History of Pocket Square
The pocket square (also known as handkerchief, pocket kerchief, and pocket handkerchief) is one of the tailored ensemble’s finishing touches that is too often overlooked. Any tailored jacket worth its salt has a breast pocket, and they are made specifically to show off an item of pocket linen.
The first linen handkerchiefs date back to ancient Egypt, where they were used by the wealthy for hygienic reasons, such as removing encrusted dirt from one’s face before eating.
Centuries later, handkerchiefs retained their popularity, with Caesar dropping one to signal the start of games at
the Coliseum in Rome.
During the medieval period, knights would frequently ride with a handkerchief as proof of a lady’s favour.
Richard II of England (1367-1400) is said to be the “inventor” of the pocket square. He kept a square handkerchief on his person at all times, using it to clean his nose and face as necessary.
Maintaining an excellent appearance was required by lords and ladies, and the handkerchief was soon adopted by other nobles.
The lower class caught on a few centuries later, and by the time the seventeenth century rolled around, almost everyone in western Europe could be seen using a handkerchief – though few at this time managed to fold it into a pocket square as we do today.
During the Renaissance, they were considered a functional accessory that was essential to a man’s wardrobe. Over time their designs became more and more ornate, and any man who was considered respectable carried one. They were (and, to a certain degree, still are) a symbol of social rank and gentility.
Eighteenth-century England saw a rise in the popularity of snuff, wherein pulverized tobacco leaves were inhaled through the nose (like one would cocaine today). This offered a quick hit of nicotine and often left a pleasing aroma in the user’s nose. It also made men sneeze like hell, and the handkerchief was extremely useful in that regard.
By the nineteenth century, pocket kerchiefs were in use by just about every man regardless of his social status or profession.
The Duke Of Windsor popularized bright silk squares in the 1920’s, and men wore them regularly up until the 1980’s.
The handkerchief fell out of favour for a very long time; Ronald Reagan was the last American president to consistently wear one before then-Vice President Joe Biden began sporting them regularly. Prince Charles now wears them regularly.
Since the early 2000’s, the pocket square has thankfully seen a resurgence in popularity.
Pocket squares add elegance and style to a gentleman's look, but to achieve that, it must be worn properly.
Do not match your pocket square to your tie;
A square fold is the most professional;
A puff fold is the most casual;