That Touch Of Class - The Pocket Square

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I feel it adds a touch of class and individuality, whilst helping to tie an outfit together. Why do we wear these pocket squares and where does this classic men’s accessory come from?
It was it seems the Greeks. Yes, the same Greeks who have given us so much throughout the ages, such as Democracy, Geometry Philosophy, and a rich history that fascinates us all so very much.

Around 500 BC The Greek hierarchy meant that Greece’s richer citizens decided to carry perfumed handkerchiefs on their person. This protected them from the not so pleasant smells, originating from the dirty streets and the poor beggars who unfortunately lived on them. A seemingly natural development for those who were fortunate to live in their grand spacious airy homes, and Yes - the elite privileged, were rather snobbish, even back then.  However, there is no evidence that they invented the handkerchief, as an essential accessory, this really came much later.

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Apparently it was our main man King Richard II, the ruler of England who invented it a few years later. It is he who is said to use a little piece of cloth to wipe and clean his royal nose and as history always shows, it wasn’t long before the upper classes in England followed suit. By the 17th century, the handkerchief was common amongst all the classes throughout western Europe and the solution to everyone’s runny nose had well and truly been found. Something not to be sniffed at!

Originally, the handkerchief was kept in the trouser pocket. As presumably, no one wants to see your dirty cloth, regardless of how proud you may be of it…

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It wasn’t in fact until the two-piece suits came into fashion in the 19th century, that men started to place their clean pocket squares into their jacket outer dress pocket. In order to protect it from coins, lint and general dirt, that would also be found in their trouser pocket. Over time, the different types of folds used to place the pocket square became more elaborate and fancy and the pocket square made the transition from a useful practical item to an aesthetic feature.

Such was the case that many men started to carry two around with them. One for a show like a peacock, attempting to catch the eye of the ladies and the second for more practical uses. Like offering it to a distressed lady, helping to comfort her when she is crying or wiping one's brow after a long days work.


During the 1940s and ’50s, the linen handkerchief fell out of favour and in its place, the disposable handkerchief made by Kleenex became the popular choice. As a result, the linen handkerchief was replaced and only used as a fashion accessory, in the form of a pocket square. Since then, a variety of fabrics have been used. Many of the more expensive and more elaborately patterned pocket squares are made of silk, and there was a period when a matching silk pocket square and silk tie was popular.

At events when a Tuxedo is worn, a simple white pocket square is often the requirement.  So that is the story of the humble pocket square from practical cleaner-upper/ bad smell preventer, to a fashion accessory.

During the 21st century, pocket squares have enjoyed something of a renaissance and have become an essential accessory for fashionistas, celebrities, and anyone who really wishes to stand out from the crowd and add a touch of style and elegance to an otherwise ordinary suit. Mods, in particular, are renowned for their sharp dress codes, and the aforementioned elaborate folds have often been a part of a Mod’s armoury when adding individual flair, and style to their outfits. Suedeheads, an evolved style-conscious tribe, who came out of both The Mod and Skinhead scene would also wear pocket squares in the chest pockets of their Crombie overcoats. A look that added flair to their sharp clean look.

A pop of colour protruding from one's breast pocket has become a touch of class, a badge of true style that can represent an individuals personality. The more flamboyant the square, the more a person is seen as a flamboyant individual. Modern dandyism an expression of that individuality.

Here are half a dozen of the many different folds that can enhance your style.

The first is a very simple one:

The TV Fold (also known as the Presidential fold) is so named because of its popularity amongst American TV game show hosts in the 1950s. It’s a simple fold that shows a straight line of ¼” (0.6 cm) to ½” (1.3 cm) of the pocket square above the breast pocket.

Also, a popular fold seen worn by the Rat Pack, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr etc during this time.

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Then we have:

The Puff Fold

Allegedly invented by Fred Astaire, the puff fold gets its name from the cloudy, “puff” shape created when finished in the breast pocket. Once you learn the fold, it’s one of the quickest to execute and punches far above its weight in style points.

This sort of fold is ideal for silk handkerchiefs with eye-catching patterns and designs. It’s quite flamboyant and playful, without looking too contrived.

Next there is:

The Simple Fold Over:

This fold is simply a slightly asymmetrical TV fold with the handkerchief’s edges facing upwards. Easy to execute while simultaneously sartorially conservative and visually interesting, it works particularly well with white hanks that have a coloured hand rolled trim.

The fourth is:

The One Point Fold:

Another easy-to-fold number, one point looks like a triangle pointing upwards from your breast pocket. A bit more complex than a TV fold, it’s a tad more conspicuous as well. Overall, it works particularly well with solid squares. This fold is followed by the Two-Point Fold:

Needless to say, the two-point is very similar to the one-point fold above, but with two points showing up from the pocket. When the number of points increase so does the complexity of the fold, and it begins to look more contrived. That said though, a well-executed pocket square with 3, 4, or 5 points adds a level of detail that can be admired by pocket square fans. It shows a certain pride and sharpness that simply has to be admired.

The last in this list is known as the Plop.

Cary Grant was known for this. It’s is essentially a non-fold, a version of the puff that’s been stuffed into the pocket as opposed to folded. This “fold” is very casual in nature and goes very well with casual looks like odd jackets and trousers, sports coats worn with button-down collar shirts, and so on. It is a particularly laid-back and easy-going style, which simply exudes the laid back nonchalance of Sprezzatura. Something that is to me the epitome of cool.

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Read 398 times Last modified on Wednesday, 29 July 2020 09:51
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