The Pocket Square for me, is perhaps one of the greatest style accessories a man can wear. A Pocket square, in all but the most formal of occasions allows the wearer to add some pizzazz to his outfit.
Worn in the breast pocket of a Suit, Blazer or Sports Coat a pocket square whilst traditionally made of white silk is today the style accessory that the wearer can have the most fun with.
Textured linen, crisp cotton, fine silk or indeed any fabric of choice may be used and much like their colours, the patterns can be simple, plain, muted or outlandish and vibrant.
The advantage a pocket square has over an accessory such as a tie is that only a little of it is on show, which allows for more adventurous designs and colours.
There are some traditions and rules that should be followed, but for the most part, a square can be a great way of expressing your personality.
Some Pocket Square History
The past fifteen to twenty years has seen a resurgence in men's accessory use and this of course also means the pocket square. The history of the pocket square dates back a very long way indeed.
Although its origins are not totally clear, some believe that it stems from the Ancient Greeks carrying a scented cloth, others feel it dates back to the Romans and the tradition of dropping pieces of cloth during Gladiator bouts.
From an etymological point of view the word Kerchief derives from the French words "couvrir" (meaning to cover) and "Chef" (meaning head). During much of the Middle ages, a Kerchief was a piece of cloth worn on the head.
It was in the 16th century that saw a shift with kerchiefs going into peoples pockets, and the term Hand Kerchief arrived. It is believed that the handkerchief was mostly used for two purposes.
Firstly as a scented rag to cover ones nose, due to the overwhelming stench from the poor hygiene practices of the middle ages and secondly the more familiar use of wiping ones nose or sweaty brow.
It wasn't until the rise of the 2 piece suit in the early 1900's that the pocket square as we know it was born and found its way into the breast pocket of men's jackets. Indeed for the first half on the 20th Century men would often carry two handkerchiefs, one in their trouser pocket for personal use and another in their breast pocket to offer to someone in need.
The introduction of the disposable tissue by Kleenex then saw a change in how the Handkerchief was used. No more was it required as a practical accessory it now simply became a fashionable and stylish accessory.
Different Colours, Patterns and Textures
As with any style accessory, the variety is endless. For the most part it is up to you the individual to decide upon what square to wear with what jacket. I myself have about 20 different pocket squares and are chosen to be worn dependent upon a number of things.
Some of the questions to ask yourself would include, How formal is the event or my outfit, What and how many colours are already present in my outfit, What is the sheen of my jacket and simply do any pocket squares clash with what I intend to wear?
The choice of colours are never ending as indeed is the variety of designs. Indeed some high end pocket squares consist of a complete scene more reminiscent of a painting. Paisley, floral or even geometric designs are quite common as are plain solid block colours.
The fabric themselves can vary as well, traditionally a handkerchief would be made from linen, whereas today linen, cotton, synthetic materials and even silk may be used.
Also, the thickness and weave of the material may differ, an example of which would be satin, a type of weave resulting in a glossy appearance.
Another aspect that can vary is the edging on the pocket square, the cotton used may match the material or may in fact supply a contrast to it.
For instance in the photo of the two satin pocket squares, the blue and white striped square utilizes a matching blue thread whilst the white square with icecream designs has a contrasting pink edging. ( The satin Icecream design is currently available in my store along with a few other inexpensive pocket squares )
A Few Basic Rules
There are a few basic rules that should be remembered especially for those new to accessorizing. Whilst most rules are really no more than good pieces of advice there is one hard and fast rule that should always be heeded.
When dressing for a black tie or white tie event the only pocket square to be worn is plain white.
Always take into account the sheen of your jacket, typically a suit jacket has more sheen (i.e. is shinier) than a sports coat or jacket. So naturally a pocket square that works well with your suit jacket may look odd when paired with a tweed sports coat.
Another factor to consider is price. This may seem an odd thing to comment on but whilst inexpensive squares ( such as my own newstartat50 pocket squares) work equally well in many occasions, there are times when paying more for a high end product makes sense.
If for instance you are wearing a $3000 designer suit which is constructed using the best quality suiting material then to wear a square made from a lesser quality fabric would be apparent to even the most casual observer. A fine suit would always warrant a good quality silk pocket square.
When searching online for pocket squares, you will all too frequently come across pocket square sets. My advice is too avoid these at all costs.
A typical set will include a pocket square with a matching tie and in all but one scenario, matching your pocket square to any thing else in your outfit just looks like you have no idea what you are doing. The one exception is if you are the groom or a groomsmen in a wedding party.
The layout test
I find that the simplest way to choose which pocket square to wear is to do what I call "The Layout Test", the beauty of this is that it works for all components of your outfit and ultimately ensures that all pieces work together harmoniously.
What I do is to lay out my outfit on the bed and place a selection of squares on or about my jacket. Then upon seeing how they all work together with the Jacket , my Shirt, Trousers etc I then select two or three options and then try each one of them in my breast pocket.
The point is to not worry about having ironed your clothes, whether or not you have a coat hangers in place, but simply to ascertain the best overall combination. Of course once you have decided, it is time to press your clothes,and ensure they are smart and ready to wear etc.
How to Fold a Pocket Square
There are numerous ways to fold a pocket square however I will show you the 9 most basic ways.
The Presidential Fold
The crispest and most formal is the Presidential (or Square Fold). Not only is this a simple fold but it is the only fold to be used on your white pocket square for Black or White tie events. It is an understated yet ultimately classy fold.
Laying your pressed square flat and fold to the width of your jacket pocket, then fold up to form a rectangle about 10-15mm longer than your pocket is deep. Tuck the folded edge into your pocket which should allow about 1 cm protruding neatly from your breast pocket. Ensure there is no visible overlap as everything must be very neat and sharp.
The Casual Fluff
This is one of my favourite folds, but partially because it requires no folding or any real precision. Of course as such it is a very casual look that pairs well with Jeans and a Casual Sports Coat with a T shirt.
It is so simple I didn't ask my son to draw an infographic. Simply place your index finger in the middle of the underside of your square and use your other hand to draw the fabric over your finger.
Place the pointed end in your square in your pocket and use your fingers to fluff up and adjust to your liking.
The One Point Fold
This is a nice neat fold, suitable for both business and casual attire. Lay your pressed square flat with a corner facing up like a diamond, then fold in half to create a triangle.
Next fold the corners on the base inwards so to create a width the same as your pocket. Now just tuck into your breast pocket leaving only the triangular part exposed.
The Two Point Fold
The Two Point Fold is almost exactly the same as the One Point Fold except when making the first fold, by folding in half upwards towards the point you do so slightly off centre allowing the second point behind to also show.
This works better with a square made from material that is the same both sides. It is simply a step up from the one point fold.
The Three Point Fold
Now we are starting to get into some more complicated folds. The three point fold is a classier and more advanced fold.
Start with a neatly pressed square place flat like a diamond and again fold in half upwards , however you then have to skew your fold slightly so that the fold itself does not run point to point.
Now bring the bottom left corner up to the top to create your three points. Now finally fold the remaining corner inwards and neatly place in your breast pocket.
The Four Point or Cagney Fold
Another advanced fold, but one that is far simpler than it looks at first. Again fold upwards and slightly askew allowing two corners to show.Fold the left corner up followed by the right corner in such a way as to have 4 evenly spaced peaks.
Now simply fold the left and right sides in together and turn up the bottom to allow you to put it neatly into your pocket. ( The orange pocket square in the photo below is available in my store)
The Puff Fold
This is quite a quick and easy fold and is pretty much a reverse of The Fluff. Patterned squares will look better with this fold, so think paisley, dots, pictures etc.
To make the Puff Fold pinch the centre of your square and lift it up allowing the edges to hang. Now carefully roll the bottom up until the correct length for your pocket has been achieved and insert into your breast pocket.
The next step is to spend a little time gently tugging on the square to achieve a 3 dimension and good looking puff. It is crucial to note that The Puff Fold will have some dimples and creases, this is part of its organic looking appeal.
The Winged Puff Fold
A versatile fold with the wings giving it a touch of added style. You will need a pocket square that is as close to being a genuine square shape as possible for this one.
Simply lay your square out like a Diamond and this time folding down and towards yourself joining the top and bottom corners. Now fold the two top corners in to form a smaller diamond shape.
Now with the exception of the top winged peak, fold the remaining 3 corners in. Your next step is to tuck it in to your pocket and gently puff it out a bit, being mindful that a crisp peak is not required and that a domed peak will give it its natural puff look.
The Scallop Fold
This is a fold that certainly has a sense of class and style about it. Begin with a pressed square flat in a square shape as opposed to a diamond this time. Now you need to fold in half to form a triangle and then do so again to form another smaller triangle.
Your next step is the tricky part, rolling each of the two top down and across, it is vital that you don't fold but carefully roll the fabric to create a smooth curl reminiscent of a scarf around your neck.
Poke the pointed end into your pocket and tidy up the scallop so it has a soft and organic look.
Hopefully now I have inspired you to start your own collection of pocket squares and that you are no longer daunted by the prospect of folding them.
Pocket Squares are a simple way to personalize any outfit when wearing a jacket. So feel free to pop by my store where I have a few inexpensive handmade squares for sale
Divorced and nearly 50 I rediscovered who I was.