Pocket Squares Are Back In


Possibly inspired by Mad Men, the pocket square, just a folded-up handkerchief in silk or linen, is back. In fact, it’s so popular, Esquire declared the pocket square too popular, and thus unfashionable.

That’s going a little far. Pocket squares are another manly tool to:

  • set yourself apart
  • add extra contrast to your appearance
  • coordinate colors on your shirt or tie.

If you’re wearing a cheaper linen handkerchief, you might even consider using it to blow your nose. But never silk. Let’s get that out of the way first.

As you might have deduced, there are two primary pocket square materials: silk and linen. Silk generally goes better with dark suits, in colder times. Linen is better for summer outfits, especially lighter colors. The biggest factor in pocket square material is texture.
As Cad & The Dandy writes, if you’re wearing a sleek silk tie, go with linen. If you’ve wearing a wool tie and tweed suit, silk is the better option. No tie? Silk.

One misconception about pocket squares is that they should “match” your tie. Please, coordinate is the better term. Find a common color in both. And, for the love of fashion, don’t buy a tie with a matching pocket square. That’s just dorky. Like matching ties and shirts, make sure the pocket square and tie don’t share similar patterns. In fact, you can even use a shared color between your handkerchief and your shirt, if your shirt is louder than your tie. If you’re dressing conservatively, just use white.

Speaking of conservative dressing, the fold matters too. Don’t be dorky again and buy a pre-folded pocket square.

If you really like Mad Men, you probably want to re-create their pocket square fold, known as the “TV Fold.” This is the most conservative choice. Valet provides good instructions to fold a TV fold pocket square:

  • Fold a pressed handkerchief into quarters.
  • Fold the resulting square into thirds.
  • Bring the bottom edge three-quarters of the way up.
  • Tuck in, unfolded side out and an inch of fabric visible.

But, as A Suitable Wardrobe decries, the TV fold is the “refuge of the insecure.” Go ahead and be bold with a puffed pocket square. Known as “crushing,” Men’s Flair demonstrates picking up a handkerchief, inverting it, then stuffing it in your pocket.

Art of Manliness made a useful video about all three folds mentioned:[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2gIENStLJg[/youtube]

The third option is a compromise between the two, the “one corner fold.” Bring opposite ends together, make a triangle. Then bring the two bottom corners toward each other until they meet each others’ sides. I’ll let Art of Manliness finish the directions to fold a triangle pocket square:

  • You should end up with a long rectangle with a point at the top. It looks sort of like a fence slat.
  • Fold the bottom towards the top, but not all the way.
  • Place it in your suit. Adjust until you get the desired amount of point coming out of the pocket.

The first time you wear a pocket square, you’ll fidget with it. This will draw unnecessary attention to it, much worse than the positive attention paid to the extra bit of contrast in your suit pocket. Carry on, eventually, your suit will feel naked without one. Heck, even crazy dictators wear them:

Clark Gable photo credit: The Cad & The Dandy

Mad Men photo credit: iVillage

Hussein photo credit: AP