A Party in Your Pocket

Where is your pocket square?  You!  Yes, you! I see you reading this and your breast pocket is utterly empty.  That is unfortunate and something that is easy to remedy.

Why wear one? An old saying goes that a Gentleman should never have an empty pocket.  You ought to have something in there.  Beyond ill-sourced platitudes, it became culturally acceptable for non-dandys to wear one thanks to pop culture phenoms like Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire.  I consider it a missed opportunity whenever I do not have a pocket square in a blazer of suit breast pocket.  It creates a little bit of visual interest and lets you inject just a bit of life and color without huge amounts of effort or expense. It brings a little something else to the party.

You can find pocket squares in a number of fabrics but cotton, linen, and silk are the most common and likely.  You will find them in a wide variety of colors and patterns.  Like bow ties, don’t get one that prefolded!  It looks too perfect and there is no reason you cannot fold your own.  You can read, right?  You made it to this website, right?  Then you have the mental and physical coordination to be able to fold a pocket square.

What square to choose? The easiest choice to make is to go with a white cotton pocket square.  It goes with everything.  Yes, everything  They are also easy to find.  Precept Number 1?  The best you can with what you can afford?  You can start with the JC Penney 3 pack of white cotton kerchiefs for $7.00.  I have some I still use.; 3 for $7 means no excuses!

This is supposed to be a party in your pocket, so you may well want a splash of color!  Whatever you do, don’t try to match your pocket square with your shirt and tie too closely.  The idea is not to look like there is a single background from which you have been cut beneath the suit but to add interest and visual appeal.  The white pocket square easily goes with everything for this very reason.  One of my favorite squares is a silk rust orange colored one that perfectly matches absolutely none of my suits, shirts, and ties.  Don’t be afraid to show a little color.  This is your chance to have a little fun with the outfit.  Look at paisleys, checks, and bright edging to white squares as other good options.

What fold? How do I fold it?  To be honest, the most common “fold” I use isn’t a fold at all.  I pick up the pocket square in the center and let it drape down, stuff it into my pocket so that the rounded puff is showing and go about my daily business.

If you want to do the straight line, Mad Men 60s fold, check this description.  Lord Whimsy did a great job getting these sheets together and I have honestly printed several out and taped them to mirrors when practicing. If you are the kind of person up bright & early ironing their shirts before work, I have no idea how you do that, but it is an easy time to set this fold.  After you iron the shirt, unplug your iron and before it cools down use the residual heat to press the cotton for that sharp, sharp look.

That easy puff I was talking about?  Here.

That is a good start.  We can revisit more complex options later.

I keep a spare white cotton pocket square at the office if somehow I make it out the door without one.  It is a wasted opportunity not to inject some life into your outfit.  You can go for the cool and classic tv fold for Don Draper with a crisp white cotton line barely breaking the edge of the pocket, or you go to the other extreme and find the overflowing bounty of a paisley pocket square looking haphazard and whimsical like Lord John Marbury. (About 1:30 is the best view.)

  • Chris Vaughan

    I prefer the commonly accepted English practice of jamming it in the pocket haphazardly.  And sometimes for giggles I will pull a square out of the drawer blind, just to keep my rational side from getting too matchy.

  • Joel

    I love that mussy & haphazard style, but I wouldn’t recommend it to a new pocket square wearer. It takes a little bit of practice to get the artful muss down or to be nonchalant about it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/BradleyNIN Bradley Jordan Phillips

    I can only pull it off with bright colors. You have so much more flare Joel.