Side Vents vs. Center Vent
What are vents?
Vents are slits cut into the rear of a suit jacket or sportcoat (some formal jackets, like tuxedos, do not have vents at all). Originally intended for equestrians, they allowed the fabric at the bottom of the jacket to spread over the horse rather than bunching up. While most of us aren’t getting to work on horseback these days, vents still have a role to play for comfort, convenience, and style.
Types of vents
The most common vent you’ll see today is the side vent. In this setup, vents are cut at each side of the jacket’s rear so that a “flap” will always hang straight over your seat, rather than exposing it with movement. This allows side vents to present a smoother, and more formal look. Side vents also make it easier to access your pockets, and allow the fabric at the bottom of your jacket to more easily spread when you sit down, preventing creases.
A center vent is the more old-school precursor to the side vent. As the name implies, there’s only one vent, cut into the middle of the jacket’s rear. Certain movements, such as placing your hands in the pockets of your jacket or pants, will cause the center vent to spread out and expose your seat, making it less formal. The more casual nature of a center vent, and its associations with classic American style, can make it a great choice for tweedy suits and sportcoats.