An accessory with sartorial flair: the pocket square [+7 style tips]

6 min read

Silk pocket squares made in England

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"Every gent will find his own style staple, but a pocket square will always add panache to an outfit, without being tied down to tie or bow tie styling. Just throw a pocket square in your top pocket and you’re good to go!" 
- Lauren Vickers

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Pocket squares ooze sartorial elegance and flair like no other accessory. Stylish and sophisticated, they are the little extra that will bring your outfit together, showcase your individuality and boost your confidence.


Exclusive designer blue and orange pocket squareEDR Creations x Jeya Narrative
Gioco di Venti orange pocket square
Emily Carter midnight blue floral pocket square
Emily Carter
Midnight blue floral pocket square

Banvard & James Teal and yellow silk pocket square
Banvard & James
Teal and yellow silk pocket square
Rory Hutton Simla cheese plant pocket square
Rory Hutton x Jeya Narrative
Simla burgundy pocket square


- THE MANY FOLDS OF A POCKET SQUARE -

 

Much is said on how to wear a pocket square - the do’s and don’t’s of what is acceptable and what should be avoided when it comes to folding.

The elegance and beauty of the pocket square lies in its effortless style - and to this end, we think that a simple puffed up fold is actually the best. Whilst structured folds do have their place, there is a certain confidence and sprezzatura-like nonchalance that emanates from a more casual fold.

Whilst many still prefer to wear a more traditional polka dot or plain coloured pocket square; we favour squares that have a story to tell and that are not so ubiquitous, thereby enhancing your own narrative too. Part decorative, part conversation starter, it is a reflection of the wearer, especially when unveiled to show the full design.

Just like sporting colourful socks, a pocket square enhances the fact that you take pride in your appearance and pay attention to details.

Should you wish to learn more about pocket-square-folds, we recommend this handy guide from He Spoke Style  or this video from Simon Crompton's Permanent Style.

  

David Gandy for M&SSource


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Handkerchief

“Note the name: for it signifies something that is to be handled. This brings us to the principle that the arrangement of the handkerchief in the breast pocket must be done in such a way that it gives the appearance of being thee for use and not decoration, although this latter function is important.”

Sir Hardy Amies, extract from ABC of Men's Fashion

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- A BRIEF HISTORY OF POCKET SQUARES -


The exact origins of the pocket square - and especially the accessory that we now refer to as such - are often debated. It most likely emanates from its not-so-distant cousin, the handkerchief. 

Handkerchiefs started as functional pieces of cloth - be it to use scented to alleviate any unpleasant smells in Ancient Greece, to mark the start of Gladiatorial Games in the Roman Empire or to use as a way to mark a person’s faith.

 

Pocket squares | An accessory with sartorial flair

It is only in the Middle Ages that handkerchiefs developed their symbolism when they were used as a token of affection by knights as a symbol of a lady’s favour. The romantic side of the handkerchief was extended in the Renaissance Era when ladies (of a certain class of course) would declare their attraction to a man by drawing their handkerchief, also known as a fazzoletto, across their cheeks (or, alternatively, through their hands should they wish nothing to do with him).

Kings and queens have often acted as pace setters for fashion and this is no different with pocket squares. Many accounts credit King Richard II of England (1377-1399) as the ‘inventor’ of pocket squares, as he always carried a handkerchief with him to wipe his nose, quickly turning it into a fashion accessory amongst royalty and the upper classes. From that point, handkerchiefs (preferably lavishly embroidered or fringed with lace) quickly became a marker and symbol of status and wealth, especially amongst French and English nobility. Silk handkerchiefs in particular were very sought after due to the scarcity of the then-exotic fabric.

At that time, handkerchiefs were found in many sizes and shapes. Legend has it that in 1785, French Queen Marie Antoinette complained to her husband King Louis XVI that the handkerchiefs he was donning were too large and unfashionable, and that a ‘standard size’ should be set to a 16” x 16” square - giving us the shape we know the pocket squares to have today.

 

 Emily Carter Poker silk pocket squareEmily Carter Poker pocket square



Pocket squares in the 20th century

In the early twenty first century, pocket squares were the mark of the rich and famous once more. From the dandies of the 30s to the Golden Age of Hollywood of the 40s and 50s with Fred Astaire and Cary Grant who donned them with sartorial flair regularly, pocket squares quickly became the go-to-accessory of those wishing to make a sartorial statement - which, incidentally, also complemented to perfection the 2-piece suits that had become the norm for well-dressed gentlemen of the time.

It was also around that time that men started wearing their handkerchiefs in their jacket breast pocket, instead of out of their trousers back pockets for hygienic reasons. The invention of disposable tissues by Kleenex helped to further that shift from utilitarian handkerchiefs to the style-conscious pocket square we know today.

In the late twenty first century, the prevalence of the pocket squares decreased popularity as ‘casual’ dress such as jeans, t-shirts and trainers was favoured - leaving the accessory to be worn only at formal affairs and special occasions.

However, the renaissance of menswear in the last decade or so as well as the growing interest in classic elegance has helped to revive pocket squares once more - and they have slowly (or rather quickly) become an accessory of choice for anybody who wishes to make a style statement.

Especially as dress codes have become more casual, a pocket square will bring sophistication and help you stand out from the crowd. There is simply nothing quite as quintessentially elegant as a luxurious pocket square to finish off an outfit.

 

 


Emily Carter

Terracotta tropical butterfly pocket square
Rory Hutton x Jeya Narrative: Bei Ping navy pocket square
Rory Hutton x Jeya Narrative
Midnight blue floral pocket square

Rory Hutton red bonsai pocket square
Rory Hutton
Manchuria red bonsai pocket square
Exclusive Il Sole Si Specchia yellow and blue art pocket square
Eleonora de Rossi x Jeya Narrative
'Il Sole Si Specchia' pocket square

 

 - HOW TO WEAR A POCKET SQUARE | 7 STYLE TIPS - 

Gone are the days when white linen pocket squares, worn solely with a white shirt, and exposed only of about 1/4 to 1/2 inch atop the pocket, was the only acceptable way to be worn. Nowadays, pocket squares are available in countless designs which, combined with various folds, give them their very unique, effortless beauty. A pocket square can define your personal signature style like almost no other accessory can.

 


Here are 7 style tips on how best to wear your pocket square:

  1. Pocket squares are no longer reserved for special occasions. A pocket square may have become an everyday stylish accessory but it has not lost its elegant impact. Wear one with confidence, every day.

  2. Your pocket square should not match your tie (you don’t want to look like George Clooney at the royal wedding). Instead it should complement (by highlighting an accent colour for instance) or contrast it.

  3. The colour and design of your pocket square should reflect your mood or the occasion. Choose subdued colours or indeed a plain white pocket square for black tie events, or indulge in puffy folds and brighter colour for more smart casual occasions.

  4. Avoid wearing pocket squares that are too big. If the pocket square is too big or the fabric too bulky, it will make it difficult to fold without it looking bulgy (and that’s not a good look). If in doubt (or if you are a newbie wearer), prefer silk pocket squares of around 30/35cm.

  5. Should your pocket square have a logo or initials embroidered onto it, this should not be on display (the same applies of course to any care labels the pocket square might have).

  6. Hand-rolled edges are preferable. They add a nice weight to the pocket square so it sits better, and they look more distinguished when using a fold with tips showing. Hand-rolled edges are not only a sign of quality, they also demonstrate an attention to details and an appreciation of sartorial heritage.

  7. The pocket square should balance out your outfit. If your suit or shirt is heavily patterned, go for a more subtle pattern with your square. Similarly, if you suit or jacket is a little plain, don’t be afraid to show some patterns and colours. The beauty (as well as convenience and cost-efficiency) of the pocket square of course, is that you can adjust the fold to show different sections of the design, making it perfect to take you from day at the office to evening dinner party at just a fold change.


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How often and how do you wear your pocket squares?
Leave a comment below!

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