Finishing Accessories: You Need to Look Polished | Part 3

Updated: Mar 21

It’s no secret that finishing accessories are an essential your custom capsule wardrobe, and the addition of the pocket square is no exception.


Now that you’re well-versed assuming you have read our previous posts about finishing accessories that’ll be sure to complement your essential custom capsule wardrobe to perfection, you’re ready to delve into one that deserves its own post altogether: the pocket square. These can be used to style your blazer for different occasions and offer you an opportunity to personalize your wardrobe affordably. So without further ado, here’s your guide on pocket squares.

The History of Pocket Squares

Let’s start with a little history, shall we?

Some people believe that the pocket square can trace its origins all the way back to ancient Egypt, where small linen cloths were dyed with a red powder, indicating decoration and a symbol of wealth. However, this might be a bit of a leap of faith, as small pieces of colored cloth don’t necessarily translate directly to what you might consider a modern day pocket square.

In any case, we can fast forward a few (thousand) years to the 1400s, during which the handkerchief started to gain popularity throughout Europe’s upper class, as both an accessory and a functional item. Pocket squares or handkerchiefs at this point were made from more exotic materials such as silk and were embroidered to create lovely patterns - still a demonstration of wealth and status.

Fast forward another few (hundred) years to the 19th century - and with it, the introduction of the 2 piece suit. As men realized they did not want a handkerchief mixed in with potentially dirty objects that they carried in their pockets, such as coins, they began to be placed in the top left breast pocket.

This style continued to gain popularity into the early 20th century, as different folding techniques started to become prevalent. By this point, the pocket square had established itself as a quintessential fashion accessory for the gentleman. Pocket squares made of silk, cotton, or linen, either patterned or plain, became highly popular across both the United States and Europe.

Materials 101

Now that you’re a pocket square history guru (bet you’ll be excited for when that category comes around in Jeopardy!), you are ready to start finding the perfect pocket square for you. The first thing you’ll want to consider is what type of material you want. There are 4 main materials; silk, cotton, wool and linen. Here’s a comprehensive breakdown of the pros and cons of each, so you can decide which one will best suit your needs.

A man in a suit with a white pocket square

1. Silk

  • Pro: Easy to store

  • Pro: Smooth, luxurious, shimmering

  • Pro: Contrasts well with wool suit/jacket

  • Pro: Most common pocket square material

  • Pro: Versatile, suitable for most occasions

  • Pro: Soft edges make it perfect for unstructured puff folds

  • Pro: Usually ultra thin, so won't bulge your jacket pocket

  • Con: Expensive

  • Con: Doesn’t work well for structured folds

  • Con: Damaged by perspiration and bleach

  • Con: Difficult to care for; requires dry clean only

  • Con: Quick to crease, tricky to iron

  • Con: Not abrasion resistant

  • Con: Easily ruins when wet

2. Cotton

  • Pro: Cheaper than silk

  • Pro: Easy to iron

  • Pro: Easy to store

  • Pro: Machine washable

  • Pro: Stiff edges allow for structured folds

  • Pro: Strong, durable, resistant to abrasion

  • Pro: Blends into shirt/jacket, puts attention on tie

  • Con: Can shrink with hot water washes

  • Con: Easily creases, needs ironing

  • Con: Risk of mildew when damp

  • Con: Dyes can fade over time

3. Linen

  • Pro: Extremely versatile

  • Pro: Rigid edges allow for structured folds

  • Pro: Supple fabric allows for unstructured folds

  • Pro: Adds attractive textural variation to almost any jacket

  • Con: Tends to be more expensive than cotton

  • Con: Damaged if washed in hard (high mineral content) water

  • Con: Can be machine washed, but detergent/chemicals can cause damage

  • Con: Creases easily, so needs ironing

4. Wool

  • Pro: Best for winter months

  • Pro: Uncommon, interesting texture for pocket squares

  • Pro: Choice of different types of wool:

  • Alpaca wool – silky, lightweight with luster

  • Angora wool – very soft with the best heat retaining properties

  • Cashmere – delicate and luxurious

  • Camel hair – known for its golden brown color, soft texture, and shine

  • Con: Large price variation depending on wool type

  • Con: Difficult to wash and care for

  • Con: Affected by moths and other insects when stored

  • Con: Shrinks significantly with heat and moisture

  • Con: Dry clean only with mild detergents

  • Con: Thick fabric can mean a bulging jacket pocket

Understanding Colors and Patterns

In fact, because the pocket square can be a particularly elegant way to highlight your facial features, the color you select is of the utmost importance. The key to remember is that your pocket square’s color shouldn’t be too dominant - its goal is to enhance, rather than overpower. And if you need some help to get started, here are several color schemes that can work for a pocket square:

A man in a maroon suit with a golden pocket square

  • The classic white pocket square - goes with everything, always looks great

  • Neutral colors - think grays, browns, and whites; with a neutral tie, your pocket square can be any of these colors (so long as it doesn’t conflict with your blazer)

  • Monochromatic schemes - pair different shades of the same color for an easy, subtle contrast, such as tan paired with beige

  • Adjacent color schemes - pairing two or more cool or warm hues can provide your outfit with a little flare, such as a yellow, amber, and orange combination

  • Triadic color scheme - balances warm and cool colors to give your look some character

When it comes to patterns, try to complement a patterned tie with a solid pocket square, or vice versa. If your suit or shirt are both flat colored and plain, choose a pocket square with a reasonable pattern. Meanwhile, if your suit or shirt are heavily patterned, stick to a understated pattern or just a solid color.

Folding Time

And now that you know what style of pocket square may work best for you, we’ve saved the best for last - it’s time to learn how to fold it. There are plenty of different ways you can opt to fold your pocket square, but to start, Check out these three classic looks below. And as for length, your rule of thumb should be only a half-inch showing above your chest pocket. The rest should be neatly tucked inside, out of sight.

1. The Square Fold

  1. Begin with the pocket square fully unfolded and flat

  2. Fold it to the width of your pocket; in most cases, a fold straight down the middle should do the trick

  3. Fold it up from the bottom to form a finished rectangle the same width as your pocket, and about half an inch longer

  4. Tuck the bottom fold of the pocket square into your pocket and snug it down to the base. Adjust as needed to create a single smooth strip of visible cloth running across the top of the pocket

The square fold is quintessential: crisp, clean, and elegant. In its finished form, it appears as a single horizontal band of fabric parallel to the top of the breast pocket. This is a great fold to use if you’re at a formal event.

2. The One Point Fold

  1. Begin with the pocket square fully unfolded and flat

  2. Fold it diagonally down the middle to make a triangle

  3. At the base of the triangle, where the fold is, fold the doubled-over corner of the pocket square inward on one side

  4. Fold the other corner - make each fold the same size and the pocket square roughly the width of your pocket; the pocket square should look like an envelope: rectangular on three sides with a triangular point sticking up out of the top

  5. Slide the bottom fold into your pocket and tuck it all the way down, hiding the rectangular edges; the only visible part of the pocket square should be the triangle pointing straight up

The one-point pocket square fold is versatile - simple enough to be business-appropriate, but also relaxed enough to pair well with a more casual blazer.

3. The Three Point Fold

  1. Begin with the pocket square fully unfolded and flat

  2. Fold it diagonally very slightly off-center, so that one corner lies just to the left of the other

  3. Fold the bottom left corner of the pocket square diagonally up at an angle so you have three points side by side, as equally spaced and sized as possible

  4. Fold the bottom right corner inward until the pocket square is roughly the width of your pocket

  5. Tuck the bottom fold down into the pocket; leave only the three points of the pocket square visible

It can take a couple of tries to ensure that the three point fold turns out neatly, making this a superb choice for showing off flare. It is a business-appropriate fold, but if you must, make sure the pocket square is immaculate and crisp.

The Bottom line

Congratulations, you’re officially a certified pocket square connoisseur. You’re well equipped with the right knowledge of materials, colors and patterns, and folds to pick a killer pocket square look that’ll complement your custom capsule wardrobe.

Curious to know about the latest trends that are shaping the fashion industry? We cover the most pertinent topics in detail and break down the impacts of innovations like Big Data, e-commerce, and virtual fashion in our wide-ranging series on fashion trends.

At Kahana, we live and breathe content creation. We love learning new concepts, exploring emergent trends, and writing about topics that foster creativity and wellness. If you're interested in writing with us or would like to collaborate for your dream business blog, we'd love to hear from you!


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