How To

How to know when to wear a pocket square

By on February 3rd, 2015

There are a lot of sources out there on the Internet that show you ways to fold a pocket square, and that very thing seems to be what most guys think of when they see a pocket square in the store or online. But, back up a minute. How do you know when to wear a pocket square in the first place?

This week we want to answer that very question. We’re going to give you some easy guidelines on choosing a pocket square based on the occasion.

In a nutshell…

Here’s how to know when to wear a pocket square

  1. Do you have a chest pocket? Then wear a pocket square!
  2. Pick the right material by matching the fabric to that of your jacket.
  3. Choose something with a pattern for a fun look over something solid.
  4. Your pocket square should refer to and complement the rest of your wardrobe, as opposed to matching it exactly.

Let’s go a little more in depth.

At the office

Pocket square: Conservative (maybe) and not too distracting.

There are many different types of office environments. If you’re in the arts and entertainment industry or work in some other creative field, then you’re probably OK sporting a colorful pocket square.

However, for a more conservative environment, stick to a nice crisp look – a pressed cotton pocket square that extends just a quarter to a half inch above your chest pocket. A silk pocket square is just fine too, but make sure that it’s not too distracting.

For linen and cotton suits, chose a more textured pocket square fabric, like linen or cotton. Stay away from silk because it’s going to look too refined for a more casual suit. This nod to the fabric is an important factor in knowing when to wear a pocket square.

Related article: Dressing for work, how to wear a pocket square in a conservative office

Formal events

Pocket square: White, ironed and crisp.

There’s a reason you always see a white pocket square when men dress for formal events – it helps to frame a guy’s wardrobe. You see, with a white dress shirt (like this one), it will show a little on the cuffs when you’re wearing a dark suit or tuxedo and the white pocket square extending just above your chest pocket will help to frame your overall look.

Of course, if your dress shirt color changes, then you have more room to play with the pocket square. It really just depends how formal the event is that you’re attending

Going out

Pocket square: Colorful and very liberally folded.

When you’re out on the town you can pretty much wear whatever the heck you want to! If you want a nicely refined look, iron that cotton pocket square and you’re good to go. Alternatively, find yourself a fun and colorful piece of fabric in a really unique print or pattern. You have a lot more freedom here on when to wear a pocket square – it’s entirely up to you!

Stuff it in your chest pocket so that it looks like it is almost falling out or take a more calculated approach and fold it in one of the traditional ways. Regardless, make sure that the colors in the fabric refer to your dress shirt or tie. And please, please don’t match your pocket square to your neck tie exactly.

when to wear a pocket square

Wrap up

So, when should you be wearing a pocket square? Well, whenever you have a chest pocket! Remember when you were a little kid? You’d collect all sorts of things and put them in your pocket. Now should be no different – if you have a pocket – fill it! 🙂

But more specifically, it’s important to understand the basic guidelines above for matching your pocket square to the occasion. The more formal the event, the less distracting your pocket square should be.

By Ryan Wagner

Further reading

Business Insider: The underrated suit accessory that no one gets right

GQ: The GQ guide to pocket squares

Bespoke Edge: 4 tricks to dress like a man in 2014

And be sure to check out Episode 52 of the Daily BE — Why cotton pocket squares are best worn in the summer: