Wednesday, February 3, 2010

HOW TO BEHAVE HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE: The Gentleman and the Pocket Square

My dad has always been a sharp dresser. Bespoke suits, fine silk ties, and a collection of shoes to make any man envious. I think I was in my teens before I had ever seen him in what he would consider casual attire (casual for him means without tie, he even digs around in his garden in a dress shirt!). A friends mom once remembered my dad coming to my little league baseball games, the only dad there dressed in a suit and tie. As long as I can remember, he was never without a pocket square. Before stepping out, he would always take one last look in the mirror and tuck it deeply into his pocket, give it a tug, letting it peek out of the top.

What has happened to the pocket square?? Once upon a time, a man wouldn't walk out his front door without tucking a folded square of material into his breast pocket. Unfortunately, for a while it had gone the way of the tie clip, the cufflink and many other 'accessories' that have been banished from men's wardrobes as frivolous decorations and not necessary. Lucky for us it seems to be making a comeback, especially with the young men in vogue cruising the metropolitan streets and I am loving it!

Originating in England (it has been noted as early as the 14th century), the pocket square or handkerchief was used for hygienic reasons, to wipe the face or blow the nose. By the 19th century, an early version of the two piece suit we know today came into fashion and with that, the pocket square became a standard in a man's wardrobe for practical (nose blowing) and fashionable (looking good) reasons.

Once fancy folding techinques reared their heads, the square had become a must have accessory for any man, allowing him to showcase his individual style.
With the invention of the disposable hankerchief (thank you Mr. Kleenex!), the square started to lose its importance and with the continuing quest to be less 'formal' and more 'casual' in our lives (and wardrobes and grooming and manners and I could go on all day!) the pocket square became a relic, an item associated with old men and the past.
The resurgence of the pocket square has young men of 2010 pairing theirs with everything from formal suits and ties to sport jackets and jeans. They know a fabulous way to bring their look up a notch when they see it.

I have added a little instructional guide below for three of the most common folding techniques but when I started to my research, I never knew their were so many ways to fold such a little piece of material.

The Straight Fold
Lay your pocket square flat and bring left side to right side.
Bring the bottom towards the top and then fold in thirds horizontally to fit pocket appropriately.

The One Corner Fold
Lay pocket square flat so that it is in a diamond shape (one point north, one point south)and bring bottom point to meet top point (making a triangle)
Bring left corner to the right corner and then right corner to left corner making a slim rectangle with a point at the top. Fold the bottom towards the top but stop short before base of top peak (making it look like a shorter version of the slim rectangle mentioned before. Place it in your pocket and adjust till you have your preferred amount of peak sticking out.

 The Puff Fold
Lay pocket square flat. Pinch middle of fabric and with one hand firmly holding the square, use other hand to gather fabric together.
While continuing to hold middle of fabric, bring top of square to meet bottom, stick in pocker and arrange appropriately until you are pleased with the puff.

I am on a quest for all men, young and old alike, to start sporting them once again. Ladies now is the chance to sneak a little fashion advice passed your husbands. Even the most relaxed of men have to slip on a suit and tie sometimes, and that's were you come in. My husband does not wear a suit that often but after introducing him to the beauty of a pocket square, he never puts on a suit without one.
(okay, truth be told, when I first bought one for him and brought it home, his only response was "what am I supposed to do with this?" accompanied by a blank stare. With a little coersion from me, he wore it for the first time to a wedding and received so many compliments that he started buying them for himself. He has never put on a suit without one since!)

Not that Don Draper has to try too hard to convince us of anything but can you think of an easier way to add a touch of style and elegance to a suit or sport jacket?

Am I the only one who thinks the pocket square is something to hold on to????
What do you think of the pocket square?


Beth Dunn said...

Love the pocket square and that you are featuring James-he is tops! xoxo


BaronessVonVintage said...

totally agree. Directly my dapper hubby to your blog RIGHT NOW! Love the pics of Cary Grant and Don Draper especially !!!

Modern Traditionalist said...

I love pocket squares, but to be fair, I love most nods to days of yore. I would also stand behind the revivials of the top hat, the pocket watch and watch fob, everyday gloves for women, and calling cards.

James said...

Alas like so many signs of a gentleman it has faded. I have wonderful memories of men wearing them on the streets of Augusta when I was in Jr High. I remember them so well because these were the men that stepped off the sidewalk and tipped their hats to my mother. Can you imagine in a busy city of today any one surrendering the sidewalk to a lady?

Anonymous said...

I do believe they went by way of the ladies veiled hats & white gloves & stockings.... also good manners!!

Bonjour Madame said...

I love the pocket square too. When my grandfather passed I got to keep a couple of his. They make a suit look so sharp.

Anonymous said...

Aaaah, the pocket square! I can vouch for Lily's dad - he is never to be caught without a crisp white shirt, a fine suit and pocket square, even in the garden!

So far as James' comment on gentlemen tipping their hat to his mother, I regret to say I've never witnessed such a wonderful thing in person. I do recall a distinguished gentleman who travelled from the US to Toronto for my cousin's wedding, who reportedly tipped his hat to a lady on the street the morning of the wedding, complete with a "top o' the morning to you" greeting that was quickly dismissed with a look of disgust and an accelerated footstep as she walked past him. People don't even know what this means any more.


bevysblog said...

So sorry... what were you blogging about again? I was drooling over that fabulous Cary Grant. Ahhhh...

BonjourRomance said...

Bonjour Lily,
A tip of the hat to your dapper dad. Pocket squares should definitely be held on to. Personally, I love a man in a well-cut suit, my honey hardly ever leaves the house without a tie, in the wintertime he will wear a turtleneck, I love this old-fashioned yet very elegant style he has.
Bravo to dapper gentlemen everywhere - especially to James!

JMW said...

Yes, let's hold onto the pocket square! I saw a gentleman wearing one recently and I thought it was very becoming and wished more men dressed like that. Alas, our casual work environment has taken that away.

Dumbwit Tellher said...

Nothing & I mean nothing is sexier than a well dressed man in a gorgeous suit. Interesting tie, cuff-links and yes, a pocket square. So happy you are featuring James & his incredible blog. Yours is fantastic as well!

Cheers ~ deb

Metropolitan Mum said...

And there they go saying that men hadn't enough accessories to play with. I love the pocket square, although the 'puff' can look a little OTT, I think.

How funny that Gary Cooper is smoking a cigarette in the picture. Let's hope this accessory never gets back into fashion.

Karena said...

It is the best to see a man well dressed. Most attire has become so casual. The pocket square, a fabulous tie, unique cuff links,great accessories!

elledee said...

mmm I was just thinking this about pocket squares the other day! I miss don draper...

Stefanie Valentine said...

I love the pocket square and it's such a shame that more men don't wear them. I actually wore a pocket square myself the other day! A little piece of polka dot material peeping out of my dungaree (or overalls!) pocket! x

Butler2880 said...

I never leave home without a pocket square in my coat pocket. I'm one of the lucky few who still get to wear a suit everyday. I've amassed quite a collection of squares over the years. I feel like I'm not fully dressed without my pocket square!

Dustjacket Attic said...

Mmm come here Mr Draper....oh did I say that out loud!

Great post,