To wear something well, you must first know why people wear it.
The Origins of the Pocket Square
In the 19th century, starting with Beau Brummell – the grandfather of the modern business suit – having lots of immaculately white clothing became fashionable among men. The concept of regular bathing began to take off, especially in England and the US, and Cologne started exporting its famous fragrances to splash on ones body after bathing – 4711 or something like it was a favorite of Napoleon. Kings now ate with forks and knives instead of their fingers, and rosewater finger bowls declined in favor of napkins. With this new respect for hygiene, the pure white linen handkerchief became the mark of a civilized man.
Of course, the concept of a regularly laundered rotation of handkerchiefs has gone out of favor now that we have affordable tissue paper. But even though we no longer need to prove that our handkerchiefs – or pocket squares – are freshly washed, pure white linen remains the most classic look.
Pocket squares are sometimes called pochette squares by people that nobody likes.
Why You Should Wear a Pocket Square
Simply because not many men do. It doesn’t have to be in bold color to make an impression on people: a plain white linen pocket square tells people that you do more than the bare minimum, tells them that you have something extra (without being flashy,) and it subconsciously reminds them of the ideal of the clean, elegant, Victorian gentleman. Colored and patterned pocket squares, meanwhile, begin to take things in a playboy direction.
Why You Should Never Match Your Pocket Square to Your Tie
There are two reasons. The first and most important reason is that pocket squares were originally handkerchiefs, which would have been made of a completely different fabric than the tie. Some instinctive part of us still sees matching your pocket square to your tie as being just as tacky as matching your table napkins to your tie.
Second, it usually means that you bought a set, which apart from being stingy, implies that you rarely wear either ties or pocket squares, and just bought the set to get it out of the way. Far from looking reluctant, you want to look right at home.
How Do I Avoid Matching?
It’s pretty simple. If your tie is solid colored, your pocket square should either be white or have a pattern. If your tie has a pattern, your pocket square should either have a very different pattern, be in a solid color, or be white. Starting to see why I like white linen pocket squares so much?
A no-pattern navy tie and a no-pattern medium blue pocket square technically don’t match, but it’s better to leave advanced moves like these to professional dandies.
How to Fold a Pocket Square
I don’t do origami folds, and neither should you. A pocket square is an inherently loose article of clothing, and should take less than thirty seconds to fold. In any case, having some carefully constructed chrysanthemum or suchlike in your pocket means you aren’t ready to whip it out to console a weeping woman. And then what kind of gentleman would you be?
Here are three quick, easy, and above all carefree folds that are suitable for gentlemen of leisure.
The Presidential Fold
The most professional looking fold, popularized in the 21st century by Don Draper. Also known as the TV fold. If you’re in businesslike setting, this sets the right tone. No frills on the straight and narrow path, this fold is very straightforward: fold it across to the width of your breast pocket, then fold it up depending on how deeply you want it to sit in the pocket.
Lay the square flat, pick it up by pinching the center with one hand, and smooth it down with the other. Once it is smoothed down, bend the bottom part of it in half, and stuff it into your breast pocket with the round side up. This is a relaxed and sophisticated look, the middle ground between work and play.
Lay the square flat, pick it up by pinching the center with one hand, and smooth it down with the other. Once it is smoothed down, bend the top part of it in half, turn it upside down, and stuff it into your breast pocket with the corners of the pocket square flaring loosely. Optionally, give it a twist to make it look messier. This is the most devil-may-care way to fold a pocket square, so naturally, it’s my personal favorite.
How To Choose a Pocket Square
Always go either for 100% silk or 100% linen. It takes some experience to get an eye for patterns, so I recommend that you start with simple patterns based on neutral colors, like white pindots on navy.
Pocket square tip – go for hand-rolled edges to add a subtle touch of quality