Advice for Pocket Squares - wearing a pocket square in the modern age | Bell & Barnett

All Squared Away - The Art Wearing of Pocket Squares

Well, the pocket square has returned with the vengeance. The problem of course is trying to figure out where and when to wear it. And what you should go for when it comes to matching it – should the tie and pocket square match, or shouldn’t they? Do not be concerned, for here at Bell & Barnett, we will not only be able to give you advice on the pocket square (as well as a brief history), but also point you to our wide variety of stylish pocket squares so you can apply your newfound knowledge immediately!

First, a (brief) history lesson. Pocket squares were originally designed to be practical handkerchiefs (or just kerchiefs in the days of yore), which may have been used as far back as the 14th Century by King Richard II for using a cloth to wipe food away from his mouth after dining. They took off from there really, and became associated with class and sophistication, since only the elite could worry about sanitation. When it comes to being worn in suit jackets, pocket squares were primarily decorative but could be used by a gentleman if the need arose (naturally, a gentleman would try and avoid dirty work or dirty eating habits, so that wouldn’t be too often) although a more practical handkerchief would be used as well. They briefly went out of fashion but have returned, fortunately, to their rightful spot in the blazer or jacket pocket.

Why do we have a history lesson for pocket squares? Understanding the history shows how the pocket square is associated with class and elegance, having long been associated with the aristocracy and wealth. It also helps to understand the way classy gentlemen wear pocket squares. But don’t make the mistake of assuming pocket squares are anything more than decorative in this modern age – silk should really not be used to blow your nose (unless you are so wealthy it doesn’t matter anymore, in which case you can do whatever you want).

In regards to pocket squares, there are very few set rules – it is an art, not a science. There is one crucial rule that should be observed though, and that is: do NOT match your pocket square to your tie exactly. That is really the only major rule – everything else is often up to your personal discretion.

Some tips though: pocket squares can be used to bring attention to a particular colour in your tie or shirt. For example, if your tie has blue and yellow, you can choose either yellow or blue for your pocket square; likewise if you want to look particularly sharp at the board meeting or at a formal dinner, try making your pocket square white to bring out your white shirt. Patterned pocket squares should compliment a patterned tie or shirt, so it creates a certain pleasantness on the eye when worn as an ensemble. Pocket squares are a way of adding extra details to an outfit, and can really be the difference between being well dressed and elegant.

The most important thing to remember, aside from not matching the pocket square to your tie, is to try and put everything in context of your overall look. A pocket square and tie may compliment (not match) each other perfectly, but if they stand out like a sore thumb from your suit, then there are some issues that need to be addressed. Try and avoid having the pocket square as the same colour of your jacket as well – after all, you want to stand out as an elegant man, not to have your efforts disappear into the vast fabric of the suit.

At the end of the day, it really comes down to your personal choice: patterns or plain, which colours you want to bring out in your appearance. Just remember, don’t match the pocket square with the tie, or have it the same as the jacket, and you will look fantastic.