Stylish details: how to wear pocket squares

Pocket Square
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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

Want to know how to stand out without wearing a full suit?

Then try adding add a pocket square – a small, subtle extra that will make your outfit shine.

The growing laissez-faire attitude in the dress code of the modern office environment makes it difficult to stand out. Either you go overboard by wearing an old-fashioned business suit, or you just feel as though your business casual outfit doesn’t quite make it. Adding a subtle, yet powerful piece of cloth can work wonders in making you look dapper – without appearing too orthodox or conservative. The traditional pocket square looks great on business casual and full business, making it the perfect ornament every man should own.

While pocket squares had grown out of fashion towards the end of the last century, they are on the rise again – even for streetwear. Celebrities such as Bruce Willis, Johnny Depp and Daniel Craig have often been seen wearing them – and they look dashing!

The reason they are becoming more popular is because men’s fashion can often look rather bland, without many options to personalise the look. Small items like the pocket square are ideal, because they give you the chance to express your personality by just adding a small, elegant detail – the perfect way to showcase your individuality.

There are vital things to keep in mind when buying and using a pocket square. We’ve assorted and listed the most important aspects you need to consider when starting out with this precious little piece of decorative fashion.

What to buy

Pocket squares (also known as pocket handkerchiefs) come in all sizes, colours and patterns. When buying one, you want to make sure that it complements your outfit well. Don’t use a predominantly red one when you’re wearing red trousers, for instance. If both your jacket and your shirt have a complicated pattern, you might want to opt out of a particularly ornamented pocket square.

If you go for a unicoloured one, make sure it either complements the subtle colour of another part of your outfit (if you’re wearing colourful cufflinks, for instance); otherwise create a contrast (provided the colours don’t bite!). Also try to avoid shiny materials, which can produce a cheap look.

If you go for a pattern, make sure it isn’t kitsch. Polka dots and chequered patterns can go a long way and are easier to pull off than, say, little pictures of some animal which can be detrimental to your overall look. Of course, complicated patterns also work, but be careful when treading the thin line between classy and kitsch.

The most important pitfall to avoid is to wear a pocket square of the same colour and material as your tie, should you wear one. If you do, it looks as though your mother-in-law bought you a cheap set for your birthday and expects you to wear it in gratitude. The pocket square should always be distinct from and rather complement your tie.

When to wear a pocket square

Whenever you wear a jacket, you could potentially add a pocket square for some flavour. That doesn’t mean that you should.

As a rule of thumb, you should wear it when you want to add an extra touch to your outfit. It’s too formal for a casual look, no doubt, but there’s no reason not to go for it when wearing smart or business casual and over. It demonstrates that you care for your look and value a classy and smart appearance.

If you go to a business meeting you will certainly stand out as someone who cares about the impression he leaves on others. At black or white tie events a neatly folded plain white pocket square should be a standard part of your look.

How to wear a pocket square

Like ties, there are many ways you can fold your pocket square for different occasions. Although you might not be aware of it, you’ve probably seen most, if not all of these at some point in your life.

The square or presidential fold is easy to accomplish and most suited for formal events. You simply fold your pocket square in half twice, leaving you with a square. It looks classy and neat when added to any formal outfit.

The classic one-point fold is similar to the square fold, but instead of folding it horizontally, you crease vertically, leaving you with a triangle. Then, you fold the outer corners just about over the centre, forming a cone shape which fits neatly in your pocket. It’s less formal than the square and is best used for business or semi-formal events.

Another excellent less formal fold (and my personal favourite) is the puff fold. To achieve this look, you lift the square up by pinching the middle and fold the points about half-way up, and then push the excess fabric into your pocket, leaving the middle showing out. Adjust according to your liking to achieve the best possible look.

As with any accessory, there are many other things to consider when buying a pocket square, and many more folds to discover. This article has given you a basic overview and the most common folds to start out with, allowing you to embark into the wonderful world of pocket squares.