Recently, I posted the following image on my Twitter:
Can you spot what’s wrong?
If you said the guy on the right has a matching tie and pocket square you are correct.
A matching tie and pocket square is the hallmark of an amateur and a major Style NOPE!
There are two main issues with matching your pocket square to your tie:
First, it looks way too matchy-matchy. While there is a time and a place to match items (like your shoes to your belt or your socks to your trousers) this isn’t it. You don’t want to look too studied. Instead, you want your style to look effortless and carefree. Sprezzatura should be your aim.
The second problem with matching your pocket square with your tie is that is draws attention away from your face. Remember, you want your clothes to highlight your face. Instead, with a matching tie and pocket square combo your eyes are immediately drawn to the chest. That’s because we are pattern seeking animals and once we find a pattern in nature we tend to lock on to it.
So what’s the purpose of wearing a pocket square?
The idea behind wearing a pocket square is to add some visual balance to your outfit. It’s a way for you to offset the visual weight of your tie. It’s also a fun way to express your personality and add a bit of flare to your style.
Pocket square guidelines
When in doubt, go with a basic white pocket square in a TV fold. This is the safest choice and one that will work with any type of tie you wear. This is my go to move 90% of the time.
With that said, here are some general principles on how best to wear a pocket square with your tie:
- Don’t be afraid to mix fabrics. For example, if you have a silk tie try wearing a cotton pocket square and vice versa.
- Mix patterns. If you are wearing a patterned tie, try a solid coloured pocket square and vice versa.
- Combine complimentary or analogous colours. Complimentary colours are directly opposite of each other on the colour wheel while analogous colours are right next to each other.
Here is a great example of combining analogous colours with your tie and pocket square:
In this example you a true navy tie with a lighter blue (analogous) pocket square. You’ll also note that the tie is a solid knit while the pocket square is patterned (and possibly silk or cotton). I don’t care much for the boutonniere (flower in the lapel) but otherwise this is a fine example of mixing both both texture and pattern with your tie and pocket square combo.
This is a straightforward complimentary pairing of a blue tie with an orange pocket square (colours directly opposite of each other on the colour wheel). In this case the warmth of the orange is balanced nicely against the coolness of the navy suit and blue tie. This is the type of combination that will get you noticed. The idea here is to use just a tiny splash of colour. Nothing dramatic. It’s enough to make you stand out but not in an obnoxious sort of way.
How to find good pocket squares
Here’s a simple tip for finding great pocket squares on the cheap: hit up your local fabric store. You can find tons of variety and you can walk out with a handful of pocket squares for the price of one store bought one. The only thing you will have to do is hem them yourself.
If you’re not up for hunting through your local fabric store here are a few of my favourites:
This navy with white polka dots pocket square is by Paul Smith. What I love about this square is the striped detail on the edges. Not only can you wear this square in a “puff” style but it will also look awesome folded neatly in your pocket showing the striped edge.
Every guy should have at least one basic white cotton pocket square. This one is by Ted Baker and is as simple as it gets.
Lastly, this circle print silk pocket square by Barneys New York is one of my favourites. Probably because it comes in one of the power colours. Great for all of the seasons.
Avoid making the rookie mistake of matching your pocket square with your tie. It’s not a good look and definitely a style NOPE! Instead, look to have your pocket square complement and balance the visual weight of your tie. Use complimentary and analogous colours. Combine different textures and patterns. And if you’re still not sure what to kind of pocket square to wear, go with a basic white cotton square in a simple fold. It works every time.
Here’s to looking sharp!