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What is a Pocket Square?

By R. Anacan
Updated May 21, 2024
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A pocket square is a small piece of cloth that is generally worn as a fashion accessory in the front pocket of a blazer, jacket or suit coat. Similar in size to a small napkin or handkerchief, the pocket square today typically serves a purely cosmetic or aesthetic purpose. Pocket squares are derived from the cloth handkerchiefs that were once quite commonly used for personal hygiene reasons. The origins of the handkerchief are not quite clear, with some believing that the ancient Greeks were the first to use them, while others believe that they originated in Greece, Egypt or England. Handkerchiefs were once considered to be symbols of wealth and prestige, for both men and women, and were considered an essential part of a person’s wardrobe.

It is believed that sometime during the 19th century, men started to place their handkerchiefs in the front breast pocket of their jackets. Over time, men began the practice of keeping handkerchiefs that were used for personal hygiene in their trouser pockets, while keeping another handkerchief in their jacket breast pockets as an accessory, thus giving birth to the pocket square. By the early 20th century, pocket squares were considered an indispensable part of a man’s everyday wardrobe. As men’s fashion changed, pocket squares fell out of favor for everyday use with many men sometime during the 1960s. However, even during the period when pocket squares were not considered “must haves” by some, they were still often used for occasions requiring more formal attire such as weddings, dinner parties, and black tie and white tie events.

While pocket squares are still not generally considered a required item for everyday use, the pocket square has re-emerged in recent years as a fashion accessory for the well-dressed man. As with most clothing items, it is important that pocket squares are worn correctly. When done incorrectly, the look can be perceived as unkempt and unstylish. When worn correctly, pocket squares are a simple yet effective way to add a dash of color, style and individuality to an outfit.

For those interested in wearing a pocket square, there are a variety of resources that can be referred to. One recommended resource would be a clothing store that sells suits or formal attire. Specific guidelines, tips, suggestions and instructions about how to properly and fashionably fold and wear a pocket square can also be found on the Internet.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon158405 — On Mar 07, 2011

A pocket squares is a necessity for a well dressed man. If it is pre-folded it is sometimes called pocket square. If is just a piece of cloth, then it is a handkerchief.

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