It is often the case that men believe they have to make sweeping changes in order to improve their style. Of course, for many men this is true. However, there are just as many men out there that would benefit more from minor tweaks to their style than any large scale changes.
A good example of this would be accessorization. Whether it’s a boutonniere, a tie clip, or a pair of cuff links, the right combination of accessories can certainly elevate a man’s look.
Unfortunately, many men shy away from accessories because they are simply too afraid to stand out. That’s why in this article I want to introduce you to a simple accessory that will not only ramp up your style, but it’s also something easy to wear with confidence.
Enter the pocket square.
Although I’ve briefly discussed pocket squares in a previous article, I want to further expand on some of those ideas here and also give you some practical ways on how you can wear one.
The pocket square or handkerchief has a long history that dates back to at least the time of the ancient Greeks. Back then the wealthy elite would carry perfumed handkerchiefs on their person so that they could use them to protect their sense of smell against the often vile stench of the public streets. In fact, handkerchiefs were typically used in this manner right up until modern sewage systems were developed in the mid 19th century.
By the 20th century the handkerchief or pocket square became a common item for men to wear with their suits at dinner parties and other formal occasions. At this time they still retained some of their functionality as they could be used to clean up minor stains or offered to a lady in need.
Unfortunately, throughout the 20th century the popularity of the handkerchief or pocket square dwindled as new, more hygienic products such as Kleenex emerged. This resulted in the pocket square losing its functionality and being transformed into more of a fashionable accessory.
Why wear a pocket square?
Since we no longer wear pocket squares or handkerchiefs for their functionality, a fair question would then be why wear one at all?
The main reason for wearing a pocket square is that it adds visual balance. Simply put, a pocket square with a blazer or a suit just looks better. It’s the perfect addition when you are wearing a tie as it can be used to visually offset the tie, balancing the overall look. Additionally, wearing a pocket square without a tie allows you to experiment with particularly bold patterned and coloured squares that can add an extra bit of panache to your look. There’s very little downside to wearing a pocket square with your jacket.
How to wear a pocket square
The great thing about pocket squares is that they are easy to wear. The only rule you should remember is to never match your pocket square to your tie. A pocket square is used to compliment your tie, not match it!
There are many different folds you can create with your pocket square. I believe the following three folds are the most popular and likely the only three folds you will ever need to use:
1. The flat edge
This fold is both the easiest and likely the most common type of fold you will use. This type of fold is suitable for a variety of different situations including conservative office environments, weddings and other formal occasions, and really any other setting you can think of. In my opinion, you can never go wrong with this type of fold.
To create this fold simply take your pocket square and fold it in half 2-3 times (this depends on the size of your square) and place it in your pocket. The fold should have a nice clean edge that peeks out at the top of your pocket. There is no hard and fast rule in terms of how much of your square should be showing, but something around ¼” is pretty good.
I should mention that this type of fold works best if your pocket square is made from cotton or linen. I find that silk squares don’t work nearly as well with this type of fold as they don’t seem to hold a clean edge very well.
2. The peak
This fold isn’t much more complicated than the flat edge and can be worn in most situations as well. Although the fold I’m referring to here is just a single peak, there are several variations of the fold that include multiple peaks, allowing you to be as daring or conservative as you like.
To create this fold simply take one corner of your pocket square and fold it over to meet the opposite corner. Then take the left and right corners and fold them across halfway so they meet in the middle. You should be left with a square that has a flat edge on the bottom and single peak at the top.
Although I find that this type of fold works best with cotton and linen squares, you can also create this fold with silk squares.
3. The puff
This is another simple fold that I think is perfect for when you are wearing a blazer or suit jacket without a tie. This type of fold is also great for when you have a particularly bold patterned or coloured pocket square.
To create this fold simply lay out your pocket square. Then pick up the square with your right hand by pinching a piece of fabric from the centre of the square. Now grasp the bottom of the square in a fist made with your left hand while releasing the square from your right hand. You should now be left with a “puff” of fabric jutting from the top of your left hand. Now simply place the square in your pocket, allowing the “puff” of fabric to peak out at the top.
This type of fold is really only good for silk squares. You’ll find that the cotton and linen squares have too much structure to take the shape of a “puff” fold.
Pocket squares are simple way to add visual balance and dimension to your look. They are also easy to wear with confidence. For many men, the addition of a simple accessory such as the pocket square can add that extra bit of panache they are looking for without going over the top. Sometimes it’s little tweaks like this that can make all the difference in your look. If you don’t normally wear a pocket square I highly recommend you give it try. The style gods will thank you.
Here’s to looking sharp!