Some call it a handkerchief, some a hankie, some a pockerchief. I like to name it the pocket square which is, I understand, to the the correct terminology. But regardless of it’s name it is an important part of a gentleman’s wardrobe and one that is overlooked by many.
The pocket square has been used throughout history. Heavily embroidered silk pocket squares were sported by French noblemen in the 14th Century where they would scent them with perfume to mask the stench of the working classes as they travelled through town. This could be a useful tip when travelling by tube in the summer months.
When it comes to wearing a pocket square there really is only one rule, but it is an enormously important rule…
Your pocket square should not exactly match your tie.
Having a matching pocket square and tie is a major faux pas in pocket square wearing etiquette and will only lead others to believe that the pocket square – tie combo was bought for you by an aged aunt of yours at a local garden centre gift shop. This is not the impression that you are looking for I am sure. The pocket square is an elegant finishing touch and goes equally as well with a sports jacket or blazer and open shirt as it does with a suit and tie.
Your pocket square, if worn with a tie can either complement your tie or your shirt. It could perhaps pick out a colour from your tie – for example if you had a blue tie with yellow spots you may choose a blue or a yellow pocket square or perhaps it may have a pattern with both blue and yellow, it might even introduce additional colours. You might choose to complement your shirt instead of your tie and choose a white pocket square to complement your white shirt with any colour tie.
Wearing a pocket square without a tie is even easier. You could choose to complement your shirt, or you may choose for a contrast. You might pick out a colour in the weave of your tweed jacket, or may even choose to match your socks. There really are no pocket square commandments set in stone other than your pocket square must not match your tie. Have a little fun and wear the pocket square with confidence and you will wear it rather than it wearing you.
A little about pocket square care – Pocket squares are best dry cleaned if they are silk or wool. You could hand wash them gently but never wring them dry, instead laying them flat to dry of they will lose their shape. The edges of a pocket square should be hand rolled and hand stitched rather than machine sewn and this gives the edges form. Be careful when ironing your pocket square not to iron over the rolled edges or they can flatten.
There are a number of ways to wear a pocket square but we will just take a look at what I believe to be the two most versatile ways.
The Square Fold
The square fold works best with cotton or linen pocket squares rather than silk or wool ones as the fabric has more structure and so keeps the shape better. It is a great fold for business situations where a more conservative style is suited. It works very well in black tie situations also.
Simply follow the below fold pattern:
1. Lay the pocket square flat on a table
2. Fold the lower third of the pocket square up towards the middle
3. Fold again making a strip
4-6. Fold the strip from the right hand edge three or four times making sure that the width of the final folded pocket square is the correct width for your breast pocket. The pocket square is now ready for neatly tucking into the pocket as a sign to the world that you are a man of style.
The puff is best suited to silk or woollen pocket squares. It can be conservative, or it can be flamboyant depending on the exact pocket square and exactly how much you choose to expose. In my opinion it is the easiest fold for a pocket square.
The puff is very easily achieved by laying your pocket square on a flat surface and pinch the middle with your fingers and lift the pocket square up leaving the corners to dangle down. This creates the shape that a bed sheet would form if thrown over the head of a child pretending to be a ghost (this is a well known description in the world of pocket squares). The pocket square should then be tucked in to the breast pocket, corners first, just allowing the pinched middle to stick out. Make sure that the puff is neat and balanced with a quick adjustment and you are good to go.
There is a variation on the puff, and it is my personal preferred folding method. I think that it gives a fuller and more luxurious look. Pocket squares often have a contrasting edge and the following variation allows the contracting edge detail to be seen.
To create this fold you start in exactly the same way as the conventional puff fold but when you get to the point where the corners all are dangling down you fold the corners up behind what will be the exposed puff and place the pocket square, with this fold line down most, into the breast pocket allowing the corners to be seen behind the main puff. Again, a quick adjustment to make sure that everything is in order and you are ready to proudly wear your pocket square.
Which ever way you choose to fold your pocket square wear it with pride and make it your own.