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Lifestyle: The amazing power of the pocket square

by Frances Carbines
27 April, 2013
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About the author

A London based writer with a long-held interest in vintage clothing, antiques and timepieces, Frances' regular editorial content for Click Tempus' Lifestyle section includes everything from city guides to sartorial advice.

casual pocketsquare


For the sartorially ambitious, pocket squares are a must-have accessory. As accessories go, they’re small, but they contain significant transformative power. That diminutive touch of colour next to your left lapel is a surefire way to smarten up any suit, in a way that is at once subtle and eminently memorable: others will be drawn to the overall impression of your ensemble, without necessarily being able to place their finger on why. Once initiated to the power of the pocket square, it’s hard to go back – you start noticing them out and about, gracing the breast pockets of the stylish.

Aside from adding the finishing touch to an outfit, the benefits extend to visibly improving problematic body areas: for the paunchy, a pocket square detracts attention away from the gut, leading it up to the chest area, giving an optical illusion of a more balanced figure. Well, one can dream.

Form and function

silk pocket square

Pocket squares are, of course, glorified handkerchiefs. As the forerunner of the Kleenex, historically they were perfunctory, and thus you’d have worked your way through several over the course of the year. These days, pocket squares are more about making a fashion statement than serving a function, which is something of a relief when spending over £100 on the more expensive ones.

Join the fold: 3 ways to wear a pocket square


The pocket square is an accessory that requires no small degree of attention when dressing, but once you’ve mastered the origami required to get it in place, and it’s all folded and positioned, it’s a low maintenance addition to your style. In terms of flashiness, they’re a lot easier to pull off on any occasion than neck ties, but can prove just as fiddly to the uninitiated. The fabric you choose will dictate how you wear them – while there are dozens of folds out there, the basic Big 3 will steer you through work, smart occasions and leisure hours.

One rule to adhere to is to stick to the very simplest folds when working with cotton or linen, and to be a little more casual with silk.

One thing before we begin – don’t match your square to your tie. Many reputable shops sell ties with accompanying pocket squares, ostensibly to make life easier for the rushed buyer, but don’t be drawn in. It’s something of a faux pas for these two suit accessories to exactly match, but it’s ok for them to be in corresponding colours.

The One Point Fold

one point

If you want to wear a pocket square to work, and you work in a corporate environment, play it safe. You’ll want to opt for a more conservative colour palette and a simple fabric – if in doubt, you can’t go wrong with a classic white linen pocket square in the One Point Fold – your standard issue pocket square fold for everyday wear with a conservative suit or retro-cut suit with a narrow lapel.

The watch: Rolex Precision


To accessorise your classic look, try a 9 ct. 1960s Rolex Precision – a quality piece that looks as impressive today as it ever did. With its 9 ct gold case, the Rolex Precision is elegant enough to dress up a suit, without being ostentatious or flashy.

Hip to be square: the straight edge fold

Don Draper

The ‘Presidential’ fold, as championed by Cary Grant, who can always be relied upon for fail-safe sartorial inspiration, is a timeless look.  Of course nowadays the new king of the square fold is Mad Men’s Don Draper, who has made it his own as one lady after another falls for his pocket squared panache. This basic fold, also referred to as the ‘straight edge’, ‘tv fold’ and, most frequently, the ‘flat fold’, is a safe option for when you want to look smart without overdoing it. It’s most often paired with a dark suit, but you can contemporise it by adding your flat fold to a dark blazer worn over a colourful shirt and smart jeans.

The watch: OMEGA Seamaster

Don Draper Omega Seamaster

One of the key elements of Mad Men that has held watch lovers in its thrall are the wide selection of genuine 1960s watches that are worn by all the key characters. They were supplied to the show by vintage watch expert Derek Dier who runs his own successful online vintage watch store Watches To – one of the first to do so. The OMEGA Seamaster is a timeless classic – shown here with a black dial and worn by Don Draper with all the confidence of an early James Bond.

Silk: freestyle

pocket square silk

When going out and about, and wishing to look dandy and fine, a silk pocket square is a debonair and cheery choice: small enough to be discrete, appealing enough to make an impression. Silk should be puffed or point-folded. You can’t President fold this fabric, for it’ll deflate into a silken bundle of sartorial failure; rather, it should be gathered and tucked in nonchalantly. Colour-wise, you can afford to experiment. For a retro-look, all-over paisley styles are a good idea – try a dark wine colour for winter and yellows for summer.

The watch: U-Boat U-51


Complement your silken look with the U-Boat U-51 B and B , a 47mm Black PVD case watch with Bronze hands and markers. This attention-grabbing piece comes fitted on a vintage brown strap and a pin buckle for a traditional feel in keeping with the look evoked by the silk pocket square, and the black sandwich dial is surrounded by U-Boat’s signature crown cover to ensure the watch is water resistant to 100m. It’s a bold statement and while it may overpower a more corporate wardrobe, it fits perfectly with the playful feel of colourful silk pocket squares.

Pocket squares

It goes without saying that you should make sure that your pocket square is scrupulously clean. While the accessory may have been designed for practical reasons, it should not be employed as such in this day and age – make sure it is immaculate, and you’re good to go.

Frances Carbines | Website

A London based writer with a long-held interest in vintage clothing, antiques and timepieces, Frances' regular editorial content for Click Tempus' Lifestyle section includes everything from city guides to sartorial advice.

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