The pocket square, handkerchief, or kerchief, is one of man’s most overlooked essentials in his wardrobe and lifestyle. Today, this decoration has somewhat become a forgotten accessory, often deemed “old fashioned”, “frivolous”, or even “flamboyant”, when in reality the correct word should be “misunderstood.” The probable truth is that there may simply be a disconnect between where we now see its many forms, in different functions, but do not remember or reconcile the diverse spectrum.
It is nevertheless, without question, the most versatile clothing piece of all time.
History & Uses
The oldest records of civilization have shown the handkerchief to be in the company of ancient Egyptians, Greek nobles, medieval kings, religious ambassadors, elegant ladies, presidents, and showbiz stars. As long as cotton, linen, and silk have been woven (thousands of years BC), they have been in the pocket, around the arm, over the head, or a variety of other vicinities (women used them as the early “push up” brassiere) throughout the day and evening.
Here are just a few uses for a handkerchief:
- Formal pocket square
- Relieving one’s aggravated nasal canals
- Wiping one’s mouth during dinner
- Catching a damsel’s unfortunate tear
- Signaling a plane on a deserted island
- Fashioning a Molotov Cocktail (homemade grenade)
- Tying off an appendage above an open wound
- Covering a lady’s head in St. Peter’s Basilica
- Incapacitating an enemy sentry with chloroform
- Surrendering – the enemy would do this
- Grabbing a hot object
- Buffing your shoes
- Oiling and cleaning gunmetal
A handkerchief or pocket square is most typically worn as a display in the front left breast pocket of a gentleman’s jacket. In this case, the function (any of those above) is still available at any time necessary. However, the form is usually appropriate for the occasion.
- If a Gentleman is wearing a jacket, one with a pocket (which would be normal), then it should almost always contain a pocket square.
- The color and pattern should not be loud and distracting, in most cases, and should compliment the man and his other apparel. Remember, the pocket square is his helper, not the feature event.
- The color can compliment the shirt or the tie.
- The material should not directly match the tie. Have some creativity.
- A white square is appropriate for both business and formal wear. It should be simple, clean, and well assembled.
- Material: Silk, Linen, and Cotton are your options. Silk is typically the most formal.
- Extra: if your outfit is only one or two colors itself, feel free to throw in a new color. (Sinatra wore a signature red pocket square with his evening tuxedo attire)
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