The Gentleman: Suiting Up

“Discovering the Pocket Square”

Part I: Linen Square Folds

I had planned on devoting this week’s Gentleman column to previewing fall fashion, but when I began my research, I discovered that a couple of the stores I planned on reviewing are not revealing the new season’s catalog until next week. The weather is not even close to autumn down here in New Orleans (or, for that matter, anywhere else in the country), so I think we’ll be safe in waiting a few more weeks for my fall fashion preview.

Instead, I thought this would be the perfect time to explore my favorite style accessory: the pocket square.

A pocket square is a small piece of fabric that is folded and displayed from a gentleman’s jacket breast pocket. Traditionally, no well-dressed man in a suit or a sport coat would be seen without a pocket square, but as the formal 1960s gave way to the far more casual 70s, pocket squares seemed to vanish from the sartorial scene for everyone but the very nattiest of dressers. A couple of years ago, however, the pocket square burst back onto the scene and has reclaimed its place as a necessary accessory as important, for many men, as the tie.

A pocket square adds a dash of color or a bright white contrast to a jacket. Since I discovered the power of this accessory, I have rarely worn a jacket without one. Fortunately, folding and wearing a pocket square is easier than selecting and tying a tie, and a good deal cheaper too.

For a pocket square novice, there is only one pocket square that you need to purchase: crisp, white Irish linen.

Here is a picture of me wearing an Irish linen pocket square in a navy blazer. The square is folded in what’s called a “straight fold” or a “TV fold.” It’s an extremely sharp look that provides just the narrowest strip of white peeking up from the jacket pocket.

J.Press sells a set of three white Irish linen pocket squares for $50. I ended up splitting the package with another gentleman to keep the cost down. If you keep them in good condition and wash them regularly, they never need to be replaced.

Folding a linen pocket square takes very little effort. Sam Hober, who makes excellent silk pocket squares (more on that next week) has some easy-to-follow instructions on how to fold pocket squares, including methods like the Straight Fold.

A white linen pocket square folded in a straight fold goes with any suit or jacket of any color and any shirt. It is a simple, distinguished look, and for many men it is the only kind of pocket square they will ever need.

A savvy gentleman, however, can capitalize on the breast pocket as a way to add more color and patterns to complement his tie. Next week, The Gentleman continues to explore the pocket square and introduces a bit of color and flash…

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