A pocket square is personal. It’s one of those few elements in formal or semi-formal menswear, which offer a man the opportunity to express his unique style. Therefore, knowing the basics of how to wear a pocket square is critical, because at the end of the day, you want your choice of pocket square to reflect good taste and eye for detail. So here’s all you need to know about choosing a pocket square for an outfit.
A pocket square is intended to add a touch of nonchalance to an otherwise very structured outfit. Therefore, none of the points should look mathematically exact or flattened. What you want is a pocket square that seems to have been worn with minimal effort, yet of course, still looks neat.
Amongst the various folds available, the most common four are explained in the following video:
Personally, I find the more discreet ‘straight fold’ ideal for professional environments. The scallop-like shape is another daytime alternative – not so obviously dandy yet, doing away with the rigidity of the straight fold.
Regardless of the fold you opt for, your pocket square should be slightly angled toward the shoulder. This has the advantage of visually reinforcing the diagonal lines of the jacket’s lapel thus, enhancing the chest’s ‘V’ shape and also broadening the shoulders.
How neatly a pocket square fits in the chest pocket will depend a lot on how well it fits. Pocket squares that are too large for your jacket’s chest pocket will result in an untidy bulge caused by the ‘extra’ fabric tucked in the pocket. On the other hand, a pocket square that’s too small, especially in a slippery fabric such as silk, is likely to keep sliding down the pocket, needing constant readjustment.
If your jacket size is small, your ideal pocket square size is one of around 25cm.
Pocket squares are generally made from silk, linen, cotton, or synthetic fabrics, such as polyester. Whichever you choose should complement but not be identical to that of the tie/bow tie. If your tie is made from silk and has a shine, the pocket square should ideally have a matte effect. The difference in fabric gives the outfit more texture and balance, as opposed to making it look too coordinated.
Secondly, some fabrics lend themselves better to certain folds. Silk or polyester are softer thus, ideal for the ‘peaked’ or ‘pouffe’ folds. Stiffer fabrics, such as cotton and linen will give a better angular fold, such as the ‘straight fold’.
Colour and pattern
The worst one can do when matching a pocket square with a tie or bow tie is to go for an identical colour. As with your choice of fabric, the colour/s and pattern of your pocket square should complement those of your tie but never be identical. If the base colour of the tie is navy, that of the pocket square should be different but with hints of navy in the pattern. The link between the two should be there but it needs to be subtle.
Similarly, when combining a pocket square and suit, avoid identical colours and patterns.
Those are the basics of choosing a pocket square for an outfit. Now it’s up to you to adapt them to suit your personal style.