Are Pocket Squares still Relevant?

Updated: Jan 13, 2019

Beautiful pocket squares from Shubumi

A while ago I engaged in a conversation with a friend of mine on whether pocket squares are still relevant nowadays. As much as I have always stressed about the importance of pocket squares, I had never thought about the ontology with regards to how this idea came to my mind.

Today, I want to present you all with the conclusions that came out from this meaningful discussion. On top of that, I am curious to see whether you would agree or disagree with these arguments as well.

To begin with, a short introduction to pocket squares for those of you who are not familiar with the term. Pocket squares refer to the thin squared fabric that you would put in the top left breast pocket of your suit, mostly for decorative purposes. It is usually made of linen, cotton, silk, or maybe sometimes wool as well. However, I tend not to recommend pure wool ones as they are usually too thick to fit well with the jacket.

Like many decorative accessories, it has historically been considered as something extremely valuable and thus a symbol of wealth and status from the 16th century. At the turn of the 20th century, it has became increasingly popular among gents especially with the introduction of mass-produced disposable linen ones.

Nowadays, although pocket square may not be as popular as back in the days, it is still a great accessory that could elevate your outfit and make you distinctive than everyone else in the room; at least this is one the most popular arguments to why pocket squares are still relevant.

However, there are many other reasons apart from that. The first being -- it is a (relatively) cheap way to accessorize yourself.

Economically speaking, the cost per each pocket square tends to be lower than other accessories that you usually wear. From ties and cufflinks to even suit linings, not only are they more pricey in general, but also there are actually less options concerning how to actually wear them.

Taking ties as an example; even though there are many ways to tie a tie, chances that you tie something other than a Windsor knot or a four-in-hand knot is unlikely. What tends to happen is that these accessories end up being quite noticeable if you wear them too often. And of course, you don't want to be seen as wearing the same thing all the time.

On the other hand, pocket squares are less recognizable because there are many ways to fold them. This is particularly the case for patterned pocket squares since a variety of shades could be shown depending on how you fold the piece. Thus, in terms of the pricing and the versatility, pocket squares definitely have a better position in this discussion.

A pocket square by Rampley & Co based on the iconic American painting by the artist Emanuel Leutze.

Another area that came to our discussion is whether wearing pocket squares is a way of appreciating the design; and perhaps even the story behind the piece.

Just like how there is a story behind the design of high-graded jewelries, some pattered pocket squares in the market has a more expensive price tag for the same reason. From being a special edition piece to celebrate the anniversary of the brand, to an actual historical painting being printed on a pocket squares like the Rampley & Co ones; they all have special meanings. On top of that there are also pocket squares that are owned by a small group of people because it is a representation of a specific community. In other words, we wear pocket squares not only for the purpose of accessorizing ourselves, but also to give our approval to certain designs or so.

The question is then not whether these pocket squares have value in themselves, but whether the way we wear them (literally folding them and putting them inside a pocket) is an appropriate medium to appreciate the design behind the piece. To this I feel like there is not a definitive answer.

However, one important thing to keep in mind is that if we do not fold the piece and put it inside our chest pocket, does it serve any other purposes apart from being a piece of rectangular fabric?

Without getting too philosophical, let's dive into the final point on why I think pocket square is still relevant, or at least why it still matters.

One thing about pocket squares which I strongly feel has been understated is that not only their designs is what give them their title of being art pieces, but also the variety of ways that we could fold the pocket squares is what makes it an art as well as a field of knowledge.

Not to say the depth of the knowledge of how to fold a pocket square could rival those of how a tailor makes a bespoke garments come to life or how a whisky distiller creates dreamy aromas just by his or her instinct. Nonetheless, the art of folding a pocket square should definitely be preserved; and there is no better way to preserve it than to wear one.

Some of my favorite pocket squares in my collection.

With all that said, I want to know what do you think about pocket squares! Do you think it is still relevant or do you think it is impractical? Let me know in the comment section below.

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