Everything You Need to Know About Pocket Squares

Slip
in a little extra style


Written
by RJ Firchau


How
on earth could a functionally useless piece of fabric nested inside a pocket be
considered “style,” you ask? For some men, pocket squares are still,
understandably, regarded as foreign territory.
We’re
going to breakdown just what a pocket square is, and how to master 10 different
pocket square folds.

What
is a pocket square?


Pocket
squares are direct descendants of the men’s handkerchief. Men used to carry
pocket handkerchiefs in their trousers but later transitioned to putting them
in breast pockets, since pants would also carry bills and coins–not the
cleanest, most convenient place for a cloth that wipes the face.
Once
handkerchiefs took residence in suit breast pockets, they became decorative.
Today, we use disposable facial tissues for obvious hygiene reasons, but pocket
squares are still a crucial element to formal men’s suiting.
pocket square folds designs
10
Ways to Fold a Pocket Square:


Ten
of the most popular methods. For all twelve folds, and more, watch our Man
Academy videos on cool pocket square folds.
The
Classic Pocket Square Fold


                                     Classic pocket square fold

  1. Begin
    with pocket square laid flat and unfolded.
  2. Fold
    the square in half once.
  3. Form
    a square by folding up the bottom.
  4. Fold
    lengthwise one more time to match the width of your pocket. Tuck the folded
    square into your jacket pocket with the edges facing up. It is not essential to
    keep the edges symmetrical. In fact, allowing them to layer and fall naturally
    adds to the casual nature of this fold. This fold works exceptionally well with
    pocket squares that have differently-colored lined (or hand-rolled) edges.


The
Square (Presidential) Pocket Square Fold

                             presidential pocket square fold

  1. Begin
    with pocket square laid flat and unfolded.
  2. Fold
    the square in half once.
  3. Now
    fold it in half the other way.
  4. One
    more time, fold the square in half, creating a slim rectangle. Tuck the lower
    edge (you may need to fold it over a little to fit your pocket) into your
    jacket pocket, leaving only the folded edge visible at the top.


One-Point
Pocket Square Fold
                                   One Point pocket square fold

  1. Begin
    with pocket square laid flat and unfolded.
  2. Fold
    the square diagonally down the middle, bringing one corner to meet the opposite
    corner.
  3. Fold
    one corner in and across about two-thirds of the way.
  4. Repeat
    step three with the remaining corner. You will want to fold the protruding flap
    back in and adjust the bottom of the folded pocket square as needed to fit in
    your jacket pocket so that the only part visible is the point.
Two-Point
Pocket Square Fold



                                    Two Point pocket square fold

  1. Begin
    with pocket square laid flat and unfolded.
  2. Fold
    the square diagonally down the middle, bringing one corner to meet the opposite
    corner. You will want to angle the fold slightly off-center so that one corner
    will hit just to the left of the other. The corners should be offset–both
    points visible.
  3. Fold
    one corner in and across about two-thirds of the way.
  4. Repeat
    step three with the remaining corner. You will want to fold the protruding flap
    back in and adjust the bottom of the folded pocket square as needed to fit in
    your jacket pocket so that the only section visible is the two points.

Three-Point
Pocket Square Fold


                                       Three Point pocket square fold

  1. Begin
    with pocket square laid flat and unfolded.
  2. Fold
    the square diagonally down the middle, bringing one corner to meet the opposite
    corner. You will want to angle the fold slightly off-center so that one corner
    will hit just to the left of the other. The corners should be offset–both
    points visible.
  3. Fold
    the corner on the same side as the offset point you made in step two up and
    across, forming the third point.
  4. Fold
    the remaining corner across and fold/adjust as needed to create a shape that
    fits in your jacket pocket. Tuck into your pocket so that the only part visible
    is the three points. Make the points as close or as wide as you like, just make
    sure they’re pointing upward.


Four-Point
Pocket Square Fold


Four Point pocket square fold

  1. Begin
    with pocket square laid flat and unfolded.
  2. Fold
    the square diagonally down the middle, bringing one corner to meet the opposite
    corner. You will want to angle the fold slightly off-center, so that one corner
    will hit just to the right of the other. The corners should be offset–both
    points visible.
  3. Fold
    the bottom left corner diagonally up and across, aligning the point to the
    right of the first two points. All three points should line up neatly and be as
    evenly spaced as possible.
  4. Repeat
    with the bottom right corner, folding it up diagonally and across. This point
    should align to the left of all the points. Once again, check for alignment and
    even spacing of all the points. Now, depending on how you’ve fared on the first
    four steps, your pocket square might be able to fit in your pocket as-is. If
    not, fold the outside edges inward, tucking them in below the four points. Tuck
    the base of your fold into your jacket pocket so only the four points are
    visible.


The
Puff Pocket Square Fold


                                   Puff pocket square fold

  1. Begin
    with the pocket square laid flat and unfolded.
  2. Pinch
    the pocket square at its center and lift, letting the edges and corners hang
    down.
  3. Form
    a circle with your thumb and pointer finger and pull the pinched point in and
    through about halfway. Tug gently on the hanging edges with your other hand,
    pulling the pocket square into a loose “puffed” shape. Gently begin bringing
    the hanging corners up with your other hand, kind of like peeling a banana in
    reverse.
  4. Once
    all the corners have been folded up, arrange them until the square is short
    enough to fit snugly in your jacket pocket with only the “puff” showing. Don’t
    worry about the puff having small wrinkles and imperfections–that’s part of the
    charm of this particular fold.

The
Winged Puff Pocket Square Fold

                                Winged Puff pocket square fold

  1. Begin
    with the pocket square laid flat and unfolded.
  2. Fold
    the square diagonally down the middle, bringing one corner to meet the other.
    Aim the point of the triangle upward (away from yourself) when laid flat.
  3. Fold
    the corners in and up, bringing them to meet the top point of the original
    triangle. The resulting shape should be a diamond. Tug the bottom point (the
    one pointing toward you) a tiny bit loose so that there is a slight gap between
    folds. This corner is the one that will remain visible.
  4. Turn
    your folded square around so that the “winged” corner is facing up. Fold the
    three other corners in toward the center. The resulting shape should look like
    an envelope, and there should be a visible slit down the center of the winged
    peak. Tuck the square portion of the folded pocket square into your pocket, so
    that only the pointed peak is visible. Tease the wings of the peak a little to
    make the final shape a little imperfect.
The
Crown Pocket Square Fold

                                    crown pocket square fold

  1. Begin
    with the pocket square laid flat and unfolded.
  2. Pinch
    the pocket square at its center and lift, letting the edges and corners hang
    down.
  3. Form
    a circle with your thumb and pointer finger and pull the pinched point in and
    through about halfway.
  4. Tug
    gently on the hanging edges with your other hand, pulling the pocket square
    into a loose “puffed” shape. Gently begin bringing the hanging corners up with
    your other hand, kind of like peeling a banana in reverse. Unlike the Puff
    Fold, you’ll want to bring the corners up higher so that they also show above
    your jacket pocket. Tuck the folded pocket square into your pocket so that both
    the puff and the points are showing. You can either center the puff with the points
    in front or arrange it so the points fall to one side and the puff sits on the
    other (as shown). It’s up to you, just be sure not to make this fold too
    perfect or symmetrical. It works best when it looks a little misshapen.
The
Scallop Pocket Square Fold


                                scallop pocket square fold

  1. Begin
    with the pocket square laid flat and unfolded.
  2. Fold
    the square diagonally down the middle, bringing one corner to meet the other.
  3. Fold
    the triangle in half again, bringing the two corners at either end of the first
    fold together.
  4. Gently
    curl one of the doubled corners in and downward (don’t fold or crease it! You
    want to retain a rounded shape). Repeat this process for the other corner,
    laying this one over the first one. The result should be a curved, funnel-like
    shape.
  5. Tuck
    the triangular point down into your pocket (you may need to fold the sides in a
    little to fit your pocket–adjust as needed). Only the uppermost curved area you
    just created should show above your pocket.



Things
to Keep in Mind About Pocket Squares

pocket square fold tips
Now
that you know some of the essential folds, you should also know a few basic
pocket square rules. Here are the most important things to keep in mind:

  1. Your
    pocket square should not match your tie. Rather, it should complement a color
    found on your tie, or contrast your tie altogether.
    If
    you’re not wearing a tie, the rule still applies. Either complement your other
    accessories with the color of your pocket square or go for the contrast. In
    sum, never make your pocket square a direct match in color.
  2. No
    matter which pocket square fold you choose, make sure to avoid bulge. Your suit
    pocket should still sit relatively flat against your chest. Most of these suit
    handkerchief folds are designed to avert bulk, but if your pocket square is of
    particularly thick fabric (or if your pocket is smaller than average), keep on
    experimenting with folds until you find one that works. Protip: since silk
    handkerchiefs are so thin and sheer, you can perform almost any fold with them.
  3. Don’t
    be afraid to wear a suit pocket square everywhere! If you’re serious about
    style, consider wearing a pocket square for every social situation. Wear a
    square and tie to all formal affairs, and opt for a blazer and square (sans
    tie) for your more casual outings.
  4. Your
    fold should match your mood first, and the event you are attending second.
    Sure, some folds are more formal than others, but honestly, a pocket square is
    a dressy accessory by nature, no matter how you scrunch it up. Feeling
    confident and daring? Rock a Four-Point Fold to that networking event you’re
    attending. Wanting to not draw attention to yourself at your high school
    reunion? The Classic Fold will do just fine.


Speak
Volumes with a Little Pop


Pocket
squares are little pieces of fabric that speak volumes. Wearing one
demonstrates to the world that you are a man with confidence, that you are
well-versed in matters of personal style, and that, above all else, you care
about the details. A little pop of color or pattern nestled inside your jacket
pocket is a sign of sophistication, and also serves as an instant improvement
to any outfit you wear. So reach for a square and start experimenting with
colors, patterns, and folds until you find something that resonates with you.
The
Complete History of Pocket Squares (if you’re really interested)


Pocket
squares were predated by the handkerchief, which dates all the way back to
ancient Egyptians, who used hankies for hygienic purposes like wiping off dirt
or sweat from the face. Wealthy Greeks later adopted this practice, with Julius
Caesar famously dropping a handkerchief to signal the start of games in the
Coliseum. Audience members at the games would wave small handkerchiefs made of
silk or linen as an alternative to applauding or cheering.

Flirtkerchiefs

Handkerchiefs
later evolved into tokens of affection from women. In the Middle Ages, knights
would wear handkerchiefs during tournaments as a symbol of a lady’s favor or
bidding of good luck. By the Renaissance era, in Europe, if a woman was
attracted to a man, she would declare her attraction by drawing her
handkerchief across her cheek (or through her hands if she wanted nothing to do
with him).
Often
regarded as the true “inventor” of the pocket square, King Richard II of
England popularized handkerchiefs in 1390. He was known to have kept a
handkerchief on his person at all times, and this practice was quickly adopted
by other nobles, and eventually (a few centuries later), lower classes caught
on as well.
Suit
handkerchiefs


By
the 17th century, almost everyone in western Europe sported a handkerchief in
their trouser pockets. However, trouser pockets were notoriously dirty (as they
were often filled with money and spare change), and eventually, men moved their
handkerchiefs to the breast pocket, slowly transforming the cloth from a
utilitarian tool to a fashion statement over time. By the 1900s, fashionable
men everywhere could be seen wearing pocket squares made of linen, cotton, or
silk in their breast pockets. In the 1920s, newly invented folding techniques transformed
the handkerchief into a full-fledged accessory. In an interesting turn of
events, men began to pay distinct attention to their pocket squares, opting to
keep separate handkerchiefs in their trousers for actual use. By WWII, however,
the idea of handkerchiefs fell out of style for sanitary reasons, and tissue
companies were born. From that point on, the pocket square was officially a
fashion statement and only a fashion statement.
The
Comeback


Pocket
squares were immensely popular throughout the 20th century. But, toward the end
of the century, as jeans, t-shirts, and business casual replaced suits in
everyday attire, pocket squares seemed to all but disappear, making guest
appearances only at the most formal of events (as well as at weddings and the
occasional prom).
However,
the tides have changed in recent years. We assume that, since you’re reading
this article, you have taken at least a fraction of interest in bettering your
appearance. Today, thanks to a resurgence of interest in menswear (read: thanks
to folks like you), the pocket square has returned full-force. Men everywhere
are taking note of their appearance once more, making little, seemingly
insignificant choices–like the cloth poking out of one’s pocket–have that much
more of an impact. And, with a wider variety of materials, textures, colors,
and folding techniques (see below) than ever before, there has never been a
better time to incorporate this accessory into your arsenal.
RJ
Firchau


SOURCE: THE GENTLEMANUAL
Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.