Handkerchiefs 101 – The Pocket Square

The Pocket Square - A Gentleman's Essential

The Pocket Square - A Gentleman's Essential

Most likely invented by Richard II, the last Plantagenet King of England, the handkerchief has become one of the ‘must haves’ for any fully dressed gentleman. Also called a pocket square, the handkerchief started as a small, thin piece of cloth hemmed at the edges and carried on the person to use for all many of personal needs. They are typically made from natural fibres like cotton, linen and silk, as these fabrics are gentle on the nose and cheek. I can only imagine the trouble you’d get into with an scratchy and non-absorbent wool pocket square, or a ticklish fuzzy Angora pocket square!

Being fully dressed with a pocket square

Being fully dressed with a pocket square

The pocket square evolved from the handkerchief keep in a sleeve or trouser pocket in the 18th century to the smaller pocket square kept in a man’s jacket pocket at the beginning of the 20th century. It wasn’t long before they also became part of a gentleman’s fashion statement as well. Edward VIII demonstrates the ability for the pocket square to add both polish and ease to an outfit (Note the Jacquard on the pocket square does not match his tie!) :

Edward VIII Sporting a Silk Pocket Square

Edward VIII Sporting a Silk Pocket Square

The pocket square is an accessory for a multitude of looks for the active gentleman. I’ve provided a few examples of how this works to create either a serious or jaunty presence:

Business Pocket Square

Mad Men Roger and Don are all business with their pocket squares

Mad Men Roger and Don are all business with their pocket squares

Jaunty Pocket Square

Fred Astaire uses his pocket square to look jaunty

Fred Astaire uses his pocket square to look jaunty

Sexy Pocket Square

Ryan Gosling sports a pocket square to up his sexy quotient
Ryan Gosling sports a pocket square to up his sexy quotient

Don’t F*ck with Me Pocket Square

 Winston Churchill sets his 'Don't f*ck with me' look with the casual use of a plain pocket square

Winston Churchill sets his 'Don't f*ck with me' look with the casual use of a plain pocket square

Suave Pocket Square

Gary Cooper does suave with a pocket square

Gary Cooper does suave with a pocket square

Formal Pocket Square

Humphrey Bogart styles a formal portrait with a pocket square

Humphrey Bogart styles formal with a pocket square

The choice of pocket square decoration, textile and fold provides a wide spectrum of styles to an outfit. More on that soon! The most important aspect of a pocket square for a gentleman is to insure you do not veer into foppishness when wearing one. The key is to put utility before all else. Keep in mind that the pocket square is functional beyond looking pretty and you’ll avoid the decorative trap.

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2 responses

  1. Pingback: Outfit of the Day – June 21 | Kingpin Chic

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