February 03, 2015

Pocket Square Rules and Etiquette

Whether you’re a pocket square aficionado or just a dabbler in menswear trends, navigating the etiquette of this accessory can admittedly be a bit of a sartorial minefield.

In this pocket square guide we will cover:

  • General pocket square rules
  • Different pocket square styles
  • What colour pocket square to choose for an occasion
  • Should your square match, complement or contrast with your outfit?
  • Are you aiming for a smart or casual aesthetic, or mulling over what pocket square to wear at work?

If all of these questions leave you feeling a bit flummoxed, read on for our comprehensive guide on how to wear your pocket square with panache.

Dress Code

Historically, the pocket square was a necessity for guests attending dinner parties and other formal engagements. The classic pocket square fashion for smart occasions remains much the same today: a white, handkerchief-style pocket square folded into a flat fold (more on that later). However, even within the sphere of formal attire, there is still scope to experiment with your arrangement and move outside the standard white pocket square rule. Tonal monochrome shades work well for pocket squares teamed with black or grey suits, for instance, while a vibrant pop of red adds interest to crisp blue suits, particularly in summer. A puff fold can also offer a more nonchalant approach to formal dressing than the classic flat fold.

On the other hand, the pocket square’s recent resurgence in popularity has also led to an influx of men elevating their everyday looks and showing a bit of sartorial flair. A well-cut suit or jacket certainly makes a strong statement about a man, but to really stand out, it's your accessories that can often make all the difference. In fact, that's one of the reason's we started Rampley & Co. We felt that there was a dearth of truly unique and interesting men's accessories so we partnered with some of the world's leading galleries to try and create striking accessories which you can be seen in our online store

Matching Your Tie And Pocket Square

One question we often get asked is, should your pocket square match your tie? The short answer is no. Although it might seem like an easy way to coordinate your outfit, matching your pocket square to your tie or bow tie is a definite no-no in popular dress.

Instead, the purpose of the pocket square is to complement the rest of your look: either by harmonising or contrasting with your other accessories. So although some stores even offer matching tie and pocket square sets, our advice is to steer clear of these if you want to be seen to be on top of your style game.

If your pocket square has a pattern or print, for example, then pick a colour from that palette to bring your look together and match it to a primary colour in your ties such as in the image below. The burgundy in the tie is reflected in sections of the pocket square design.

Tie and pocket square rules

Equally, you could choose a pocket square that is a shade lighter or darker than the core colour of your ensemble. Remember, it’s all in the detail, so don’t be afraid to bring out an accent colour on a subtle pinstripe or checked shirt.

Alternatively, if you want to make your pocket square the focal point of your look, you could opt to clash your pocket square with your tie and, indeed, the rest of your outfit. With this, it really is a case of ‘the bolder the better’: experiment with vibrant colours, eclectic prints or even textured materials such as chambray, leather or tweed to pull this off.

Below we have set out some basic tie and pocket square rules so you will always look sharp.

Pocket Square Rules

Below is a handy summary of the rules when choosing your pocket square:

  • Choose a secondary colour from your shirt or tie as the primary colour for your pocket square
  • Don't overdo the patterns, ensure some articles of clothing are flat colours which will accentuate the colours in your pocket square or tie
  • Don't directly match your tie and pocket square
  • If you are wearing a silk pocket square make sure it is over 40cm x 40cm (16 inches) as anything smaller the fine material is likely to slip down into your pocket
  • Match your fold to the occasion. For formal occasions stick to the flat fold or one or two point folds, for more casual occasions use some more flare with the classic puff fold or one of the more flamboyant fold as set out below.

How To Fold Your Pocket Square

Once you’ve chosen your square, there remains the all-important decision of pocket square folds. As mentioned, you should match your fold to the occasion, but also keep in mind that certain folds will lift the colours in your square. For example, if you have a design that incorporates an interesting border then you want to make the most of this with a point fold or perhaps a Dunaway fold. See our full guide here: how to fold a pocket square.

Pocket Square Styles

One of the great things about a pocket square is they are so incredibly versatile in how you wear them and reasonably subtle changes can have a big impact on your style. The colour that you choose and the fold that you use is really a function on the colour of your outfit, the nature of the occasion, whether it be for work, or more formal such as a wedding, and your own personal style.

When choosing what pocket square to wear with a suit, you could choose a conservative fold such as a flat fold and position it so that it is around a half to an inch is viewable above your pocket. Whereas is you use colours that are in high contrast with your jacket and use a more flamboyant fold that really catches the eye. Below are some examples from our Instagram feed of some more conservative and flamboyant looks.

Conservative Styles
So firstly, below are more conservative styles. The pocket square is quite subtle in its positioning and also the colours complement other hues in the outfit. 

Pocket Square Styles 1

Flamboyant Styles
In comparison, below are some images that are more flamboyant in either their colour contrast or fold. With the more flamboyant styles the square naturally draws the eye and makes more of a style statement.

Pocket Square Styles

Conclusion

In short, we at Rampley and Co believe that the pocket square offers an incredibly versatile accessory option; allowing modern men to express themselves and vary their look without having to invest in different suits and outerwear. You may also be interested to see our post on shirt and tie combinations which has further insights into matching your accessories to get the most of our your outfit.  

Click here to view our full range of Hand Rolled Pocket Squares.

Updated: 14 January, 2017