A Brief History of Pocket Squares

The pocket square as we know it provides a splash of flair and individuality for the modern ensemble. Often used as a fashion accessory in men’s suits, it can add a touch of color to elevate a classic outfit. The pocket square has been around for a long time, but what are its origins? Let us walk you through a brief history of this timeless classic.

pocket square handkerchief silk cotton accessories design art

Origins from Antiquity

The pocket square can be traced back as far as ancient Egypt, where some connect the use of small white linen cloths to the modern interpretation of the pocket square as fashion accessory. There were some who used expensive red dye to color the cloth to signify wealth. 

Then there were the Ancient Greeks who used perfume to scent cloths so they could carry pleasant scents with them wherever they went. Even the iconic Romans using small pieces of cloth to signal the start of the Gladiator Games have been tied to the modern use of the pocket square.

The Royal Influence

Long before the advent of social media influencers, Royal families were the “tastemakers” of their eras. The larger population would look to high society to set the trends. One popular theory for how the pocket square gained widespread use in European society begins with Richard II of England. He is widely attributed to be the first person to use a handkerchief as a fashion accessory during his reign from 1377-1399.

Since then, both Royals and members of high society throughout Europe started using the handkerchief as a fashion accessory, most notably with the use of scented perfumes to mask the “unpleasant odors” of the day due to unhygienic bathing practices. Italian high society used intricate embroidered designs and French nobles employed the use of silk handkerchiefs with loud patterns to make a truly unique statement of wealth. 

handkerchief pocket squares vintage art design silk cotton accessories fashion

Pocket Square vs. Handkerchief

With the 19th century came the 2 piece suit, which became the mainstay of men’s fashion. Well-dressed men found that they did not want their pristine handkerchiefs to be mixing with the coins in their pockets which in turn caused the transfer of the handkerchief to the top breast pocket of the suit. 

As the 20th century came, the handkerchief became a less functional item with the introduction of disposable tissues. Despite this, they became further solidified into fashion society with popular Hollywood stars using more patterns and materials and the modern pocket square was born. 

A Modern Comeback

Later on in the 20th century the popularization of casual wear and workwear became the norm for everyday fashion. Throughout the eighties and nineties, pocket squares became more of a specialty item rather than an everyday fashion statement for the modern gentlemen. However with the resurgence of retro style through modern television shows and movies, coupled with an appreciation for quality materials and ethical fashion, the pocket square is back on top as an interesting nod to individuality in the discerning gentleman's fashion world.

Design Choices

In present times, we are spoiled for choice. Gone are the days of plain white linen pocket squares. There are now quality choices for the modern individual. Traditionally, there are three classic options when choosing a pocket square: flat color, the repeat design and the print. Find a variety of unique yet classic choices in our collection here. 

pocket square handkerchief design art fashion silk cotton

 There are also many different ways to fold your pocket square to really showcase your unique style. Find simple instructions here to get started. Men’s fashion doesn’t have to be a bore - find your unique style and showcase your personality through simple classic choices like the pocket square!