If you’ve had a few forays into the world of men’s fashion, you’ve probably seen a few men with sporting an interesting piece of cloth or fabric tucked into their left breast pocket. This is what is called a pocket square.
A pocket square is a decorative piece of cloth one wears with a suit that serves as a pop of color or accent to an outfit.
The concept of a pocket square goes as far back as the ancient Greeks, but its more modern use as an accessory to a suit started back in the 1920’s. Originally used as handkerchiefs, the use of a pocket square as a decorative addition to an outfit picked up the 20’s when the art of folding the cloth into intricate patterns picked up popularity in the fashion world. Today, pocket squares come in a wild variety of colors, patterns, and to a certain degree, sizes.
Now it’s important to know that there is a strong difference between a pocket square and a handkerchief - one is meant for personal hygiene and the other is meant for aesthetics (you can probably figure out which is which by the names). Handkerchiefs are typically cotton or made of a more durable cloth that can be easily washed whereas pocket squares are made from more high-quality materials that are much harder to clean. So when you do feel the need to blow your nose or wipe something off of your face, it’s highly suggested you don’t go reaching for the silk cloth in your left breast pocket.
With that said, the way you wear a pocket square is based on the aesthetic and look you’re going for.
While there are a multitude of folds you can go for, there are three basic looks you should try to master with pocket squares.
The Straight Wedge
This is the first and somewhat ‘original’ pocket square look. Try to flatten your pocket square to so the width fits the size of your left breast suit pocket. It should be folded into a rectangle with the top of the fold being a straight line - you can adjust the height of the pocket square according to how much you want it to poke out of your pocket.
Depending on the pattern or color, I try not to go to high with the height since there is something to be said about subtlety.
The Standard Puff Look
This is the easiest of the pocket square looks. Basically you stuff your pocket square into your left breast pocket, and pull out enough of it from the pocket to create a puffy semi circle that’s protruding out. It’s casual, it still shows off the patterns/color of the material, and it’s a nice way to rock a pocket square without looking too formal.
The Bi-Fold, Tri-Fold, and Quad-Fold
This is the more difficult sort of look, but looks amazing if you pull it off right - especially for more traditional or more formal occasions like black tie events or more ritzy weddings.
The Bi-fold requires folding the pocket square into a triangle, and then bringing both corners up so they are parallel to each other. You then stuff it into your left breast pocket with both points showing.
The Tri-fold is a bit more tricky - you create a large triangle with your pocket square by folding one corner towards the other. You then pull three of the points together so that each point is parallel to each other - it will look a bit cone shaped since you’re wrapping three points close to each other. You then stuff it into your pocket with the three points up, but make sure they are organized and spaced appropriately for the width of the pocket so it looks symmetrical.
The Quad-fold is probably the easiest - bring all four corners of the pocket square so they're all pointing upwards, and stuff the square into your left breast pocket with the points up.