The Handkerchief: the Tie Alternative

Growing up, I always admired my father’s tie and handkerchief collection. As any well-dressed man will tell you, the handkerchief completes the overall look and feel of any dress attire. Perhaps like icing on a cake, one should never forget this small but powerful detail. The traditional handkerchief was originally associated with religion and mainly used by priests. Called “facials”, these early primitive handkerchiefs were small, simple pieces of silk tissue. The handkerchief, known also today as the pocket square, is accessible and available to all.

The classic pocket-handkerchief idea is surprisingly only 400 years old. Until the 18th century, handkerchiefs came in many different forms such as round, triangular and what we commonly see today, the square. As we entered the turned of the century, silk, linen and cotton were placed in the breast pocket of a gentleman’s suit jacket and a man would not be considered completely dressed without one. Today, as business casual dominates corporate America, men are no longer required or choosing to wear a suit or sport coat to the office. For some, this look does not represent a signature of style and will just not do. Casual attire can be brought to the next level when a sport coat is teamed with the perfect handkerchief for added color and style. For me, the “power hankie” replaces the tie. This is a welcome addition to any wardrobe.

Any suit or sport coat that has a breast pocket is a prime candidate for the handkerchief/pocket square. A breast pocket without one appears unfinished and underdressed. Whether wearing a suit or jeans, I personally take this opportunity to add color and interest with the perfect silk pocket square. Over the year’s I have acquired quite a collection that continues to grow. When traveling, I seek out new and interesting designs that will compliment my ties at home. Less expensive than the average designer tie, I prefer not only to purchase them for myself, but they also make a great gift. In lieu of another boring tie, consider a pocket square as the perfect alternative men’s accessory gift item for a birthday, Father’s Day or any occasion.

While the easiest choice for most men is classic white linen, for those who desire to be fashionably dressed, I recommend starting a collection and continuously adding to it. Today there are many styles from which to choose. No matter what your age or taste, the perfect handkerchief/pocket square will add style and personality to a well-dressed gentleman. A handkerchief in a breast pocket offers elegance and is a sign of a confident and professional businessman. In classic white cotton or any color, fabric or pattern, a pocket square is an inexpensive way a man can show his level of style.

Over the years, my female friends continue to be surprised and impressed with my collection, often commenting on the distinguished look it gives me.

I have found this small attention to detail to invite positive comments and attract people to my unique style of dress. Fellas, don’t disappoint the ladies. They love a well-dressed man.

Mar’s Handkerchief /Pocket Square Rules:

  • NEVER buy as a set with a tie.
  • When wearing with a tie, NEVER directly match it. Compliment it by choosing the dominate color or pattern.
  • Acceptable with casual or formal attire regardless if you’re wearing a tie.
  • Buy colors that compliment your sense of style and personality.
  • If you choose to monogram, NEVER let it show.
  • Should be visible no more than an inch to an inch and a half above your pocket.

Folding a Handkerchief/Pocket Square: There are many different styles of folds. Try a casual, not too studied look that works for you. Here are some examples but feel free to create your own.

Four Point – with the pocket square on a flat surface, pick up each of the four ends and fold over leaving the points or ends higher than the middle. Place in pocket so that the points show.

Puff Pick up the square in the center with the four points hanging down, fold over and insert in your pocket so that just the “puff” is showing and spread it to fill the pocket opening.

Three Point – fold the square into a perfect triangle with the flat side toward you, move the lower left corner to the right of the triangle then move the lower right corner to the left of the top point, adjust the three points so they are even, fold the bottom up less than half way and push into your pocket.

TV Fold very 1940-50’s! Fold the pocket square to 1/8th its full size, insert into pocket with – 1 inch of razor straight square showing above the pocket.

Peaks Start with the square open, fold over diagonally to form a perfect triangle with the flat side to your right. Fold the bottom edge up to the right of edge farthest from you and a little higher, move the left edge slightly higher and to the right of the two peaks you have created and you should have three peaks or triangles. Fold the square and insert so that the peaks will show out of the pocket

Puff and Point – pick up the four corners of the square, fold in half and put in your pocket exposing both the points and the puff center.

Take time to experiment and discover the look that works for you. Once you find your style, you’ll look for opportunities to wear them often.

And there you have it.