The art of the dress handkerchief doesn’t end with selecting color, pattern, and fabric. Equally important is the way in which the pocket square is worn. A quality square can appear unbecoming if it is improperly handled and haphazardly stuffed into the pocket. That isn’t to say that the handkerchief must appear excessively arranged. Many of the finest examples have a casual, fluff-like appearance. All well worn pocket handkerchiefs, however, have one thing in common: the wearer knew what he wanted, arranged the handkerchief so, and then wore it as a subtle display of his fashion prowess.
Dress handkerchiefs can be arranged in an infinite variety of ways; for simplicity’s sake only the three basic types of folds are covered here: squared, fluted, and pointed.
The Square Fold
The square, sometimes called the Presidential or the TV fold, is the simplest and most understated of the folds. In modern times, it is also one of the least often seen. This fold is very similar to the standard square fold of the for-use handkerchief, except that it must be somewhat longer and narrower in order to fit into the pocket and remain visible. The precise length and width will depend on the pocket in question as well as the wearer’s preference, but it is generally in the area of 5? – 6? long and 3? – 3½” wide. If the handkerchief is made of linen or cotton, it should be lightly starched to provide a crisp look; if it is made of silk, it should not be starched, but should be folded so the hand-rolled edges are visible.
To create a square fold, one starts with the handkerchief completely unfolded on a flat surface. Begin by folding it in half so that it is now the same width but half the length. Be sure to crease the edge of the fold, and each fold to come. Next, fold in half again, so that it once again becomes a square, one-fourth of its original size. Finally, fold in half one more time, so it becomes half as wide as it is long. This is then inserted into the jacket pocket with between ½” and 1? of the handkerchief visible.
The finished product can be inserted in many different ways: tilted diagonally is a popular style. Such details are up to the wearer, and it is best to try several options at first to find ones preference.
The Flute or Puff
The next style is the flute, sometimes called the balloon or puff. This style is quite possibly the easiest to create, but the hardest to perfect. With the handkerchief open and on a flat surface, pinch it from the middle and lift it up. With the other hand, create a ring with the thumb and index finger around the top of the handkerchief, right below the pinch, and pull downwards, forming a column or “flute.” Fold so that about ? of the fabric is on the “flute” end, ? on the “point” end, and tuck into the pocket, so that 1? to 1½” remains visible. If necessary, adjust to fill the width of the pocket; should the flute be too tall or too short, re-flute, folding as needed to achieve the desired size.
The final style, the points, is the opposite of the flute, and is created exactly the same way. However, instead of folding so that the flute is the longer end, fold so that the points are the longer end, and then insert. Adjust as necessary to fill the width of the pocket, and to keep the points from clustering too tightly. This style may require a linen or cotton handkerchief to be starched somewhat more, in order for the points to remain upright. A more disarranged appearance can be achieved by shaking the handkerchief around after pinching the middle, just before creating the flute.
Finally remember that each fold has its own distinct personality, conveying different messages about the wearer to those he meets. The best approach to finding ones own preferred style is to try different variations and choose the one that best compliments your personal style.