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Style Basics

Why do we wear pocket squares? Just for decoration?

By on January 20th, 2018

Although wearing a handkerchief (i.e. pocket square) isn’t as common today as it once was, it remains a great way to express ourselves and show a little style. But why are pocket squares even a thing? Why do we wear them in the first place? Like so many things in menswear, there’s some fun history behind the handkerchief.

History

The pocket square can actually trace its origins back to ancient Egypt, where a piece of linen cloth was dyed red for decorative purposes. And the ancient Greeks were also said to have used a version of today’s pocket square where the cloth was scented with perfume to mask common odors.

But it wasn’t until the 15th century that pocket squares started to become popular throughout Europe. Silk came onto the scene about that time and the pocket squares were often embroidered to convey wealth and status. Some Italian pocket squares were ostensibly so beautiful that they were considered family heirlooms!

Modern times

Fast forward a few centuries to the 1900’s and the modern 2-piece suit was becoming popular. The pocket square moved from the side pockets, where there were other times stored, to the chest pocket. The mid-century called for crisply pressed white pocket squares, but the 70’s and 80’s were defined by more extravagant varieties.

Today, the handkerchief/pocket square is used purely for decoration and style. While not all men choose to wear one, it’s certainly an opportunity for you to show creativity in your style. And that’s really the answer to why do we wear pocket squares.

Looking for even more detail, here’s a great write up on the history of the pocket square by Rampley & Co.

Also, if you’d like to learn more about when to wear one, here’s an article on how to wear a handkerchief in the office.