Looking Back at the History of Pocket Squares

Looking Back at the History of Pocket Squares

Pocket squares are one of the most popular suit accessories on the market. Also known as a pocket handkerchief, it consists of a square-shaped piece of material -- cotton, linen, wool, silk, etc. -- that's placed inside the chest pocket of a suit jacket or sports coat. Pocket squares don't serve any functional purposes. Rather, they are worn strictly for aesthetic purposes. In this post, we're going to look back at the history of pocket squares, revealing how this otherwise basic fashion accessory became a staple for men's formalwear.

The Origins of the Pocket Square

While it's unknown who invented it, the pocket square's origins can be traced back to Ancient Egypt. During this period, members of the upper-class caste would dye pieces of linen red as a status symbol. To project their wealth and status, these individuals would proudly display the red-colored linen cloths in their outfits. If someone was wearing a piece of red-colored linen, everyone would know that he or she was wealthy. Of course, neither suits nor any other type of men's formalwear was worn in Ancient Egypt. Nonetheless, historians believe the modern-day pocket square originated in Ancient Egypt where pieces of red-colored linen cloths were worn as a status symbol. The red-colored linen cloths were limited to members of Egypt's upper-class caste, many of whom wore them to project their wealth.

How the Handkerchief Influenced the Pocket Square

It's believed that the handkerchief played an important role in the modern-day pocket square. King Richard II, for example, often wore a handkerchief while reigning control over England throughout the 1400s. Prior to this time, handkerchiefs were carried and used for functional purposes. It wasn't until King Richard II took the throne when handkerchiefs became a fashion accessory. With King Richard II frequently wearing handkerchiefs as a fashion accessory, millions of other people followed suit by wearing them in their outfits as well. The use of pocket squares as a fashion accessory was initially limited to England. In the centuries to follow, however, it eventually made its way to the United States. During the 1800s, pocket squares were a relatively common fashion accessory among men. Featuring a square-shaped piece of cloth, they were worn in a single pocket to enhance the appearance of a suit jacket or sports coat.

The Rise of the Pocket Square

While pieces of cloths had been worn for aesthetic purposes dating all the way back to Ancient Egypt, it wasn't until the early 1900s when pocket squares gained mainstream recognition. More specifically, the 1920s movie era exposed to the public to pocket squares. During the 1920s, famous movie actors like Cary Grant and Gary Cooper were often seen wearing pocket squares on film. During the early 1900s, many Americans had never heard of pocket squares. Thanks to big-screen Hollywood movies, as well as television shows, this soon changed. With actors like Grant and Cooper sporting them, pocket squares were introduced to the mainstream American public. As viewers saw their favorite actors wearing pocket squares, they began wearing them as well. In the 1930s and forward, pocket squares became more and more popular. [caption id="attachment_3329" align="alignnone" width="640"]Photo: Paul Goyette Photo: Paul Goyette[/caption]

How Pocket Squares Are Worn Today

Today, pocket squares are one of the most common fashion accessories for men's formalwear. They aren't necessarily required -- you can wear a formal suit without a pocket square -- but millions of men still wear them on a regular basis as part of a suit outfit. Assuming your suit jacket or sports coat has at least one chest pocket, you can accessorize it with a pocket square. Whether it's made of linen, cotton, wool, silk or any other fabric, a pocket square will enhance the appearance of your suit outfit by adding new colors and textures. To wear a pocket square, you'll first need to fold it into a square. With that said, there are actually several different ways in which you can fold a pocket square. The most popular method is the flat fold method. Also known as the presidential fold, it involves folding the pocket square at right angles to form a square.

Choosing a Pocket Square: What You Should Know

Now that you know the history of pocket squares, as well as how they are worn, you might be wondering how to choose a pocket square. First and foremost, consider the color and whether or not it matches your suit. If you're planning to wear a black suit, for example, you shouldn't choose a brown pocket square. Black and brown don't mix, and wearing these two colors together in the same outfit will only hurt your efforts to create an attractive and cohesive image. Therefore, you should choose a pocket square in a color that flows cohesively with the rest of your oufit, including your suit jacket, trousers, dress shirt and even your shoes. As previously mentioned, pocket squares are available in a variety of materials. When choosing a pocket square, try sticking with the same material from which your suit is made. If you're planning to wear a cotton suit, choose a cotton pocket square. If you're planning to wear a wool suit, choose a wool pocket square. Mixing different materials in your outfit may lead to a lackluster appearance.

The Bottom Line on Pocket Squares

A pocket square is a type of fashion accessory worn in the chest pocket of a suit jacket or sports coat. It's called a "pocket square" because it consists of a square-shaped piece of cloth that's folded into a square shape and worn inside a pocket. They originated in Ancient Egypt were they were worn as a status symbol. Since then, pocket squares have become a mainstay of men's formalwear. If you're looking to improve the appearance of your suit outfits, you should consider accessorizing them with a pocket square. Just remember to choose a pocket square in the right color and the right material.