A burst of colour, a hint of texture, an intricate pattern. When worn correctly, the pocket square can add refinement and personality to any outfit. But what are the origins of this humble piece of cloth? And how should one wear it today? We shine a light on this simple but effective accessory.
The origins of the pocket square can be traced back to the days of Ancient Greece and Rome. Used purely for functionality, small squares of silk or linen would be soaked in fine smelling perfumes which the aristocracy would carry to avoid the unpleasant odours associated with urban living. The rapid growth in their popularity is credited to King Richard II, who would carry “square pieces of cloth to wipe his nose”.
Throughout the late 19th century, the popularity in fine tailoring and, in particular, the two-piece suit, saw the square evolve from humble sniffle catcher to luxury adornment of the breast pocket, worn as a sign and symbol of a gentleman’s place in society.
In the early years of the 20th century, a plume of silk would often be seen protruding from the breast pocket, not only of the jacket, but the waistcoat and overcoat too. As the century moved forward, the common fashion was for the square to harmonise with the necktie but to never match.
Today, the pocket square has established itself as a staple of the gentlemen’s wardrobe, an accessory of elegance and flair. It may have fallen out of favour from time to time but it has always been there. More than a simple piece of cloth, it is a means of expression that can accentuate any outfit, adding that final and, at times, much needed flourish.
OUR TOP TIPS FOR STYLING A POCKET SQUARE…
MIX IT UP
It shouldn’t match the necktie! This is the number one rule when styling a pocket square. You want a square that hints at other elements of the outfit, taking into consideration the colour palette, patterns and texture. When styled correctly, the pocket square will bring the entire outfit together.
ADD SOME TEXTURE
For some, the shine of plain silk can be too much and is not something that readily pairs with more casual garments. As a worthy alternative, why not opt for wool or a wool/silk mix. This brings a softness and understated elegance to an outfit and, because of its versatile nature, has the advantage of being ideal for both formal suits and the more casual sports coat.
Don’t be too precise, it doesn’t need to look perfect! An elaborately folded square can often look overly considered and, at times, contrived. Try stuffing it into the pocket and playing around until you achieve a plumage that looks stylish but coincidental.