Ancient Egyptians and Millennials today share a style statement that runs common, despite their generational gap. The pocket square has stood the test of time for centuries, bringing with it a rich cultural and global history unlike any other.
If you aren’t familiar with what they are, here’s a quick introduction. A pocket square is more than just a piece of cloth that is tucked into a breast pocket. It is an accessory that requires precise folds, quality fabrics and unique designs to differentiate itself from your run-of-the-mill handkerchief.
But before we get into the nitty-gritty essentials, let’s take a sneak peek into how it all started, shall we?
Though King Richard II is often regarded as the inventor of the pocket square, the trend actually goes further back in history to ancient times. Sources suggest that Egyptians used fine white linen as a mark of their nobility and wealth.
By the Middle Ages, however, the accessory had already undergone quite a few changes. The French chose to use silk, in various colors, that they would lightly perfume. The fact that members of the royal family and monarchs such as Louis XVI were witnessed wearing pocket squares, only added to their popularity.
So, what goes on behind the scenes in creating the right statement?
Well, first things first – folds! Pocket squares come in a range of different fabrics, the most common being linen, cotton and silk. Each of these can be folded into a myriad of shapes to suit your taste. Since there are so many differing options, I have identified the simplest folds for you to try out.
- Square/Presidential Fold: Begin with the pocket square laid out flat and unfolded. Fold the square in half to form a rectangle, then fold it in half again to form a square. Make another fold to create a slimmer rectangle. Tuck the bottom of the fabric into the pocket and leave the folded half exposed.
- Three Point Fold: Begin with the pocket square laid out flat and unfolded. Fold the fabric diagonally to make a square but ensure that it is slightly off-center and asymmetrical, so that one corner lies a little to the left of the other. Fold the bottom left corner up to the top of the triangle, which will leave you with three pointed edges at the top. Fold the other bottom corner upward as far as it will go, keeping the fold in line with the straight edge of your previous fold. This should make the entire folded square fit comfortably into your pocket. Finally, tuck the flat bottom into the pocket, keeping the three-pointed edges exposed.
- Puff Fold: By far one of my favorite ways to fold a pocket square, as it adds some volume to the pocket!
Begin with the pocket square laid out flat and unfolded. Pinch the pocket at the center and gently lift it up, allowing the corners to hang down. Make a circle with your thumb and index finger and pull the pinched fabric halfway through. Then, bring the hanging corners upwards, imagine peeling an upside-down banana. Arrange the corners in a way that they fit into the width of your pocket. Tuck the bottom into the pocket with the ‘puff’ exposed.
- Winged Puff Fold: Begin with the pocket square laid flat and unfolded. Fold the square diagonally, but with the point facing down. Fold one corner up and inward so that the tip meets the top of the original triangle. Repeat the same with the other corner and you should end up with what looks like an equilateral diamond. Tug the bottom corner loose and fold the other three corners inward to form a square with a pointy edge. Tuck the flat bottom into the pocket and let the pointed tip exposed.
With the folds done, you will need to know how to style a pocket square.
Do’s and do not’s of wearing a pocket square
- The folds of your pocket square have got a lot to do with its size. For instance, given the nature of a silk pocket square (or anything less than 40 cm) it will be inclined to slip inside your pocket throughout the day, rather than being sturdy enough for you to not have to retrieve it time and time again.
- However, time is of little consequence in this matter, it is more to do with the occasion at hand. Some might choose to go for a shade or two lighter with their pocket square, as a contrast to their dark jacket for a formal occasion. More recently, however, there has been a change in preference of wearing a white pocket square for formal occasions or business meetings.
- Often, it isn’t really about the color or the folds, just the mere existence of a pocket square on your jacket is enough to make all the difference.
- Do not match a tie to your pocket square in both color and/or pattern. The purpose of a pocket square is to ‘contrast’ the entire ensemble and by matching it to your other accessories you are only helping it fail in the very thing it is meant to be doing.
- Instead, if your pocket square has a pattern, pick a color from within that palette to match the primary color on your tie.
- A pocket square style could go two ways, either a conservative one wherein you choose a basic flat fold that leaves only half an inch of the pocket square exposed, or a flamboyant style wherein the pocket square has vibrant colors and extravagant folds.
- You do not have to make use of a pocket square holder to set your folds in place. Generally, they will hamper the overall look. If a square is of a lighter material (silk, cotton etc.) then go for sizes of 40cm to 45cm, for a heavier material such as linen, choose a length around 30cm. With these dimensions you will not have to worry about how well they hold your folds in place.
In a world where jeans and t-shirts are commonplace, wearing a suit with a pocket square will not just distinguish you from the crowd, but it may just open the door to places previously unknown…
You know what they say, “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression”.