Every Man Should Carry a Handkerchief
by BRETT & KATE MCKAY on MARCH 26, 2009 Â·
in DRESS & GROOMING
We already talked about one essential item that all men should carry in their pockets: the pocketknife. But there's another manly item that we should be toting around, too. A good clean hanky can come in handy when you have to dab your forehead, you've got snot running out your nose, or when a gal starts tearing up.
Why Carry a Handkerchief?
Handkerchiefs are, well, pretty handy. While women carry a purse stocked with things like tissue packs (and enough supplies to survive on a desert island for several days), most men do not. And yet our noses run just as often as our female counterparts. When you carry a hankie, you don't have to go scrounging around for a tissue to deal with your dripping shnoz or wipe your nose on your sleeve. And you can mop your brow with it when you're sitting on the front porch drinking mint juleps. This what I mainly use handkerchiefs for. I started the habit when I lived in Mexico and walked the hot, dusty streets of Tijuana. It's nice to have something to wipe off the sweat and dirt off your face.
But the best reason to carry a handkerchief has nothing to do with you. It's the chance to lend it to others that's commends this practice the most. Be sure to put one in your pocket when you go see a tear-jerker movie with your girlfriend or accompany your wife to a funeral. When women are feeling vulnerable, they'll really appreciate your offer of a soft hankie. It's a gallant and chivalrous gesture; there's just something comforting about it.
And as a bonus, they're less wasteful. Think of all the tissues you could keep from throwing away. The handkerchief is to the tissue as the reusable diaper is to Pampers.
Getting Over the Ick Factor
There is an inverse relationship between the handkerchief's popularity and the rise of our germa-phobe culture. A society that sprays the air with disinfectant to rid it of those pesky bacterium and totes hand sanitizer on key chains looks eschew at the reusable tissue. I think hankie ignorance is partly to blame. Having not grown up around handkerchief-carrying men, it seems some people are under the impression that a hankie is used over and over again, all week long. But a man should take a clean handkerchief each day, and launder them weekly. It should go without saying that when offering a lady your handkerchief, it should always be an unused, clean one. You should probably tell her that when you hand it over, as to allay any fears she might have about what's lurking in its folds.
Even so, there are probably still those who think the handkerchief is too dirty even for daily use. To those people I say, "If it's your hankie, why are you afraid of your own germs?" Handkerchiefs are pretty big and provide ample space in which to blow one's nose multiple times without the snot ever overlapping.
Finally, grow up. You're a man, and there's nothing wrong with a little sweat or snot.
How to Carry a Handkerchief
First of all, don't confuse the pocket square with a handkerchief. Pocket squares are pieces of cloth that should be visibly sticking out of the breast pocket of your suit. They're not appropriate for hankie use because they're expensive; you don't want to be soaking a nice piece of silk with your sweat. Of course they could do in a real pinch. But typically a hankie is carried in your pants pocket, out of sight.
Handkerchiefs don't have to be fancy. Just a plain white one will do. But there's nothing wrong with going for ones with a little style. I have my initial embroidered on mine to add a touch of class. They generally come pretty cheap, so you won't have to worry about giving them out to other people. And a gentleman never asks for his handkerchief back.
sorry, non-native english speaker here and noob as well. I thought the thing (ps) was supposed to be used for that? Are you saying pocketsquares are purely decorative? I thought so. And even if pocketsquareguy is right I still would. AND let the lady keep it afterwards
They most definitely are made to be used like that. There's a nice moment in the Hitchcock film Dial M For Murder when the Ray Milland character pulls out his pocket handkerchief to wipe his fingerprints off the doorknob, then casually stuffs it back in his pocket. It becomes a little doubtful when it's a silk square instead of a linen hanky, though. Your idea of letting the lady keep it afterwards is a good one, (if doing so does not constitute a dangerous indiscretion - there's also the story about Desdemona's handkerchief...)
So many guys ask on SF what pocket square to get. The usual reply is a white linen one to start. I would suggest as a second square to get one with small dots like this one by Drakes of London (shown below). Small dots go with just about any other patterns. In this case it would like ideal with a grey suit with a white, pink or blue shirt and most patterns and colors of ties, except dots or diamonds (too similar in pattern). Stuff it with a nice puff and maybe some relaxed points and you will look great. It will be a classic you will wear for years.
Stores with a broad assortment of men's accessories, like Paul Stuart in NYC will usually have a nice range of different colored dotted squares suitable in spring/summer, fall/winter and year-round colors.