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The Gentleman’s Pocket Square | Manolo for the Big Girl

The Gentleman’s Pocket Square

Okay, is it going to surprise anyone in the whole wide world that I am a sucker for a gentleman’s pocket square? Anyone? How about you in the back, are you raising your hand? Just scratching? Oh. Okay. You should probably get that looked at.  Anyone else? No? Sigh.

I love a pocket square on a man. My dear friend Mr. S –a diminutive man with snow white hair and a significant member of the design cognoscenti himself– has appeared in a different silk Ferragamo pocket square every time I’ve seen him, and I’ve seen him weekly for years.

It is only my deep regard for Mr. S –and the knowledge that I’m entirely too pretty for prison– that keeps him from being found unconscious by police, having been robbed of all his precious silk pocket squares.

Image provided graciously by mensflair.com

(God. I love Winston Churchill. Seriously. Y’all don’t even KNOW. I am THISCLOSE to doing a Monday Hotness on him and I WILL BAN ANYONE who disagrees…as soon as I figure out how to ban people.)


A good silk pocket square –that is one that’s got a sturdy weave and hand-rolled edges– is a fairly cheap thrill.  The glorious little poison green job I picked up at Neiman Marcus Last Call last week was from their house brand and set me back something like $18.00.

That’s like a martini and a cup of pumpkin bisque at my favorite hotel bar.

Considering the Hermes foulard Andre picked out for me in October made Bergdorf’s $400 richer that day, twenty smackers for a piece of excellent silk in a fantastic color isn’t too bad.

But what to DO with the things?

By FAR my favorite way is to channel Mlles Clara Bow and Louise Brooks and wear it in a broad, vamp-style headband, making a tiny knot in back above the nape. It might be a snug fit; I’ve got a large melon & wear a 7 1/4 hat size so it takes some fiddling, but a standard 17″  square should work for most heads. I wore this with a basic black dress and heavy smoky eyes and received a ton of compliments from *gasp* straight boys.  Who knew?!

Clara BowLouise Brooks

The key is to wear it lower on the head than you’d think for maximum chic. Curly girls take note of Clara Bow. This looks best when a few tendrils hang forward over the scarf. Very vampire meets empire. Love.

I’ve also had success folding my square in any of the traditional styles used for breast pockets —I prefer the Cagney or the Winged Puff— and pinning it to my dress with an understated brooch where my breast pocket would be. The choice of pin is essential because you need something to balance but not overpower the square. My trusty silver Bastille key brooch, recommended by my always glamorous friend Frivs in honor of my Bastille Day birthday, always does the trick.

Reproduction of the Key to the Bastille. The original was given to George Washington by Marquis de Lafayette

It’s available only through the Mount Vernon gift shop.

Of course if you have enough neck you can wear it as a very small foulard, but I have not had great success with that. If you lucky ducks with long necks give it a go, please report back and tell me how it went!

18 Responses to “The Gentleman’s Pocket Square”

  1. Kai Jones February 10, 2009 at 1:34 pm #

    It would be really easy to hand-hem a square of any silk fabric from the store. My favorite local fabric store sells the complex woven-pattern silk that ties are made of–the colors and patterns are amazing! Prices range from $10 a yard up; you can buy half a yard and make your own, even make a rectangle for easier headband-ing!

  2. smb February 10, 2009 at 2:02 pm #

    amen to your churchill as a monday hotness!

  3. Plumcake February 10, 2009 at 2:04 pm #

    Good idea, provided you have the time and talent to do a tight rolled hem (I have no time and only marginal talent) I’m sure you could whip up some lovely things.

  4. Jenny February 10, 2009 at 3:36 pm #

    I third the emotion on Churchill. He’s the man.

  5. jen209 February 10, 2009 at 3:39 pm #

    How do you keep the pocket square – headband on your head? I tried something similar with a satiny scar a few months ago, and it had fallen off my head before I even got to work…

  6. jen209 February 10, 2009 at 3:41 pm #

    …oops, and by “scar” of course I mean scarf

  7. Twistie February 10, 2009 at 5:12 pm #

    I love to use a pocket square as a pocket square. Queen of Boho though I am, I always make sure to have nicely tailored suit-type jacket in my wardrobe with a working breast pocket.

    I’ve been making my own lace for close to twenty years now, and dammit, I’m going to wear the hell out of those hankies I’ve trimmed over the years! Not to mention the great selection of pocket squares I inherited from my dear, late mother who had a wonderful eye for a scarf of any size.

  8. Ameroux February 10, 2009 at 5:36 pm #

    I hate to be obtuse, but is a pocket square different than a handkerchief? Other than its being silk, I mean.

  9. Barthway February 10, 2009 at 6:24 pm #


    >a diminutive man with snow white hair and a significant member

  10. class factotum February 10, 2009 at 9:34 pm #

    We went to the Churchill War Rooms in London two years ago. The man was incredible. There is a spot at the end of the museum to write a note about one’s impressions. I wrote something like, “Thank God for Winston Churchill or it would be sprechen sie deutsch” for all of us.”

    I loved reading his perspective of the American Revolution.

  11. ChristianeF February 10, 2009 at 10:36 pm #

    I love Winston Churchill so much I named my cat after him. Really. The other one’s Oscar Wilde, but that’s neither here nor there.

    Erm. Anyway.

    I second the fondness for pocket squares for men. I hadn’t ever considered wearing one myself, though. It’s a very clever idea.

  12. Twistie February 11, 2009 at 2:25 am #

    My brother the alpaca rancher once had a dog that was half Shar Pei, half German shepherd. He couldn’t decide if the dog looked more like Winston Churchill or Winnie the Pooh, so he split the difference and just called the dog Winnie, figuring it would fit whichever people wanted to think the dog resembled more.

    Also I happen to be in possession of one truly awesome Winston Churchill commemoritive plate that apparently dates from shortly after WWII. We found it in a random box of stuff after my MIL died. Good thing we looked carefully through all those boxes! The other stuff in there were wads of plastic grocery bags, about eleven million twist ties, a broken rice bowl from a cheap import store, and a Timex that had taken such a licking it had failed to keep on ticking.

    The plate now holds a place of honor in our china cabinet…right above the Bicentennial Martha Washington Jim Beam bottle.

  13. Plumcake February 11, 2009 at 3:07 am #

    Ameroux, a pocket square is primarily decorative a while a handkerchief is primarily functional. One would never blow one’s nose on a pocket square.

    Jen209, the key is a thick silk twill. The thickest you can find. Satin and twill are two different sort of weaves, and of the two, twill will always grip better than satin. Silk also grips better than any unnatural fiber.

  14. La Petite Acadienne February 11, 2009 at 12:27 pm #

    I have the same problem as Jen. I love the look of the scarf-as-headband, but regardless of the material, they always start sliding off. Stretchy elasticized headbands do the same thing. The only way they’ll stay on is if I wear the damn thing right across my forehead, which is more hippie than chic, and definitely isn’t the look I’m seeking.

  15. Idalin February 11, 2009 at 4:08 pm #

    What’s not to like about a man who ran half the free world and was quite the snazzy dresser?

    Never thought about pocket squares, really, but love a long chiffon scarf as headband with the ends hanging out from under my long hair–compliments galore–especially for a red scarf. Sort of a 50s kind of look. I think a well-placed bobby pin would do wonders for the sliding–I found dancing was not kind to having the scarf stay put.

  16. megaera February 12, 2009 at 4:04 am #

    Do you see me? Here I am madly waving my hand in the air like I just don’t care. I LURV a man in a pocket square. In fact, I managed to railroad my Dad into wearing one. The conversation went something like this: Me: Dad, wear a pocket square with your suit. It’d be AWESOME! Dad: I’ll wear a pocket square when I retire from my corporate job.
    Guess what his retirement gift from me was! Yep. And between my Mother and myself, we’ve managed to make every suit occasion a pocket square occasion.

  17. pineapplechild February 16, 2009 at 5:16 pm #

    amen to the churchill monday hotness!

    i personally love a good pocket square, either on men or women, a fascination probably nurtured by my father, a man who knows the value of a well-tailored suit and a fabulous pocket square. (he can also rock a mean bow-tie)

  18. glennis March 6, 2009 at 3:28 pm #

    -loved this! i love pocket squares too- so much that i started making them myself. i make other things too but one day it occurred to me that the technique i use in my textile work would be great for a pocket square…been collecting links that have fun and interesting thoughts on the matter and your is great!