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Pocket square basics

King Salmon

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I just started wearing suits and am totally new to pocket squares. I don't have a single one at all but with your help I would like to remedy that situation.

What are the essential basic squares that I should first purchase? Is linen more versatile than cotton and silk? I'd imagine a white linen one would be the absolute most essential in the same way a white broadcloth shirt is.

Is it appropriate to wear a square with a casual tweed or corduroy sportcoat? Of course I'm thinking of a more casual design like a check.

How should I store the squares? Folded into a nine inch square?

Thanks for enduring my questions as I didn't have a father to pass this information down to me.
 

Dragon

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A lot of people use linen as their default pocket square, so maybe you should start with linen. The problem (I think) with linen is that it`s more of a summer material and does not look very good with the tweedy type of outfits you are suggesting. Also, you will be pretty much limited to a TV fold or reverse puff. The TV fold is popular, but can also be pretty boring (especially if you use it all the time).

Cotton is nice too, but usually you will be limited to white...which will not always match your outfit. It has a very similar use to linen.

Silk has the most variety in colors, patterns, and types of folds. If you buy silk, I suggest you get the kind with a wide, solid color border. This way, you can use the square as a solid color square, or as a patterned square depending on the type of fold used. The downside of silk is that some people think it looks affected.

The larger the square the more variation you will have with your folds. The downside of a large square is that it can get bulky in your pocket.

I suggest you buy squares that match the quality of your neckties. A lot of people buy high quality neckties, but match them with cheap pocket squares and the balance is terrible.

Finally, do not match the square exactly to your tie. Balance is the key to nice looking coordination of the pocket square.
 

Sam Hober

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AlanC

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The default really is white linen. I've found the Brooks Brothers three pack to be quite useful. I believe Four-in-Hand may offer white linen squares in singles. He does offer some with colored edges, white linen with blue edging is also very versatile. I don't believe that linen squares are generally regarded to have any seasonal limitation.

If you're spending money on a pocket square make sure the edging is handrolled. I posted this in an earlier thread to show the difference, the two on the left are machine stitched, the ones on the right are handrolled:



Notice how the handrolled ones are plumper and rounded on the edge. David shows well how this is done on the Sam Hober website that he linked. I fold machine stitched squares so the edge doesn't show, something like this works well:



I've moved away from solid silk squares, largely by the demonstration by cuffthis in his old daily pictures of how patterned silks add so much to the ensemble. An off-white silk square can be useful, though.

Take a look at the Sam Hober site for some drool inducing wool squares, which keep calling out to me.

For a good source of cheap patterned squares go to TJMaxx/Marshall's, and you'll find in the men's section 3-pack boxes of patterned cotton handkerchiefs from brands like Nautica. Find a pack with patterns and colors you like and fold them so the machine stitched edges don't show. These can work really well with tweeds and also blazers.

Finally, never exactly match your pocket square to your tie, and take a look at this guide at M.S. McClellan on pocket squares.
 

FLMountainMan

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I echo the TJ Maxx/Marshalls sentiment. If you are just starting out, you can really pick up some great things there. I actually did the exact thing you describe for my first pocket squares. Most of these stores' clientele is more interested in baggy shorts and jerseys than ties, dress socks, belts, and the like. As a result, the selection is pretty good. I picked up a twenty pack of brass collar stays there for $6.00, for example.
 

TCN

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Although I love plain white linen pocket squares, I agree with Dragon's assertion that the linen square doesn't look right with a tweed jacket. Setting aside the argument that the linen square is too "dressy" for the tweed jacket, I'll put forward my own philosophy, which is worth what you're paying for it . . .

Wet and dry; where wet is silk and worsteds (think slick, urbane fabrics), and dry is linen or tweed, etc. I try to pair wet with dry, so a tweed jacket would take a silk square, and a worsted navy jacket would take a linen square.
 

Ivan Kipling

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Good advice. I'll add a personal note: I can't stand matching pocket squares, and ties. They make me think of John Gotti. Or, Danny Thomas.
 

Vintage Gent

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Let me offer a dissenting view. A white linen square, while better than nothing, is a pretty uninspiring default. I know that plenty of men who have been considered some of the leading dressers of their generation have sported the white linen, but I can think of very few situations where a nicely patterned square wouldn't have been better. Consider a square whose principal color echoes one of the minor colors in your tie or complements your shirt or even coordinates with your socks. The possibilities are virtually limitless.

In this vein, patterned silks are most common, but you might also consider patterned linen or even wool.
 

Roger

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Terrific advice on all counts! Mulberrywood, that's a nice pocket-square-folding guide; I've bookmarked it! AlanC, you're views on hand-rolled vs machine-stitched are interesting and certainly reflect the zeitgeist. However, looking at your pictures, I'm wondering whether we might be guilty of overstating the difference. In one sense, the machine-stitched ones look neater, whereas the hand-rolled ones in the picture look as though they've been used and are sort of haphazard looking. I know, I know, sacrilege. Just a thought.

And King Salmon, in your signature, you have omitted the term used universally in British Columbia--Spring Salmon.
 

King Salmon

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Thanks for all the advice. I will check out TJ Maxx for some basics. Mulberrywood's squares, of course, look very luxurious; I will have to place an order in the future.

Is it appropriate to use some of the fancier folds when wearing a casual sportcoat or is only the Presidential and TV folds appropriate? I've only seen the fancier folds worn with more formal suits so am not certain about this point.

Roger: Noted.
 

Roger

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Originally Posted by King Salmon
Is it appropriate to use some of the fancier folds when wearing a casual sportcoat or is only the Presidential and TV folds appropriate? I've only seen the fancier folds worn with more formal suits so am not certain about this point.
I'm not sure exactly what you mean by fancier folds, but the puff fold looks great with casual jackets. Oh, add to your signature: "generally regarded as the highest quality of the five Pacific salmon species."
 

designprofessor

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Seems like there is some variables on size.
The 9" squares seem to work best for me, but I'm relatively new, so other guys above may have better advice.

For me, patterns or solid in: orange, cream, lt blue and lavender /purple get the most wear.

I need: black, dk. navy, and brown options
 

jml90

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I like a subtle pattern when I'm wearing colored silk. I pick them up at a local tuxedo store for $5 not the best silk but, works for my needs.
Blue seems to be the most versatile choice for silk. For me at least.
When I do white linen/cotton I tend to prefer the one point fold.
 

Kent Wang

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Originally Posted by Roger
I'm not sure exactly what you mean by fancier folds, but the puff fold looks great with casual jackets. Oh, add to your signature: "generally regarded as the highest quality of the five Pacific salmon species."
I prefer the sockeye.
 

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