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. Our pocket buddy traces its origin back hundreds, if not thousands of years ago. Let's dive into that, shall we?
History of the pocket square
Well, the history of almost everything traces its roots back to the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. The roots of the pocket squares aren't far from them either.
The earliest reference to these is from ancient Egypt, where the people often wore a piece of red cloth as a status symbol that indicates wealth.
In Rome, the Gladiatorial games commenced when the emperor dropped his handkerchief- this is another theory.
The French nobility took on the practice of carrying a piece of cloth with scented perfume 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 to have a pleasant smell around them. Ahh….whom to turn to other than the Greeks in a crisis, eh?
There are claims that it originated from the Catholic church, where the members attached a white piece of cloth to their arms to symbolize their devotion to The Lord.
- All traces have some functionality, but when did they 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? He was the mighty ruler of England who bestowed this heavenly accessory upon thee. It was well acknowledged, inspiring 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 came 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. These were considered 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 royalty is prevalent even today.
- It is interesting to note that Marie Antoinette disapproved of having handkerchiefs of different sizes and later made a decree to make all handkerchiefs of a standard size; this is believed to be the origin of the 'square' in the pocket square.
Of course, there was an informal practice in previous centuries where ladies of the court would deliberately drop their handkerchiefs whenever they sought the attention of a gentleman; how funny would it be to think that these gentlemen picked these handkerchiefs and just kept them for themselves! Or, to put a romantic spin on that, he decided to keep the lady's handkerchief close to his heart and hence the practice of putting it in the breast pocket! However, this isn't the case; the ever-evolving fashion and the coming of the two-piece suit resulted in the practice of keeping the pocket square on the breast pocket instead of the pants pockets, which had items like coins and such would tarnish their elegant piece of accessory.
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 pocket squares in their movies, and this led people from all walks of life to add accessories to their wardrobes.
Image Source:Fred Astaire Wallpapers - Top Free Fred Astaire Backgrounds - WallpaperAccess
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 defence, 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, and 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 between the '20s and the '60s. Afterwhich, their popularity declined, especially due to the casualization of workwear.
The item regained popularity and remained a preferred accessory for men's formalwear. If you look at any red carpet event, you will surely see stars styling their suits with a pocket square. Ranveer Singh, Hrithik Roshan, Amitabh Bachchan and Vicky Kaushal are a few celebrities who have done so.
"Style is an expression of one's personality. When a person has principles, and he sticks to them knowing what he likes and what he wants to express- that makes a person stylish" ---
Words by fashion icon Rahul Khanna have influenced many men to express their sense of style without hesitation boldly. The man is the epitome of personal style and comfort and is someone you can turn to when you need stylish motivation. To be your 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