Style

The 4 Best Ways to Wear a Pocket Square

Almost six months ago, I wrote How to Choose a Pocket Square, showcasing some of Styleforum’s member’s pochettes and how they used them to accessorize various coat and tie combinations.  Still, much like a child eagerly pores over paint brushes when first handed one, many have little to no clue what to do with them, and so impulsively stuff a blob of fabric into their pocket without regard to proper technique.  Granted, it’s not rocket science, but like all other components of classic men’s clothing, a bit of know-how can make a big difference. 
First, should you wear a pocket square?  Forum member Will, creator and writer of A Suitable Wardrobe, recommends a square for all empty breast pockets.  While that may have been appropriate when coats were worn with only trousers, nowadays sport coats can be seen with jeans and even sneakers.  Should you wear a pocket square in this instance?  Since a pocket square dresses up an outfit, whether or not you choose one depends on the look you’re going for.  Are you sporting sneakers and beat-up jeans with that sport coat?  Then skip the square; it’ll look out of place with the casual kicks, like a top hat with pajamas.  A pocket square in a sport coat with raw denim and loafers or wingtips, however, give off a similar dressier vibe.
How should you wear your square?  As with neckties, simpler is better.  Countless YouTube videos demonstrate a dozen ways to fold and place pocket squares in increasingly-complex methods, most of which are fastidiously abominable.  The following are not only the best ways to wear a pocket square, they are the only ways you need to know.
The Square Fold (AKA the TV Fold, AKA the Presidential Fold)
The most basic fold, often seen in Styleforum’s “Conservative Business Dress” thread.  Anesthetized and inoffensive, this option may be perfect for the rest of your outfit if you are going to a formal event or if you work in a conservative office (think grey worsted suits with black captoes).  However, many people make the mistake of folding the square so that none of the seams show, and are instead left with a perfect, paper crease-like fold at the top of their pocket.
This is a proper way to do it: place the square in your pocket so that the edges of the square are facing the shoulder and arm.  This gives a touch of visual interest to an otherwise, well, boring square.  Try angling the outside corner up and out toward your deltoid.  This way the diagonal lines of the square’s edges echo the same contours of the V of your suit and lapels.  For extra credit, space the edges apart haphazardly as you fold to create a more organic square-ish fold.  This type of fold works well with small repeating patterns, and of course, plain white linen or cotton.
The Three Point Fold
Variations of this one exist (Two and Four Points), but even numbers seem to make an already artificially manipulated piece of frivolous cloth overly contrived.  To do it, simply fold the square in half on the diagonal, bring the left corner up over the top so it falls on the right, and then the right corner behind so it falls on the left.  A less studied look than the Square Fold, and works with all squares.
The Puff
The puff is basically a half circle, accomplished in several ways.  The easiest way is by simply shoving the points down in your pocket, leaving a puff at the top.  This can sometimes look a little shapeless, so another way is by pinching the middle of the square, twisting it, and folding it.  This creates soft pleats that give the square an interesting dimensionality.  Another way similar to the last is after pinching the square, bringing it through an O of your thumb and forefinger, and then folding it in half so that the points are either behind or on the outside edge of the puff.  Best for abstracts, paisleys, and large prints.
The Whatever
Another option is to do combinations of the three above. I find myself doing the Three Point and Puff Fold regularly. I also like how Will at A Suitable Wardrobe puts it: shove it in, direct points toward your left, and forget about it.  This is basically what is demonstrated by TTO here:
Pocket squares, like most articles of menswear, follow simple rules of aesthetics and harmony.  You may not always need one, but when you do, practicing these tried-and-true methods can make your pocket square an elegant accompaniment to your ensemble. Finally, for your edification and viewing enjoyment, I’ve put together a video, which you can watch below:
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Peter Zottolo
Peter works in construction, but has an extensive collection of custom suits which he gets so that he can wear suits on the weekend. Even though he lives in San Francisco, he has never used the word "impact" as a verb. He writes about classic menswear and is one fedora away from being a complete dork.

12 replies »

  1. er whatever…as if you can define the style. I respect your opinion, but I prefer that paper-like-creased TV fold for my business occasion.

  2. I have a camel overcoat that has a chest pocket that begs for a pocket square. would it be proper to stuff a pocket square in that pocket?

  3. Nicely written Peter. One of my favorite pocket square comments was from Will Boehlke (I’m paraphrasing here) “A pocket square should look as though it had been used to wipe up a ladies spilt champagne and effortlessly placed back in ones breast pocket”

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