There are few rules for wearing it and pairing it up. Many, many ways to fold it (square, pointed, fan-shaped, blanket and even croissant and Christmas tree folds).
The pocket handkerchief, known as a pocket square or pochette, has once again become an elegant accessory able to add a touch of personality to outfits.
But be careful not to confuse it with a normal handkerchief. You never use the pocket version! It’s forbidden to take it out to dry off sweat, much less to blow your nose. At the most you can use it for a quick dusting off of your eyeglasses, but it’s preferable to avoid this use as well.
The long history of a piece of cloth
The pocket square is nothing other than a square piece of material, better if of silk, with sides from 25 to 45 centimeters long.
The history of ornamental handkerchiefs has ancient origins: the Romans already distinguished between the orarium, ancestor of the current handkerchief, and the sudarium, used to dry skin or to clean one’s mouth after eating; Byzantine women held it between their fingers demonstrating the elegant finishings, and also during medieval times the handkerchief was considered to be an accessory of social prestige (but soaked in perfume it also served to keep bad odors far from one’s nose).
King Richard II of England is considered by many to be the inventor of the pocket handkerchief as a fashion accessory. In the western world, it’s around the 1920s that the custom of folding a handkerchief in the breast pocket is consolidated. American entertainment icons like Cary Grant, Gary Cooper and Frank Sinatra contributed to making this accessory popular in the 1950s. Having gone out of fashion in the 1960s, it then returned about thirty years later, starting in the 1990s, laden with a particular vintage charm. Its success still endures today and its importance in matters of style shouldn’t be underestimated.
How to fold it?
The ways of folding a pocket square are numerous: the best-known alone number over fifty. On Internet, video-tutorials have sprouted up but there are those who, with taste and imagination, are able to invent their own personal method without imitating current styles.
Limiting ourselves to the most common ones:
The square or flat or presidential fold is the simplest and most linear. All you need to do is fold the handkerchief over itself several times to give it the classic straight pleat. The fabric must be well ironed. Ideal for classic suits for formal and ceremonial occasions.
The puff fold, simple but elegant at the same time, it’s perfect if applied to a pocket square with a beautiful patterned print. Creating it is very simple: you take the pocket square from the center, lifting it up with a finger and then placing it in the pocket.
The triangle or pointed shape (there are variants and two and three points) is also an elegant solution for a casual suit and for a business meeting. Versatile, it’s fine in both solid color and fantasy patterns, and for almost all occasions.
Make room for your imagination
The list doesn’t finish here, and it could be almost interminable: there’s the blanket fold, that with three steps, and then the fan-shaped one, intricate and seductive: it’s done in eight steps with the help of a rubber band. But perhaps more difficult still is the croissant, composed of several triangular folds for an original and elegant look.
“Important” folds are the double presidential, the monarch and the crown, the “advanced” version of the pointed shape. The floral motif folds certainly make an impression. The lily fold requires great dexterity and the use of elastic like the fan-shaped one, but the scenographic effect is guaranteed.
Making an impact is also the rose fold, an ideal solution to substitute the boutonniere with a red silk pocket square. Then, at Christmas time, why not try your hand with the Christmas tree fold? In summer, instead, with two handkerchiefs, a bit of practice and a lot of imagination, you can show off an ice cream cone in your pocket. In short, even the fold of the pocket square is a small distinctive touch that reveals something about our personality.
There are those who claim that you can use a pocket handkerchief from the age of 25 upwards, and that as your age increases you can increasingly dare by increasing the portion that lies outside of the pocket. As for combinations, it’s better to avoid repeating the same pattern of the tie or shirt: with the pocket square you can play with contrasts as you seek your own balance, perhaps by highlighting only one of the tie colors, if it is patterned, or instead “breaking up”, that is opting for a solid color pocket square if the tie is striped or vice versa. The purpose of the pocket square is to add a touch of class and – why not? –enhance your face. So in the choice of colors it will be necessary to take into consideration not only the suit and tie, but also complexion and eye and hair color.
The play of contrasts and harmonies can involve the use of a very simple pocket square, solid color, on a jacket with a strong personality, or vice versa a pocket square with bright tones and daring patterns combined with a simple jacket. But on more formal occasions like weddings (during the day) a white pocket square is always recommended, while for a business meeting it’s better to opt for solid colors in dark shades like navy blue, burgundy or green, maintaining a style that is always simple and measured.