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Essential Classics: The Pocket Square

We mean no disrespect to the handkerchief, but there’s just something terribly unsexy (and possibly unhygienic) about keeping a square of fabric in your pocket to clean your hands and face, and blow your nose. Call that bit of fabric a pocket square, however, and display it in the breast pocket of a suit, and suddenly you’ve got something very sexy on your hands.

History

We can’t get down on the handkerchief too much – after all, it’s the reason the pocket square as we know it exists. Some date the birth of the handkerchief all the way back to Ancient Egypt, but King Richard II of England, who reigned from 1377 to 1399, is widely considered to be the real inventor of the cloth handkerchief. Though the exact dates are fuzzy, there’s no doubt the handkerchief had become a common accessory by Shakespeare’s time, as one is used as an important plot device in his play Othello.

During the 19th century, as the two-piece suit rose to popularity, the pocket square began to take on its current form. Some men merely displayed the pocket square for looks, while others used it to keep the pocket clean from objects placed into it. Often times men wore one pocket square for appearances and carried a second handkerchief in their pants meant for functional purposes. By the 1920s, pocket squares were almost always used as a fashion accessory and no stylish man left home without one.

Today’s pocket squares are small accessories that add big style. The petite piece of fabric can be used to express your personality, to vary your look without having to purchase an entire closet’s worth of different suits, or to add interest to an outfit without looking like you tried too hard. And with so many different ways to fold and style your pocket square, the options are practically endless.

In Popular Culture

Richard II wasn’t the only famous pocket square wearer. These days you can see them in the pockets of the stylish gentlemen of Mad Men, as well as the pockets of film, music and sports stars like George Clooney, Diddy, and American football quarterback Peyton Manning. (Even Saddam Hussein wore a pocket square during his trial, but we’re trying to forget that one…) For a modern approach to this traditional accessory, we suggest springing for one of the colourful and uniquely patterned pocket squares from Drake’s.

Where To Buy

MrPorter.comDrakes-London.com

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