Seams Plausible: Chiefs & Squares



A semi-regular column answering
questions about clothing.



Reader Mickey S. writes in to ask, “Is there a difference between a handkerchief and a pocket square?”

Well Mickey, my little friend, here’s the proverbial answer to your question: “One is for blowing, the other for show.”

We’ve talked before about new ways men inject style and personality into their tie-less wardrobe. Pocket squares are just the ticket!

You’ll see them peeking out from suit or sport coat chest pockets and even some shirt pockets. That’s why coats have chest pockets in the first place: for a pocket square.

As the name suggests, pocket squares are square pieces of finer fabrics like silk, linen or cotton; they sport color and pattern. (Although ala Mad Men, a white pocket square is a classic look.) They’re for decoration.

A handkerchief is also square, but usually white and cotton fabric. It’s used to dry someone’s tears, blow your nose or mop up a spill. (I worked with a guy whose father would put a drop of cologne on his handkerchief in case he needed to offer it to a lady. I think that’s pretty cool.)

The colorful cotton square you see peeking out the back pocket of jeans may be a handkerchief but it might be a bandana. A bandana can be worn around the neck (see any John Wayne movie). Plus, it can double as a sweatband (see any Rambo movie).

This is different from a neckerchief, which is a square piece of colorful fabric worn around the neck. Outlaws in the Wild West used theirs as facemasks when they robbed a bank or held up a stagecoach.


So I guess we can update the old proverb like this:

A handkerchief can wipe a nose
A pocket square perks up your clothes.
Bandanas add a dash of flair
Neckerchiefs are what thieves wear.


Or something like that.

You’re welcome.

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