mello & Sons

Everyone knows that classic element of the pullover hoodie: the kangaroo pocket. Stretching the width the torso and bookended by vertical openings, they're convenient as a place to warm your hands, and maybe a pocket of last resort, if you're not especially worried about your valuables falling out — which they will.

But there is another option.

When I bring a hoodie into my rotation, I opt for patch pockets, two vertical pouches on either side like a chore coat, offering places to keep my AirPods, glasses (and glasses case), wallet, keys, and more. While kangaroos may be the modern-day default, patch pockets are the original, dating back to the 19th century while the pouch only appeared in the 1930s.

The patch pockets are angled for easier access.

Those that love patch pockets, a 19th century invention, do so proudly — like the designers behind Levi's Vintage Clothing, the denim brand's premium, retro-inspired sub-label. Its recent 1950's Hoodie, a dark brown design with two vertical patch pockets, references a style popular during that era, when the consensus between kangaroo and patch pockets was a little more split.

The release caught the attention of Neal Mello, owner of esteemed vintage shop Mello & Sons. He stocks a lot of LVC (as they call it), but the hoodie reminded him not of older Levi's stuff, but of hoodies from other brands, albeit ones he can't recall. He got his hands on a few units, just before they sold out from Levi's wholesale catalog.

"I love this sweatshirt," he says. "[But] Levi’s was not the first. I’ve had a few in the store, from the '40s, but they were zip-ups with a flat ribbed collar. As far as hoodies go, they might have been, the only others I’ve seen with a hood did not have a label or tag, so it was a little more difficult to put a specific year. They might have been..." he ponders.

man wearing a kangaroo pocket hoodie
Richer Poorer

While patch pockets undoubtedly offer more utility, there are reasons the kangaroo pouch came to reign supreme. They're easier to access, and they're also less noticeable once empty. On a hoodie like Richer Poorer's, for example, for those unfamiliar, the wide-set kangaroo pocket sits almost flush with your stomach and its openings are much closer to the outside seams. That makes it almost invisible when empty, thus giving you a slimmer silhouette.

Perhaps most importantly of all, their single-piece construction almost certainly translates to a lower cost of production, though big brands are universally tight-lipped about such crass considerations.

Ultimately, patch pockets may have fallen out of favor in part for being a poor fit with the sweatshirt's athletic connotations. Historically, patch pockets were reserved for outerwear and sport coats, not sweatshirts. Nowadays, though, their return is a breath of fresh air, and capable of doing something that seems almost impossible — making the hoodie feel... new.

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