Friday, February 26, 2010

Pocket Squares vs. Handkerchiefs

I realize that in many people's view, I am a bit conservative in my clothing selections, but that is the nature of a gentleman's wardrobe, so I make no apology for it. The fact is that most of the clothing on this blog is fairly timeless – with minor variation it would have been in place in 1935, it is in place today, and it will be in place in a hundred years. By building a wardrobe in this manner, a young gentleman who builds his wardrobe carefully and with consideration will be able to wear his gray flannels thirty years from now, and he will be perfectly at home.

Today, however, I must apologize because I am going to "kick it old school" for awhile.

What do you put in the breast pocket of your suit? Many elegant and conservative stores sell little eight inch squares of silk in a variety of colors to tuck there. Some even manufacture pocket squares that match neckties. Personally, I think that all this is quite silly. The most elegant thing that a gentleman can tuck into his jacket pocket is a neatly pressed and folded white linen handkerchief. Choose a hemmed or corded edge, whichever you prefer, though the corded edge is a bit more formal. What the color is of your suit, jacket or necktie is irrelevant: your handkerchief is white. Despite the fact that it is being used as a fashion accessory, your handkerchief is fully functional.

And this brings me to my next point: Carry a handkerchief or two. While I will argue that the handkerchief in your breast pocket should be linen, that is a fairly high expense for a pocket handkerchief, so if linen is out of the question, go for a good quality rolled cotton. Take the time to press it and fold it and keep it in the weak-hand pocket of your trousers. Nothing else goes in that pocket, just your handkerchief. If you are wearing Bills Khakis, or other trousers with similarly deep pockets, go ahead and carry two. If you need to use it, a handkerchief is far more elegant than Kleenex, but it is imperative that you produce only a clean handkerchief. A hard used rag, whilst useful in private, may be offensive to others.

Perhaps most importantly, especially at weddings and funerals, is the ability to offer a clean and pressed handkerchief to a young lady. Many of us tend to become incredibly uncomfortable when faced with a crying lady – a clean and elegant handkerchief offers us a comfortable gesture that we may engage. You will find that it is generally graciously accepted, and it makes for a kind and old-fashioned gesture that is well appreciated.

As far as availability goes, I am very fond of the product carried by Brooks Brothers, but it is not cheap at $60 for a three-pack. I do like Irish linens the best, but that is prejudice on my part – there are excellent linens available from mainland Europe and elsewhere. Check eBay for bargains – you may often find vintage products in new condition there. Make sure that they are not yellowing, and you are good to go. If you like monograms on your handkerchiefs, keep them white on white, and make sure that you fold your handkerchiefs in such a way that the monogram is entirely hidden.

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