Setting Yourself Apart - The Pocket Square

Perhaps the most overlooked detail in menswear - and from my experience, one of the most appreciated - remains the humble pocket square. Embodying the inconspicuousness of a smooth bassline, the simple accoutrement can facilitate a number of benefits to one's appearance, not the least of which to set one apart from his peers.

Originally borne out of mere function, the pocket square has evolved from its origins as a common handkerchief to an adornment of style and sophistication. Puffs, hankeys, rounds (as they are often referred) are an elegant means of adding interest, be it through colour, pattern or texture. Though they offer more in the way of panache then they do service these days, a true gentleman best be armed with a second cotton or linen square to offer a lady in need. "One for show, one for blow", as the saying goes.

Avoid the Matchy-Matchy

A pocket square cut from the same cloth as the tie seems tawdry, as though the two were purchased as part of a matching set. It evokes the tact of a rented suit - a true paint-by-numbers effort. The best directive I've come across for selecting a square is that it need only "hint" at the rest of the outfit. Pulling a colour from the tie, jacket, or shirt nets the simplest connection, while drawing from the socks, shoes, or jewelry remains a trickier endeavor to pull off.

Quality Over Quantity

A square that contains multiple colours lends itself to coordinating with more outfits, with additional hues serving as accents or secondary matches. As such, it only takes a few good squares to cover the majority of conceivable outfits in a man's wardrobe. A plain white linen square is often the perfect starting point for any man - timeless, versatile, and matches just about every look.

Opportunity For Style

The second question most men ask when inquiring about a square is how to style the item in the breast pocket. Though endless in nature, a few easy techniques are all that are necessary to be adequately versed:

The Square Fold - often referred to as "The Presidential", "the Sportscaster", or "the TV Fold", the pocket square is folded and placed in the breast pocket so that only a square edge is exposed. Slightly more formal in nature, the square can even be pressed into shape if made of linen or cotton.

The Casual Fold - "the Pouffe" or "the Magic Trick", is about as easy as it gets to accomplish, and displays the most colour and detail. Simply lay out the square flat and grab from the center; pick up and fold the sides around and push into the breast pocket. Best not to be too fussy, as the informal look exudes nonchalance.

The Point Fold - whether exposing two, three or four corners of the square, displaying the tips of the hankey is a smart look that matches all but the most formal of occasions. Squares with particularly intricate edging and finishing truly come to light with these arrangements.

The Bare Minimum Yields Expected Results

The suit remains a most-practical concept for men to employ because it serves as a de facto uniform in much of life's environments. Show up in a grey or navy suit, a white shirt and a tie and you're in. The difference, however, lies in the execution. Fit, fabric, fashion - the Three F's - define quality. Polished shoes to convey attention to detail (and a prominent feather to peacock to the ladies, to boot). Tended personal hygiene expresses respect for oneself - and if you don't respect yourself, you cannot expect others to do so.

Incorporating a pocket square - much like these personal efforts - projects more than just a simple affect for flair; conscientiousness, self-respect, and, yes, personality resonate when sported appropriately. The goal is less to raise oneself above the others but rather to paint a more comprehensive picture of the individual.

Ryan W.A. Clark

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