What is a Pocket Square? Exploring Definition & Styling Tips for 2023

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what is a pocket square

1. The Purpose of a Pocket Square: Adding Elegance and Style

A pocket square is a small piece of fabric that is folded and placed in the breast pocket of a suit or jacket. It serves both a functional and aesthetic purpose, adding an element of elegance and style to an outfit. The primary function of a pocket square is to fill the empty space in the breast pocket, creating a more polished and put-together look. It also helps to prevent the pocket from sagging or losing its shape.

In addition to its practical use, a pocket square is also considered a fashion accessory that can enhance the overall appearance of an outfit. It adds a pop of color or pattern, allowing individuals to express their personal style and creativity. Whether it’s a classic white linen pocket square for a formal event or a bold patterned silk one for a more casual occasion, the right choice of pocket square can elevate any ensemble.

Benefits of Wearing a Pocket Square:

  • Enhances the overall appearance of an outfit
  • Adds personality and individuality
  • Provides an opportunity to experiment with different colors and patterns
  • Gives a sense of attention to detail
  • Elevates formal attire for special occasions

Tips for Choosing the Right Pocket Square:

  1. Consider the occasion: Choose a pocket square that matches the formality or theme of the event.
  2. Coordinate with other accessories: Ensure that your pocket square complements your tie, shirt, or cufflinks.
  3. Experiment with colors and patterns: Don’t be afraid to mix and match different shades and designs to create interesting combinations.
  4. Pay attention to fabric: Different fabrics can create different effects, so choose one that suits your desired look and feel.
  5. Practice different folding techniques: Try out various folding styles to find the one that best suits your personal style and outfit.

2. Origins of the Pocket Square Tradition: A Historical Perspective

Ancient Origins

The tradition of wearing a pocket square can be traced back to ancient civilizations such as Egypt and Rome. In these societies, men would carry small pieces of cloth in their pockets for various practical purposes, including wiping sweat from their brows or blowing their noses.

Renaissance Influence

The pocket square as a fashion accessory gained popularity during the Renaissance period in Europe. It was during this time that men started using decorative handkerchiefs made from fine fabrics like silk and linen. These handkerchiefs were often embroidered with intricate designs and were seen as a symbol of wealth and status.

Modern Revival

In the early 20th century, the pocket square experienced a revival thanks to influential figures like King Edward VII of England and the Duke of Windsor. They popularized the use of pocket squares as a stylish accessory to complement formal attire, particularly suits and tuxedos.

3. Pocket Square vs Handkerchief: Understanding the Difference


The main difference between a pocket square and a handkerchief lies in their functionality. A handkerchief is primarily used for practical purposes such as wiping one’s nose or hands, while a pocket square is purely a fashion accessory meant to enhance one’s outfit.

Fabric and Design

Another distinction between the two lies in their fabric and design. Handkerchiefs are typically made from softer materials like cotton or linen, while pocket squares are often crafted from more luxurious fabrics such as silk or satin. Additionally, pocket squares tend to feature bolder patterns or colors compared to traditional plain white handkerchiefs.


The placement of a pocket square and a handkerchief also differs. A pocket square is neatly folded and displayed in the breast pocket of a suit or blazer, adding a touch of elegance to the overall look. On the other hand, a handkerchief is usually tucked away in a trouser or jacket pocket for practical use.

4. Folding and Wearing a Pocket Square: Creative Styles to Try

Straight Fold

The straight fold is one of the simplest and most classic ways to fold a pocket square. To achieve this style, simply fold the square into thirds lengthwise and then fold it in half horizontally. This creates a clean, straight edge that can be adjusted to your desired height when placed in the pocket.

Puff Fold

The puff fold adds volume and dimension to your pocket square. Start by pinching the center of the square and letting it naturally gather. Then, gently place it in your pocket with the gathered part facing up, creating an elegant puff effect.

Two-Point Fold

The two-point fold creates a unique triangular shape that adds visual interest to your outfit. Begin by folding the square diagonally in half to form a triangle. Then, fold one corner towards the center and repeat with the opposite corner, creating two distinct points at the top when placed in your pocket.

5. Matching a Pocket Square with Your Outfit: Rules and Guidelines

Color Coordination

  • Choose a pocket square that complements or matches one of the colors in your outfit.
  • Aim for subtle coordination rather than an exact match.
  • If wearing a patterned pocket square, ensure that at least one color in the pattern matches your outfit.

Contrast and Texture

  • Consider contrasting the pocket square with your tie or shirt to create visual interest.
  • Experiment with different textures, such as pairing a silk pocket square with a tweed blazer for an interesting contrast.
  • Avoid overwhelming patterns or textures that compete with the rest of your ensemble.

Formality and Occasion

  • Choose a pocket square that suits the formality of the event or occasion.
  • Solid-colored pocket squares are more versatile and appropriate for formal occasions, while patterned ones can add flair to casual outfits.
  • When in doubt, opt for a classic white pocket square, which is always a safe and elegant choice.

6. Evolution of Popularity: How Pocket Squares Have Transformed Over Time

The Rise of Dapper Dressing

In recent years, there has been a resurgence in dapper dressing and attention to detail in men’s fashion. This trend has played a significant role in increasing the popularity of pocket squares as they offer an opportunity for self-expression and personal style.

Creative Styling on Social Media

Social media platforms like Instagram have also contributed to the growing popularity of pocket squares. Influencers and fashion enthusiasts showcase their unique ways of folding and wearing them, inspiring others to experiment with different styles and patterns.

Bridging Traditional and Contemporary Fashion

Pocket squares have evolved from being solely associated with formal attire to becoming versatile accessories that can be incorporated into both formal and casual outfits. This shift has allowed individuals to embrace pocket squares as a means of expressing their personal style in various settings.

7. Common Materials for Making Pocket Squares: A Closer Look


Silk is one of the most popular materials for making pocket squares due to its luxurious feel and elegant drape. It offers a smooth and lustrous finish, making it suitable for formal occasions or when aiming for a sophisticated look.


Linen pocket squares are favored for their lightweight and breathable nature, making them ideal for warmer climates or casual settings. They often have a slightly textured appearance, adding a touch of relaxed charm to an outfit.


Cotton pocket squares are versatile and widely available. They come in various colors, patterns, and textures, allowing individuals to easily find options that suit their style preferences. Cotton is also easy to care for, making it a practical choice.

8. Cultural and Regional Variations in Wearing Pocket Squares: Exploring Diversity

British Elegance

In British fashion, pocket squares are often worn with tailored suits or blazers as a refined accessory. The preferred folding styles tend to be more structured and symmetrical, reflecting the traditional approach to dressing.

Italian Flamboyance

In Italian fashion, pocket squares are embraced as an opportunity for bold self-expression. Italians often opt for vibrant colors, intricate patterns, and more relaxed folding styles that exude confidence and sprezzatura (effortless elegance).

Asian Minimalism

In Asian fashion, particularly Japanese and Korean styles, there is a preference for minimalistic and understated pocket square choices. Solid colors or subtle patterns are favored, and the folding styles tend to be more discreet, allowing the pocket square to complement the overall outfit without overpowering it.

9. Choosing the Right Size and Shape of a Pocket Square: Expert Tips

Size Matters

The size of your pocket square should be proportionate to the size of your jacket’s breast pocket. As a general rule, aim for a square that measures around 12-16 inches on each side.

Versatile Square

A square-shaped pocket square is the most versatile option as it allows for various folding styles, including straight folds, puffs, and triangular folds. It provides flexibility in creating different looks depending on your outfit and personal preference.

Experiment with Different Shapes

While squares are the traditional choice, don’t be afraid to experiment with other shapes like rectangles or triangles. These alternative shapes can add a unique touch to your ensemble and showcase your creativity.

10. Women and Pocket Squares: Breaking Gender Stereotypes in Fashion

A Statement of Individuality

Pocket squares are no longer limited to men’s fashion; women have embraced them as well. By incorporating pocket squares into their outfits, women challenge gender stereotypes in fashion and assert their individuality.

Feminine Touches

Women often bring a feminine twist to pocket squares by opting for softer colors, floral patterns, or delicate fabrics like silk chiffon. This allows them to create looks that blend masculine elements with their own personal style preferences.

Creative Styling Options

Women have expanded the possibilities of how pocket squares can be worn by incorporating them into various garments such as blouses, dresses, or even hair accessories. This innovative approach adds a unique flair to their outfits and showcases their creativity.

In summary, a pocket square is a small and stylish accessory that adds a touch of elegance and sophistication to any outfit.

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