To anyone who doesn’t know what a pocket square is- ever noticed those cute little colourful cloth pieces popping their heads out from the breast pocket of a suit? Yup, those lovely pieces that add a little extra something to your style are pocket squares. To some, it may seem like a pointless piece of cloth that has no practical use; but anyone with a wee bit of fashion sense knows that no piece of garment is pointless. In fact, our pocket buddy right here traces its origin way back to at least hundreds if not thousands of years ago. Let’s dive into that, shall we?
Image Source:How to Match Your Pocket Square: Color Guide & Basic Rules with Photos – Society Socks (mysocietysocks.com)
History of the pocket square
Well, the history of almost everything traces its roots back to either the Greeks, Romans, or Egyptians. The roots of the pocket squares aren’t far from them either.
- The earliest reference to these are from ancient Egypt, where a piece of red cloth was often worn by the people as a status symbol that indicates wealth.
- In Rome, the Gladiatorial games commenced when the emperor dropped his handkerchief- this is another theory.
- The practice of carrying a piece of cloth with scented perfume was taken on by the French nobility to keep away the bad odour from their bodies that were a result of the poor bathing facilities at the time; this however was a common practice borrowed from the wise old grandpa Greece, where it was customary to do the same thing in order to have a pleasant smell around them. Ahh….whom to turn to other than the Greeks in a time of crisis eh?
- There are even claims that it originated from the Catholic church where the members attached a white piece of cloth to their arm as a symbol of their devotion to The Lord.
- By far all of the traces have some functionality or another, but when did it begin to be worn as a fashion accessory? And who started this? For that, we have King Richard II to thank; and who is that you might ask? T’is he, the mighty ruler of England who bestowed this heavenly accessory upon thee
It was well acknowledged, and in turn inspired many from Europe to carry a piece of cloth in their pockets. The origin of the item however comes from handkerchiefs. In the 15th century, handkerchiefs began coming in materials like silk and were often embroidered. In the 16th century, however, handkerchiefs embroidered in lace were produced in Italy which Catherine de Medici of Florence later imported into France and in fact, these were considered as extremely valuable heirlooms. The Tudor monarchs were even highly influenced by this and took to receiving handkerchiefs as presents; the concept of gifting handkerchiefs to the royalty is prevalent even today.
- It is interesting to note that Marie Antoinette disapproved of the idea of having handkerchiefs of different sizes and later made a decree to make all handkerchiefs of a uniform standard size; this is believed to be the origin of the ‘square’ in the pocket square.
Pocket Squares fashion and Celebrities:
It wasn’t until the 20th century that accessories became popular in the US. Thanks to mainstream media and Hollywood, many actors like Fred Astaire and Gary Cooper began to sport the pocket squares in their movies and this led people of all walks of life to add the accessory to their wardrobes.
Image Source:Fred Astaire Wallpapers - Top Free Fred Astaire Backgrounds - WallpaperAccess
Image Source:Gary Cooper-NRFPT (doctormacro.com)
If you remember the episode from Mr. Bean where he gets the opportunity to meet her Majesty, you would’ve noticed him tearing a piece of paper to make up for a pocket square; perhaps a low-budget DIY hack? But in his defense, yes! You NEED a pocket square when you meet the Queen! The pocket squares were available in different types of fabrics such as linen, silk, cotton; even patterned pocket squares began to come in and the different ways of folding the fabric were also important, with some made to look like a tiny flower through flares and some a more formal right-angled folds (much like origami for fabric one could say).
Image Source:6 things for the groom to consider when choosing a pocket square | Wedding Ideas magazine
Image Source:4,194 Pocket Square Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock (istockphoto.com)
It quickly became a wardrobe staple for many men during the decades between the ’20s and the ’60s. Afterwhich, their popularity came down especially due to the casualization of workwear.
The item regained its popularity later on and it still remains a preferred accessory for men’s formalwear. If you look at any red carpet event you will for sure come across the stars styling their suits with a pocket square. Ranveer Singh, Hrithik Roshan, Amitabh Bachchan and Vicky Kaushal are a few of the many celebrities who have done so.
Image Source:Ranveer Singh | Ranveer singh, Singh, Man bun (pinterest.com)
“Style is an expression of one’s personality. When a person has principles and he sticks to themknowing what he likes and what he wants to express- that makes a person stylish” ---
Words by fashion icon Rahul Khanna, who have influenced many men to boldly express their sense of style without hesitation. The man is an epitome of personal style and comfort, is someone you can turn to when you are in need of a stylish motivation. To be your own person and to have that sense of style that screams you, one can take this quote to heart.
And for the man that wants to shine brighter than the rest of the common folks, wear that pocket square with elegance.
Image Source:Rahul Khanna on Twitter: "You ain't been blue, till you've had that mood indigo. 📷: @PrasadNaik24 for #Burgoyne https://t.co/5YVGvBoVB4" / Twitter