"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
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.
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.
“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
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.
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.
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.
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.