Men have been cavorting about carrying a piece of cloth since the days of King Tut. Back then Egyptians used it to wipe their faces in the desert heat. Fast forward to the 1390s when King Richard II of England kept a handkerchief handy at all times and other courtiers followed suit. They soon realized however that keeping a piece of cloth in their trouser pocket wasn’t the most sanitary situation (think of grubby hands and dirty coins), so they moved the handkerchief to their breast pocket where it still resides today for royals and commoners alike.
But what fabric works with which suit? Can a plaid go with a pinstripe suit? We spoke to Lewis Malivanek, creative director of Knot Standard for some pointers on how to choose your pocket squares. He reminded us that a pocket square is the best way to complete an outfit and break up a plain ensemble. It can really represent the character and flair of a man.
Related: How to Choose the Perfect Suit
A couple tips:
- The first thing every man should know is that you do not have to match your pocket square to your tie. In fact, I’d advise against it.
- Solid or minimal-designed (e.g. micro-dots) pocket squares are best paired with patterned suits or blazers, preferably in a contrasting color.
- Brightly colored pocket squares and those with larger motifs and artwork (think Drake’s London or Rubinacci) work well with solid blazers, providing elegance and contrast to an outfit.
- Texture and fabric is always important—for example, a linen pocket square should not be worn with flannel; winter cloth like wool and cashmere work best. I suggest always keeping textures seasonal.
- When wearing black tie attire, stick to a solid white cotton or linen pocket square, no matter the color of the jacket.
If you happen to be on a hunt for one for you or as a gift, we rounded up 11 we love.
Drakes Green Vintage Floral Pocket Square
One of London’s coolest tie makers, they know how to do the perfect paisley. While their ties and shirts are made in the UK, these handsome squares are made in Italy.
To buy: $75; drakes.com
Alexander Olch Pocket Round
Mr. Olch is a tie maestro based in NYC and these round pocket squares are a real favorite for the hip social set. They are different without being cheesy. We are fans of this one with embroidered mallards.
To buy: $60; olch.com
Sid Mashburn Hand Rolled Pocket Square
If you are looking for something clean and classic, Sid has you covered. These cotton/linen blended squares come in a variety of colorful borders so buy a couple to go with a variety of ties and blazers.
To buy: $65; sidmashburn.com
Brunello Cucinelli Double Face Pocket Square
Pretty much the God of effortless luxury menswear, Brunello offers up a two for one with this silk/cotton square with two-tone dots on one side and a check pattern on the other.
Simmonot Godard Chevron Cotton Pocket Square
Founded in 1787, Godard is one of the oldest handkerchief makers so clearly they know what they are doing. Our friends at The Armoury have a great selection of their squares. This chevron pattern will give a drab suit a little kick. Made in France.
To buy: $65; thearmoury.com
Haspel Gingham Pocket Square
New Orlean’s based Haspel has been making dressing up more enjoyable since 1909. This purple gingham square is great for more festive occasions. Easter is around the corner!
To buy: $25; haspel.com
Title of Work Cell Structure Pocket Square
If you are looking for something to impress your more artistic friends, this company creates beautifully crafted men’s accessories with interesting stories. This square is a close up of the cell structure of a newt ovary. Now that’s a conversation starter.
To buy: $125; titleofwork.com
Tom Ford Tonal Pocket Square
Sometimes a simple white square is all you need to accessorize your suit. Mr. Ford makes a good one in silk with a white on white tonal border. Made in Italy.
To buy: $180; tomford.com
Rubinacci Mediterranean Silk Pocket Handkerchief
Globe-trotting next summer? This Neopolitan nautical number will give your travels a little extra flair.
To buy: $100; therake.com
Madame Magar Hand Dyed Pocket Squares
Based in Charleston, SC, Magar’s ‘seed to stitch’ collection is hand dyed using indigo she grows herself as well as local loquats and other Lowcountry indigenous plants.
To buy: $35; madamemagar.com
Lord Willy Polka Dot Pocket Square
Alex and Betty Wilcox own one of Manhattan’s best suiting shops and their pocket square game is equally strong. If you are looking to liven up a suit with some polka dots, they have you covered.
To buy: $55; lordwillys.myshopify.com