Wednesday, August 4, 2010

On Pocket Squares

ne day, on a lark, I added a pocket square to my jacket.  The outfit consisted of khackis, a pink striped shirt, dress shoes, and a blue blazer.  The pocket square was bright green (went with the blue jacket) with a pink border, which picked up the shirt color.  This was a silk pocket square, and yet I managed to pull off a two point fold.  The look was fantastic - the pocket square tied the jacket and the shirt together and broke up the large field of blue that was the blazer.  I'll never go back.

Assorted Pocket Squares
As guys, we've always been screwed on methods in which we can project any sort of personality.  There's the tie, but few people wear them anymore, particularly to work.  There's cufflinks, but they're rarely noticed and the themes available today are a bit lame.  (Dice?  Knots?  C'mon.)

Pocket squares (also known as "pochettes" or "handkerchiefs") are perfect; there's not just the variety of colors and styles, but there's also a ton of way to fold them to suit your feeling for the day.  If you work at a bank or need to go ultra-conservative, choose a crisp white cotton square and a flat fold.  In a sea of suits, you'll stand out - in a good way.  If you want to have some fun, pick something with a bold pattern and go with the reverse puff or the dandy.

Among other benefits, pocket squares are really quite inexpensive.  Sure, you can drop a couple hundred at Hermes, but with the way they're folded nobody will ever know.  For about $20 you can find a good selection at Andrew's Ties.  A few more bucks at Brooks Bothers will get you one of theirs.  The best place to find them is perhaps at sales or outlet malls.  These poor stores stock these items in the hope that someone fashionable still exists on the planet.  When they find out they're hopes are dashed, they discount the hell out of them.

There's even more unconventional, and cheaper ways of obtaining good pocket squares.  Look for used fabrics that are solids or have small prints.  You'll need about 13 to 18 inches of fabric (depending on the weight), square, to pull it off.  Take it home, find some matching thread, hand roll the edges, and sew.  When sewing, the goal is to sew the bottom of the rolled edge to the flat part of the fabric.  The best bet is to buy a pocket square, take it home, and keep it with you to observe how it was sewn.  Once you get going, you can pull one off in a little over an hour.

As I mentioned above, there are tons of ways to fold pocket squares.  It takes some practice, but after a while you won't need to reference anything, and you'll be able to quickly fold the styles you like.  There's lots of guides and even YouTube videos on the topic.  Here's a few I found:
Some tips before you get started:
  • Be ever so careful when ironing silk pocket squares.  It can be done, but you'd best believe in your iron's low temp setting.  Don't steam.
  • Never ever ever buy the "Shirt, Tie, and Pocket Square Combo Packs".  It's like advertising that you have no style.  Ties and pocket squares should never match, so this is a huge faux pas.
  • Don't be afraid to mix and match patterns.  This will give your outfit some interest.
  • Colors don't have to match perfectly.  The distance between your pocket square and the shirt (or tie) gives you some flexibility in color palate; if it looks close it will work.  You want to match minor colors of the pocket square to the shirt or tie, and major colors to the jacket.
Enjoy them!  Once you get going you'll never turn back.

--A

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